Our Life Together
It is my intent on this day, October 5, 2017, a year to the date after the death of my mother, to publicly disown and disinherit Robert Kelley, Teresa Kelley, and William Kelley (and their respective families) and to permanently sever all ties and communications.
Before my father Billy Joe’s death from lung cancer, a terminal diagnosis he was sadly fully aware of, I promised him one thing: to make sure his beloved wife, Dorothy, was cared for. Regardless of what anyone ever thought of my parents’ relationship, this much is true: He loved his wife deeply, completely, and passionately. This was a final request of him posed to all his children. Today, I have a blissfully clear conscience because I, for one, have fulfilled that promise.
My mother, Dorothy, left her home in Pennsylvania to live with me as she was ostracized by those who claimed to be operating according to their father’s wishes, though their actions never aligned with anything my father would have ever condoned. He was better than that and better than them. It is a degradation of his memory to suggest otherwise.
The decision to remove her from the state according to her own wishes was based on many reasons. The bottom line is my mother was not well, and needed care, not manipulation and intimidation. She was told to ‘have a nice fucking life’ by a son she thought she could trust.
After relocating away from Pennsylvania, she did.
Robert, Teresa, and William: Without you in her life, Dorothy got to live during her final days. We had our ups and downs typical of our personal relationship, but I made sure she lived. We have walked beaches, visited tourist traps, stood under the boughs of the beautiful and ancient Angel Oak Tree of Johns Island, traversed the Great Smoky Mountains, sat on a rooftop deck and watched a sunset, lounged on the porch and watched the clouds drift by, hunkered down from severe storms together, laughed at stupid jokes, argued over who gets the last spoon of macaroni and cheese, and spoiled a stupidly rotten cat on a daily basis. We did this together.
The last years of her life, Dorothy was with the daughter who loved her. She drove me nuts. I drove her nuts. We argued and gave each other the cold shoulder time and again. I took her to every doctor appointment, organized her daily prescriptions, bought her favorite chicken salad every week, hunted down potato chip brands she preferred. She never stopped talking and reminiscing. She talked about her friends, her husband, her old boyfriends, her daughter Gina and her extended family. We spent holiday time with Gina, who took the time to come visit her mother every year.
I drove her over 600 miles to make sure she had one final visit with her sister before she slipped away. I shouldn’t have had to do that. She should have been able to be home and visit her sister, but you deprived her of that with your unforgivable behavior.
I’m the one who had to tell my mother that her sister was dead. I’m the one who had to tell her that her best friend had passed. I’m the one who held her and let her cry. I’m the one who had to explain to her that the cancer probably wasn’t ever going to go away. I’m the one who had to deliver her to surgeons far too many times even though she was nervous and scared. I’m the one who was there when she woke up post-operation.
I cleaned surgery wounds. I took her to the emergency room when her illnesses flared. I showered her. I clothed her. I cleaned her when her body started to shut down and she couldn’t even control her bowels. I wiped vomit from every surface and floor in our home.
I am the one who held her hand during that final hospital trip. I talked to her even though she lost her own ability to reply. I delivered her favorite teddy bear to her the night before she died. I begged the nurse who helped me coordinate her final return to Pennsylvania to make sure the teddy bear never left her side.
I said, “I love you,” while we waited for an ambulance the night she went in, when she still had her words. She said, “I love you, too.” That means the world to me.
Robert, Teresa, and William: I can only guess at your motivation for your treatment of your mother. At this stage, I don’t even care. I made it up to her. Maybe you thought it would hurt her. It did. I know as much. But here’s the thing: she forgot you. I envy her that. She no longer spoke your names. She never had memories of the three of you to talk about.
She forgot you.
And I am so happy for her that she was able to do that.
She knew me. She knew Gina. At the very end, she knew me completely despite all that was happening to her. She never forgot me. She was loved by me, and I was loved by her. No matter the stress or the frustration, that never changed.
She forgot you.
And it is now in memory of her that I take my first step toward forgetting the three of you. I don’t do this out of hate. I truly pity the three of you. You are filled with venomous anger. You operate on lies. You will never be able to speak the truth of yourselves, because to show your true selves, you’d have to expose every deceptive and vile move you’ve ever made. I’m sure you even lie to yourselves to justify your unconscionable greed and callous disregard for the very lives of your mother and your aunt.
Mom and Dad always knew you would betray them, Teresa and William. They knew you were lost causes, and they had to come to terms with the fact that somehow they had produced truly horrible individuals. You are the product of a diseased bloodline and that was grieving to them.
Robert, however, you hurt Mom most because she trusted you. She thought you loved her, and you told her she was a fool for believing that. Your betrayal was especially disgusting. The thing is, though, I think you’re the one who will see what you’ve done someday. It may be years, but it will hit you. Maybe it will be when your children turn out to be as treacherous as you because that’s what they witnessed during their impressionable years. Maybe it will be when your house of cards finally falls and your mental weakness and addiction demons have nowhere else to hide.
I hope that day comes. And I hope it eats you alive. You deserve the guilt you’ll someday find yourself faced with, and I hope it destroys you the way you chose to destroy this shaky semblance of a family.
I do thank you for that moment when you laughed at me when I said I loved you that last time. You cured me of that burden. I’ll never feel that again, and I am grateful to you for finally showing your true, cruel self. I hope what you have put out into the world comes back to you a thousand-fold.
Gina is a better person than me, because she speaks of forgiveness. I can’t do that. I don’t hate you, but I will never forgive the three of you. But I refuse to carry the burden of you into my future. I simply wash my hands of you from now on.
Today, I declare you forever out of my life. I have one sister, Gina. I had one brother, Richard, who is deceased. You three are forever nothing to me. It’s a glorious feeling. I am finally free of the poison that is YOU.
And, I’m already forgetting you.
To use Robert’s last shameful words to his mother,
Have a nice fucking life.
Joann M. Kelley
Some helpful links for you for when you finally decide to confront your personal problems:
White Deer Run Treatment Network
Rehab After Work Outpatient Treatment Centers