“What do we do now?”
I knew the question was coming, but I would not have the desired answer – a solution. When Raphael asked me this on the way to work, I had to think about it a few seconds before uttering, “I don’t know.” Our latest disaster has me with the least amount of influence or ability to do a damn thing. My name isn’t on this lease. I’m a guest. Let’s take a peek as to how we got to this point. Again.
Since the last blog about my father attempting to relocate Lio and Raphael against their wishes, a lot has happened. That wasn’t even that long ago; that happened in September and October.
At the time, I had a place that I could have moved to. I was desperate to go because I was in probably the worst ideation episode I’ve been in. I knew being in a safe place to decompress was important. I was in trouble and I needed help; professional or self. Then my father had to pull this moving bullshit that put both kids into distress and one into an ideation episode of his own.
Up until this point, I had been living with my niece, Dee, her bf, Chewy, and my grandson, Takoja. Takoja is ‘grandchild’ in Lakota and though my grandson is Diné, that was my nickname for him. Dee is also Diné. Chewy is Mexican; his nickname came from Chewbacca since he’d only talk to Dee when I first met him. Anyway. Since the time that I’ve been here, there hasn’t been food in the refrigerator. Dee said that they didn’t buy food, they ate out a lot. The fridge was practically a stereotypical broke college student fridge complete with a random empty takeout container. I still had some donations and I started buying food and eventually cooking dinners with Dee because Chewy got home after 10pm nightly and that was dinner time. Since I wasn’t paying rent, I paid the electric bill for July, August and September- about $200/month, so I was definitely contributing to the household on top of buying the food and cooking.
Dishes. Dishes were an issue from day one. The first days that I was here, I noticed that no one did dishes. Both sides of the sink had dishes and more were on the counter next to it. When someone cooked, they used a clean pot and it was common for multiple dirty pots and pans to clutter the stove top. Old food had been caked on it for who knows how long before I got there in July. More of a mess than I’m used to, but these were all young adults. There was a table and tv stand in the living room and nothing else. The floors were dull and looked like they hadn’t been cleaned in ages either.
I got an air mattress, they gave me a large blanket for under my bed that gave me a cool little ‘rug’ like I had my own little space. I started sweeping the floors more out of necessity. I have neuropathy because of my diabetes and when it’s bad, it feels like I’m walking on broken glass when there is a lot of debris. The litter box was near the downstairs bathroom and that was a nightmare when rushing to the bathroom and having to walk through a minefield of scattered kitty litter. So clean floors are important to me. I did the mopping because the dirty stains were a bit much and the bottoms of my feet were coated in black junk just from walking inside. Now about those dishes…
The three of them -Dee, Chewy, Takoja- lived together in the same complex that we lived in last year, the one of the infamous AC incident. They also lived with Dee’s brother and he had originally moved into this apartment with them, but after a violent incident, he was no longer here. This will be important later. Even before our family moved out of the complex, Dee had been bitching about how the other three roomies never did dishes and the kitchen was always a mess. She refused to be the only one doing dishes -fair enough.
At the time I arrived here, all three of them worked at the same place with similar hours; Takoja was part time though. No one did dishes after dinner. There were no assignments or suggestions. Dishes needed to be done, but there was zero direction. I started doing dishes just so there weren’t so many and so we had things to use to cook. I couldn’t always keep up, especially after the kids had decided to live only with grandpa. My mental health tanked. At some point, Dee sat us all down to talk about the house, cleaning and dishes. I expressed my mental state, that I would try and do better. Back then, I wanted to keep the peace rather than argue – that’s a trauma response. I knew it and did it anyway because I did not have the strength to advocate for myself.
Every so often, she’d tell Chewy and Takoja to do dishes and they would. But there was never any structure in the division of work. I talked about how Bo and I each only had one plate, one bowl, one cup, one set of silverware. We knew who’s was who’s and did not use the other person’s stuff. We were responsible for keeping our own dishes clean, too. I suggested less dishes or dividing who did what, like pots or glasses. Or pick a cleaning day. It either went ignored or treated like a joke.
