I was chatting with CatGirl the other day when the subject of dependence came up. I took the opportunity to explain to her what the consequences were of the choices I made to marry young and start a family at age 21. That it meant that over a decade ago, when it became obvious that my spouse was not as trustworthy as he had seemed, that I was stuck. At that time I spent all day caring for my two young children. He took our only car to work everyday and our neighborhood wasn’t well-served by local bus routes. Which meant not only was I confined within the walls of our home nearly every hour of the day, but I was also ‘stuck’ in a larger sense. I’d never held a full-time job and my bachelor’s degree wasn’t in a marketable field. Even in college when I’d applied for crappy part-time jobs I’d usually been turned down because of my disability (this was back in the day when they could tell you to your face that “We think you just aren’t physically capable of this job”–which meant that somehow my artificial leg would prevent me from answering phones for an office?). And as a cancer survivor, I was also insurance-dependent, knowing that the only means I had for acquiring my expensive prosthetic limbs was via my spouse’s policy. The fear of losing my mobility loomed large.
What I didn’t explain to her then, but will someday, is what followed. After celebrating my 30th birthday I started wearing black all of the time because I felt frumpy and old. Soon, I stopped eating, and then I spent most of the day staring listlessly into space while sitting on the back porch, or curled in a ball leaning against the washing machine and feeling its comforting hum. I thought too often about matches and knives and wanting my life to be over. My chronic bronchitis developed into chronic laryngitis. I whispered and wheezed. And over time I grew smaller and smaller and smaller…
So I told my daughter that I would always support and respect her choices for the future, but I hoped that she would never-ever-ever put herself in a position where she was as dependent as I was. Because everyone deserves mobility and opportunity for employment–even spouses who choose to stay at home and care for their children.
She was listening carefully as I spoke, and she agreed.