This is gonna be long and may be disjointed, but I need to get it out there. I’m not even quite sure where to start, so bear with me if you care to read on.

I have an uncle I’ll call J. He’s 65, unemployed for over a decade, morbidly obese (450lbs, 5’7”), has a pace maker, and is a heavy smoker. He moved back in with his mother (my maternal grandmother) when he lost his security job, and my parents supported him financially in return for him caring for her. He’s been financially dependent on my parents and living in a house they own ever since—despite my grandmother moving into an assisted living home several years ago, and despite the fact that she died last October. He’s spent all these years playing games on the computer my parents paid my husband to build for him, driving the car they gave him to pick up fried chicken, and napping on the couch while his health deteriorated. Now he’s got a (thankfully employed) friend living with him!

Let me back up for a moment to 1993. I’m nine years old, I’ve spent the last two years sitting in the waiting rooms of various doctors’ and psychiatrists’ offices while my mom was inside. She’s been having seizures and weird, frightening outbursts that mean we have to live with my grandparents. One day, she puts me in the car and we drive to the mall, but when we park in the garage, instead of getting out she says she wants to talk. She tells me that the scary things happening to her are the result of PTSD from abuse. She’s introduces me to the phrase “dissociative episode”. She tells me that when she was a little girl, her older brother, my beloved uncle J, hurt her sexually. She tells me that, in order to get better, she’ll be going to a special hospital in Minnesota for three weeks. Three weeks over her birthday, over Christmas.

Time moved on, and despite everything, J remained a regular part of our lives. My mom didn’t let me be alone with him, but he’s been a constant presence these last 25 years. I’ve never understood it. I have my own massively conflicted feelings about him, and I can’t even imagine how my mom feels, but I also don’t know how she’s gone on like this. Sometimes I don’t know why she decided to burden me with this knowledge if she wasn’t going to act on it by cutting him out of or at least reducing his presence in our lives. Then to bend herself into knots supporting his ass?

Then came Sunday. Mother’s Day. My mom got a call at 9am from a hospital social worker. Uncle J had called 911 around 2am because he was having trouble breathing. He went into respiratory failure in the ambulance and was put on life support immediately upon arrival to the hospital. He’d had no ID, and the hospital had been trying to track down next of kin for hours. They’d already ordered some special rotating bed to increase his oxygen, despite it only being rated up to 350lbs. They had to tie him on with bedsheets. He’s medically paralyzed and completely sedated. They’re “hoping for the best”, and I’m over here trying to figure out what the hell they consider “the best”. There’s a 0% chance he’s going to just pop back from this. If he lives, it’s alive by technicality. He can’t even support his own mass with the oxygen being mechanically pumped into him. The doctors are giving him until tomorrow on the special bed, then seeing how he does laid back flat.

So, here I am, trying to get some kind of handle on how I feel. On one hand, good riddance ya piece of shit. You hurt my mom and fucked up my childhood. I still have nightmares about the shit I went through with her. On the other hand, he’s still my uncle, he’s been close family my entire life. He dogsits for us, and the dogs love him. My head is ripping apart at the seams trying to grapple with all the conflicting thoughts and emotions. I think I’m glad? I’m also devastated? I know there’s no right way to feel, it’s a seriously complicated situation, but I’m not even sure how I do feel. I’ve been in a bit of shock, I think, since Sunday.

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*update* Just got word from my dad that they’re at the hospital “saying goodbye” and that he’ll be gone at some point today. Glad the hospital isn’t going to try and drag this out.