The dishes seemed to be a pretty significant issue. So Takoja and I made our own plans for tackling the kitchen without it feeling like a burden. Some days he’d say, ‘I’m washing the plates and silverware’ so I’d take the pots and pans. It wasn’t an always thing and I truly did not mind it if a set of dishes was out overnight or even two days. Dishes were still being done and a lot of times, we managed to get most or all done – in our way. I didn’t recognize what it was at the time, but I was living in fear. Over dishes.
Around the time my father dropped his bomb on the kids, I had a place to move. I needed to get a few things squared away with the kids and to finish severing the ties between me being a guardian to the kids living independently. So when Dee offered the kids to move in, I was surprised. Last year, she had told me that she didn’t want any other roommates, especially because of the kitchen issues, so I would not have asked her to house my kids. I felt like I was a stretch in that already, but when she did offer, I felt it was the best immediate option.
Takoja had to move and did so fairly quickly so there was a spare room. Since it was upstairs, Raphael took the room and Lio moved into the living room with me. This was either late September or early October because we celebrated Raphael’s birthday here.
A little while after they moved in, Dee sat us all down to talk about the kitchen. She made this utterly ludicrous rule that whoever cooks, the others do the dishes. If it seems fair on the surface, think again. It isn’t and I will helpfully explain why. Because we went through this bullshit before with my Diné brother Tommy and his wife Lily. At the end of 2019, when my family and I spent January 2020 homeless in a hotel, it was because of Lily’s explosive issues over dishes that forced us out. She had the same rule, if we cook, you do the dishes.
The reason this type of rule is ridiculous is because it gives the person creating the most labor for everyone else, the least amount of responsibility or accountability about washing and they are the one dirtying the most dishes. For example, I will wash and re-use bowls, utensils and pots as I go to minimize how many dishes have to be done later. When you force others to do your work and don’t have to pay attention to what you use, you will end up with a ton of dishes that need to be done and an overwhelming amount of labor that NO ONE wants to do. Then no one does.
In Tommy and Lily’s case, what happened is that they stopped eating with us. If they didn’t eat with us, then the dishes would theoretically fall to us because we ate what I cooked, right? While the trailer had a dishwasher, both of my sons, and I, are disabled. I honestly do not know why I have to keep repeating this to people who know us. I can ask Raphael to take the trash out twenty times in a day and he will eventually take it out. It’s not because he is lazy, disobedient or acting maliciously. He is autistic with ADHD. Lio is paralyzed in a wheelchair. My arthritis is so painful at times that I cannot walk, let alone move much when it’s really bad.
If dishes weren’t done overnight, I’d get a lecture about it. I started being more aggressive about Raphael being on task and doing dishes rather than helping him with suggestions like breaking up the work or doing more myself. One day, he finally yelled back at me, “I’m doing the best that I can!” and yeah, I realized that not only was I not helping him, I was hurting him. Not the person bitching about the dishes, but me. I was doing it. We started working on us, at our pace. Lily and I ended up having an epic fight about the dishes not long after. I offered for us to move and she agreed. I had my crying fest, cleaned up and went down the hall to talk to the kids, who had heard everything. I didn’t even have to say anything. They asked if we could leave so we began packing. We weren’t on the lease anyway. This will be important later too.
About a month down the road, I don’t know why I talked to Lily about everything, but I did. She had become someone I felt connected with. I talked about my kids and their diagnoses. She apologized and we ended up moving back to the trailer.
Now the why I did that. In part, it was because we were staying with my father and he was being himself and also bitching about Raphael not taking out the trash or doing simple tasks -us and servitude among my family is a theme, I have come to realize. We were all so stressed and when things were good at the trailer, they were good. So we went back. For the entire time that we lived with Tommy and Lily, we paid the majority, or all, of the rent. Looking at how they are backing Dee now, I wonder if they wanted us back because we carried the bulk of financial burden. We were useful for something anyway. We even took care of their 7 or 8 dogs for free when they were out of the home too.
