They figured out quickly that their new arrangement wasn’t going to work and purchased a home with a mother-in-law suite. Though Geraldine’s apartment has its own entrance, she is far from independent. She is in a wheelchair and cannot ride public transportation because of failing eyesight, so Keisha takes her to all her medical appointments. Though she has two brothers, one is disabled himself and the other has no interest in helping. She has taken on the burden of her mother’s care, but it is taking a toll on her life.
The stress gets expressed in little things as well as big ones. Courtnee, the Robinson’s daughter, is only three, but Keisha finds herself wishing her daughter were more independent. “I have to realize she is so young. I say, ‘Can’t you do that yourself?’ And she’ll say, ‘But Mom, I can’t reach it.’”
At the other end of the stress spectrum, Keisha says that the unremitting stress has affected her marriage. “We get into more arguments. It can come from a simple question, but I blow up because I’m already irritated and stressed,” she says. “I have a hard time telling him how I feel. He doesn’t understand my relationship with my mother. He tries to help, but he gets in the way more than anything. I even asked him to leave because I know he isn’t getting what he needs. Everybody needs things, and I can’t get a grasp on everything.”
Geraldine, who is 53, gets disability and is on Medicaid, which pays for her prescriptions, which are numerous. “She takes 20 pills a day,” says Keisha, “and that’s really stressful for me, to make sure they get taken and taken on time. I set timers and I have sticky notes all over the place. And she doesn’t cooperate. She hides the medicine and we argue. She thinks I don’t trust her to take her own medicine.
“I’m always afraid if I go somewhere that something is going to happen, so I take Courtnee and mother to the market. If I go somewhere without them I feel guilty. I feel like I shouldn’t be doing something by myself.
“I know it’s affecting Courtnee. I’m always expecting her to be older than she is. I still do play time with her, but it’s always a rush. She’ll say, ‘Can’t you just slow down. It’s going to be okay.’
“Emotionally, it’s hard for me to see her this way and to survive on this rollercoaster. And physically it’s hard because I have to do so much of the lifting. Mom’s leg was amputated and she gets stubborn about the prosthetic leg. I have to lift her wheelchair in and out at the appointments. A lot of times we have to hop her to and from the restroom at the doctors’ offices because they aren’t accessible.
Right now what is working in her marriage is that Ernest works at night so they are home at different times. “I want to go to counseling but he doesn’t want to go. We need to go so he can understand the stress I’m under.
“I can’t find a balance,” she says. “When I think it’s under control, it falls apart. I know there’s a way to balance everything but I haven’t found it. I never thought it would be this hard. I never thought about the pressure or stress it would put on me and my family.”