The Parable of Dorothy

The Parable of Dorothy ImageA friend and I were talking about people we knew who were caring for aging parents, who had pretty much given up their lives in that endeavor.

I shared with him how my mother had spent my entire life trying to indoctrinate me as to how things would be when she got older by telling me a story about a childhood friend of hers.

The friend’s name was Dorothy and she never married. Her father fell ill and was too much for her mother to care for so Dorothy moved back home with them and cared for her father for several years until he finally died. All Dorothy did was work and care for her parents.

Not long after her father’s death her mother fell ill and again Dorothy spend several years caring for her failing mother until her eventual death. All Dorothy did was work and care for her mother.

All through the telling of this story my mother would be going in absolute raptures over what a wonderful person Dorothy was. How glorious it was that she willingly sacrifice her entire life to the care of her parents.

I, on the other hand, from childhood on would silently listen in horror since I was fully aware that this parable’s purpose was to instruct me on what my future would be.

The horrific end to Dorothy’s story is that when she was finally free to live her life, when the burden of caring for both her parents was finally removed, she was diagnosed with cancer and rapidly declined and died herself.

Without even going into what psychologically must have been going on with Dorothy the very same story that enchanted my mother with it’s goodness seemed to me a nightmarish tale of a life lost. Dorothy was essentially dead many, many years prior to her actual passing.

This story was told to me time and again throughout my childhood and adulthood. My mother didn’t want me to forget the role she wanted me to play. And I listened to it over and over.

Until I was around 40 years old when I started fighting back against my mother’s narcissistic behavior. My mother and I were at dinner at a restaurant when she launched into another telling of the Dorothy tale and I blew up. Despite being in public I told her in a loud, clear voice “That’s a horrible story. Dorothy gave up her entire life and when she had a chance to finally live she died herself. DO NOT EVER TELL ME THAT HORRIBLE STORY AGAIN!”

She didn’t. Perhaps mom had a clue at that point that I was not inclined to follow in Dorothy’s footsteps. I never verbalized it but had decided that mom had made a choice. She used, abuse, and took advantage of me for the first 40 years of my life. Her choice. I wasn’t going to let her do it for the last 40 years of my life.

In my opinion she picked the wrong half of my life to have me wait on her hand and foot. But then I doubt she ever conceived the idea that I might one day put my foot down and say “no more”. And that day would be when she was 70 years old and closing in on the time she really would need help only to find she had burned out her chances a long time ago.