In the short time since the kids moved in here, Dee’s mental state has changed drastically. So I will share one of the incidents that I witnessed before the kids moved in.
It was late. I slept on my couch and they had bought a couch that was on the other side of the living room. I woke up when I heard Chewy at the bottom of the stairs and thought he was going to the kitchen so I didn’t say anything. Instead, he laid down on the other couch, his dog laid at his legs. It was weird, but also not the first time that an argument between him and Dee resulted in him escaping for a while. I’ve woken up to him sleeping in a chair in the living room before they got the couch, too. I was going to offer him an extra blanket, but then I heard Dee creeping down the stairs so I stayed silent. She crept across the living room to the other couch, sat on the edge and whispered. I couldn’t catch everything, but recognizable phrases were clear enough to understand the threats. Then an also familiar sound of a hand or fist connecting with flesh, that almost wet ‘thud’. That time I had to look and I did. While his protests of ‘I don’t want to’ and ‘stop’ were also clear because they were louder, now I could see her punching his back, shoulder and side. I couldn’t tell you how long we were all in this state. Quite frankly, I was scared because I knew what it was, but I’d never been in that situation before, of being a witness; or rather, this extent of violence. The whole time, Chewy didn’t physically retaliate or even defend himself from being hit other than verbal and that was familiar, too.
I mentioned in Twitter about my mother and learning from the best; or worst. If we were anywhere and someone saw ma pinching or hitting me, when we got home, I got another beating for making her look bad in public even though it was her doing the beating. But that violence wasn’t from me misbehaving or being malicious. If I didn’t understand something, that was worth getting hit too. If I said something that night, would I make it worse for him later is what I wondered and worried about.
I sat on this for days because I have been on the receiving end of abuse for so many years, but I haven’t seen this from these two to this extent. I have been in uncomfortable situations where she’s punched his arm with that kind of meaty thud that makes one question if that’s really okay with him, but he will either play it off or apologize. I thought about the times that adults in my youth have seemed to want me to admit that my mother abused us. I never could and never did because it would have been worse for me out of their sight unless I could be taken immediately, but if I ever did, I would also have been leaving my siblings behind or we’d be separated and I couldn’t do that. So I stayed silent. There are many factors that a person won’t leave an abusive situation and I can imagine a few for Chewy, but I didn’t want him to think he was alone.
Days went by and Dee was out of the home for whatever reason. I asked if we could talk for a minute and he said okay and sat down. I told him that I saw what happened that night and that I had been afraid to say anything because that abuse and violence is how I grew up and I know how hard it can be. I said that I wasn’t telling him to leave Dee, but that if he ever needed help doing so, or help in general, that I would be here. He was quiet for a little bit and said that he appreciated what I said and offered. We didn’t talk much about it and I just hoped for the best, you know?
‘But Ali, why did you move your kids in with someone who you know to be an abuser?’
I’ve been asking myself this question since this whole thing went down. However naive it may sound, I never would have imagined her doing anything like this to us or me. This was someone that I thought of as a daughter and who had even called me her second mother. While I didn’t witness this level of violence from Dee before, I knew about it. She told me. That she didn’t want to be that person. I had been advocating therapy to her for some time, including recently. To take the time to find a therapist that matched her needs. Couples counseling. How she is with Chewy is how she will be with any kids they may have and she wants babies with him now.
Back to our tale.
Since the kids have been here, dishes did pile up. There is also no dishwasher here. We tried breaking work up to be more manageable. We tried taking turns and supplementing each other; Lio would start and I would finish. But sometimes I have no walk days and if I didn’t have energy to walk, I wasn’t about to stand at the sink to do dishes and I didn’t. We tried assigned days, but that only works if no one deviates from their duties.
We are not machines. So we did fail to keep up, yet we were also only three of five people in this house using dishes and the other two rarely did dishes. There were three times that I can think of where the two of them washed all the dishes. But there are also plenty of times that my kids and I did too. Dee and Chewy also took dishes up to their room and Chewy would bring them down in a stack to add to the pile in the kitchen so we were doing their dishes too. One night, he made chicken pasta and said it was meal prep for work. It wasn’t a meal for everyone. The pots, pans and large metal bowls stayed dirty on the stove for weeks. I was the one who ended up cleaning them all.
We are not servants.
In November, I got sick and I was sick for three weeks. For two of those weeks, I was almost non-functional and I slept a lot. Though I asked the kids for more help, it was difficult overall and I started pushing Raphael to help more, but he wouldn’t and that was my fault. We finally hit a breaking point one day and it was me who recognized my frustrations and arguing were the issue. I parked at work with Raphael one day and apologized for what I’d been saying and doing. That he is a finite resource and I can’t push him beyond what he’s mentally able to do. It didn’t matter if he’s more physically able than Lio and I. He didn’t have to do more. We’d figure it out together and at our own pace.
We bought paper plates and bowls. It wasn’t a solution but training wheels for them to be more aware of the amount of dishes they were using and to lessen how many we had to do in any given day. I asked both of them to do little things when they could. Clean a counter, wipe it down, pick up trash if someone else swept the floor. It was slow progress, but we began seeing results. I was feeling pretty positive about our progress. But then I noticed strange behavior from Dee around this time.
This was around the time that I couldn’t get a title for my car from the dealership. I had texted Tommy and asked if he could help. I got a short, ‘I’m working’. I asked Lily and she claimed car trouble. I didn’t realize at the time, but we had already been ghosted by them.
I made birria tacos one night and it was a smashing success. I made them twice since then, each time using an Instant Pot that Dee had. One day, it vanished and when I asked about it, Chewy said she’d loaned it out. Then it was the air fryer and other appliances. Then we stopped seeing Dee much and if she came or left, she wouldn’t even look at us and wouldn’t speak to any of us. As this went on day after day, I knew something was off, but I thought it was between the two of them, so I respected this silence.
One day, I noticed through their open bedroom door that most of their furniture was gone. It was unusual because their room had previously been cluttered. That, along with things going missing in the kitchen, spelled trouble and though I couldn’t know what it was, I started preparing for any and all potential disasters.
I started by telling the kids what I had been seeing, how Dee had been the last time she was doing this silent treatment -it was dishes back then too- and how their room seemed empty. That it felt like they were going to try and abandon the apartment to the kids and bounce on the lease. We discussed the legalities since the kids are on the lease with them and what options we may have if they either tried ditching the lease or, despite their stuff leaving, they may try to illegally evict us. Time and time again, I would start the conversation with, ‘I don’t think she’s capable of doing that, but I never see it coming when it’s family’.
Yeah. I didn’t see it coming. Yet this time, we were ready for it.
The catalyst was over lunch one day when Lio and I made ramen bowls while Chewy and Raphael were at work. I made my bowl last and for whatever reason, the flame had gone off for the stove but the gas was still on. It wasn’t very long before Dee came down and had an impressive meltdown about it complete with outrageous accusations and a weird focus on trying to coerce me to say that I tried killing her. Not all of us. Just her. ‘Can you just admit that you could have killed me?’. ‘The whole apartment is filled with deadly gas and I could have died’. At that point, I was not going to be manipulated to placate her, let alone grovel, and I refused to engage in a fight. She went upstairs and I prepared Lio for what would happen next since he had been in the room when this went down. It didn’t make what happened any less devastating when the next fight came. I had a feeling rational and logic thought on her end would NOT be part of our next conversation.
When Raphael got off work, I told him about what happened and what may happen after we got home. I had less time to prepare him and when the fight started, he was upstairs changing out of work clothes when Dee came down with Chewy. I was not going to engage with her hostility and said so clearly. She said I didn’t have a choice and went into a tirade about how I didn’t care about almost killing her, which isn’t even close to what happened. I said that I would talk about the situation rationally, but I was not going to fight or match her violence. I had resolved not to speak to her at all while she was that hostile, but abusive people know you have buttons and I fucked up by talking when she started making ultimatums about my sons who were on the lease. At that point, I said that they both need to be in the room if she’s talking about the apartment since they’re on the lease. No joke, she looked right at Lio and said, ‘why, it’s not like they understand what’s going on anyway’.
This was one of those ‘I don’t think she would do this, but…’ moments because I had warned the kids that she may use their disabilities against them either verbally or physically. When that happened, I had a ‘holy shit’ moment and turned to Lio and laughed incredulously, ‘dude, she just said that to your face!’ Even though I had warned about it, it was still a shock to have witnessed it, hence the shocked laugh. Lio sat for a second and quietly said, ‘wow’ and at that moment, I was most definitely done with her. But that didn’t slow her down.
Among Dee’s bitch list, it was the dishes and how they hadn’t been done. How she noticed that dishes were being done now and the counters were clean, but they weren’t always. Acknowledging that there was obvious and visible progress and the reasons for it are above. We figure out how to work together. When she complained that I had yelled at Raphael, I couldn’t help but look at Chewy standing silently next to her, head down and not moving. He never spoke the entire time she was yelling at me about it. I have spoken to my sons, taken accountability and made changes, which has resulted in positive progress and ensured that we are working together in a mutually beneficial manner. But I know what happens when she doesn’t get her way from Chewy, so it was a little bizarre for someone who physically abuses their partner to lecture me about raising my voice. Let’s take a look at this hypocrisy a little better.
Dee: no one was doing dishes for weeks!
Me: I’ve been sick the last three weeks, wtf.
Dee: so? You can still do things even when you’re sick. You sit around and do nothing.
Me: yeah and we’re all disabled, too.
Dee: it doesn’t matter. I don’t even see you take the trash out, you always make Raphael take it.
The dumpster is at the far end of the parking lot. There are two stairs getting out of the apartment, I’d have to drive my wheelchair north up the walkway to the sidewalk, west to the parking lot, and south a good distance to the dumpster. The path is not accessible. Dee doesn’t take the trash out either. Chewy and Takoja did when she told them to. I asked both dudes independently if I could ask them to take the trash when it was full and they both agreed, so there were days that one or the other got home and I had bagged the trash ready to go out. I’d ask if they could take it out and they would; it was a partnership, not dictating tasks. Same with dishes. Partnerships and communication are important.
‘You make Raphael do everything!’
Haha, no. It is true that Raphael tends to do more of the physical things, like taking the trash out and scooping the litter box. But at the old apartment, Lio and I would take the trash out in our wheelchairs. Struggled to throw the bag into the dumpster, sure, but we had an accessible path to it, too. The shower here is upstairs and Lio can’t climb stairs so Raphael helps him up and down. We work together to support each other how we can. I don’t force my kids to do things and though I’ve managed to get manipulated twice by this able bodied family over labor that they don’t want to do themselves, those are blips. It doesn’t excuse that I’m the one scolding my kids about unrealistic expectations such assholes demand out of us though.
As for someone doing everything in obedience. If I were to clip all the videos together of them moving their stuff out, 99% of it is just Chewy laboring under Dee’s demands, taking boxes and things in and out and just her constant tantrums of slamming the door as hard as she can when she comes and goes. She never scooped the litter boxes and they had seven cats in this place. It always reeked of cat piss. I maintained the downstairs box while Puma was alive because he used that box. Chewy would take the boxes outside once a week or so and scoop them on the patio because of the stench. Maybe Dee’s projecting is getting out of hand.
My father made the same accusation to me about Raphael, that he does everything. When we were going to move from the Rez back to Denver, my power wheelchair was broken. I didn’t have a manual chair, but I did have a travel chair. It was useless unless someone pushed me and we were living on the land, so it was uneven and sometimes too soft to move through. The entire time that grandpa headed to the Rez, we consolidated what we were taking and what was going to storage. Raphael helped with the dividing so nothing was too heavy on its own. I explained that I would not be able to help him load, but to take breaks and not overexert himself because he was the only one who could do this. He said not to worry.
When grandpa arrived, we were ready. I sat in the shade and Raphael began loading. After the second trip to storage, grandpa sat near me and called someone up to lament, ‘she’s making my poor Raphael do EVERYTHING. Yeah, he’s the only one loading, she’s just sitting there.’ I didn’t say anything. For someone able bodied, grandpa could have helped his grandson, but yeah, he just sat there and did nothing. As able bodied, Dee could have been cleaning the litter box, taking out trash or otherwise cleaning this place.
One of the last arguments Dee made was how ‘I changed the kitchen to be better’ and I nearly laughed. Because she did everything she could to make the kitchen inaccessible to us and it was just bizarre. Just as dumping furniture on us constantly was bizarre.
Two of us are in wheelchairs. When I got here, the living room was empty except for a table and an empty tv stand. The cats had taken over the tv stand as a resting place, no issues there. I got to use it when Raphael loaned me his television. Because I had art supplies, Dee swapped it for a larger 8 cubby tv stand and I loaded it with art supplies. Then she surprised me one day with the couch and though I appreciated the gesture, it was huge, bulky and very heavy. It also sat really low because Dee didn’t want to put the legs back on in case the cats tried getting under it. So it was not easy for me to get in and out of and I had less mobility because getting up could be painful. I thanked them for the furniture anyway. Soon enough, Dee brought back a set of decorative tables and it only added to the clutter happening in the living room. After the kids moved in, she gave us a large cubby stand and two large bins. With Lio in his wheelchair and his belongings, it was getting difficult to maneuver around the living room with all this junk.
As for the kitchen, it is true that Dee rearranged the kitchen, but it was definitely not with us in mind. The rice container kept being put above the stove and I couldn’t reach it from my chair. The bread kept getting put into one of the upper cabinets and Lio and I couldn’t reach it unless it was right at the edge of the bottom shelf; spoiler, it was never put away like that. She made us a ‘snack cabinet’ where everything was in upper cabinets out of reach. I tried moving some stuff to places where Lio and I could reach things, but they kept vanishing or appearing where she’d put them. When I asked if I could keep stuff out or accessible, it still ended up being moved. Because we couldn’t reach the bread, I got frustrated enough to keep it on my couch so we could actually access it. Raphael had a roll of doggy bags that we use to scoop the litter box and it kept vanishing. I finally put it in a drawer, told him where it was and it vanished out of there, too. We were never allowed any input or choice about the kitchen. Eventually, I told the kids that we needed to stash our things out of sight but accessible because it didn’t matter what we said or did, she had to have her way. It was not “better” for any of us who actually used the damn kitchen.
Dee and Chewy brought back a huge dish cabinet that took up most of one wall. It was tall and all the appliances got put on top of it. You know. Where I can’t reach. I’d have to ask Chewy to take down the Instant Pot when I wanted to use it, for example. Lio struggled to get dishes out of the upper cabinets and the lower cabinets were stuffed with pots and pans. Though, that was the only nice thing about it. The oven was no longer jammed packed with pans that had to be distributed around the kitchen when we needed to bake something. Parents, stop teaching your kids that the oven is storage!
At the end of this fight, they went upstairs and Raphael came down so we could all talk.
“What happens now?”
Now she’s going to start taking resources from us, I told them. To enjoy wifi because they would cut that off pretty soon. That they can’t make us not use electricity, but would probably try forcing us to pay it all. I told Lio that we would need to empty out the furniture she “gave” us because she would probably take it back. But it would be less clutter at least. Finally, I said that we would probably never see any of the cats again after this because Lola in particular had become important to me. Childish gesture, too; we took better care of those cats than they did. Raphael even took over the upstairs litter box at times when the smell became too much for me.
Within a short time, the wifi password got changed. Dee turned the heater off. She couldn’t even do the deed herself and Chewy came downstairs to snatch Lola off of my couch where she’d been sleeping and took her upstairs. I never saw her again. But I knew it was coming and had spent hours since the first fight cuddling her and saying goodbye. Chewy eventually came down and asked for money for the electric bill and I told him that Dee said she was taking me to court and it had to be a court order. He claimed that no one was going to court and I reminded him that she texted that to me. He went upstairs and didn’t come back down. I swear, I need to start writing down my predictions. At the same time. It sucks to be right this much. Hypervigilance is a trauma response. I don’t know if it can be turned off, but even when I don’t see it coming, I’m preparing for it. Here’s that text.
Now that we knew what was going on with Dee, I told them that as lease holders, if they, the kids, wanted to ask me to leave, I would. But if they wanted me to stay as their guest, I could do that too. I told them that she might not pester or abuse them if I wasn’t here, but her instability didn’t give me much confidence in that. Raphael and I would go to the office when it opened and see what their options were. I said that it was likely that if Dee wanted to fight in court like she texted, then we’d wait for the eviction notice and see how much time that I had. That we could also try getting the kids removed from the lease since Dee wanted all of us gone.
The complex manager was understanding. I explained the gas incident and Dee’s demands. The manager said that evictions can take at least four months to fulfill and the lease was up in three. I didn’t have to leave in the middle of winter if the kids were fine with me staying. Dee couldn’t change the locks without the kids being given a key because they were on the lease. She also said that if Dee harassed or assaulted us that we should call the police. This was all a relief, but also what I kind of expected and one of the many avenues that the kids and I had discussed. I have no idea what Dee has said to the manager, but she is now very upset and wants everyone gone at the end of the lease and this bullshit isn’t even our fault. We got a notice on the door about vacating the premises and when Raphael asked about it, the manager said it applied to the end of the lease, which is March 31st. We wouldn’t have renewed anyway – this is a 2-story townhouse; even the downstairs bathroom isn’t accessible.
We discussed the updates with Lio and they asked what happens now. I said that we needed to get our own kitchen things because next would be any resources that were here before we got here like dishes, cleaning things and furniture. I also brought up an incident in Japan where a ‘friend’ tortured me by blasting the AC in freezing winter temperatures after we had a disagreement. I warned them that if Dee wasn’t overtly violent, she could be so passively by other means that couldn’t be termed ‘criminal’, at least in the legal sense. I joked that she might be “Rez” enough to not care about going to jail for assaulting me, but now that I think of it, that concept deserves a blog of its own; there are common toxic traits that I’ve heard termed “Rez”, but their roots aren’t our cultures. Back to our tale.
The bulk of this mess happened in the first two weeks of December. I had already sent Chewy the rent payment via Venmo but now I couldn’t trust that he actually paid the rent or if Dee would steal the kids’ rent money and bounce with it. I reminded the kids that forged documents (I witnessed) were submitted by Dee and Chewy to the office and I worried that she might try forging documents to force the kids out. I didn’t ask him to, but Raphael took it upon himself to talk to the office to verify that rent got paid and it did. Then they put together a protocol that no documents can be signed unless all parties are physically present, so that avenue had been covered.
“So now what happens?”
Dee couldn’t illegally evict me or the kids and her hostility had us all on high alert. We were paid on rent to the end of the month so we did our best to hunker down and try taking care of ourselves in the meantime. Xfinity said two accounts could be at the same place so Raphael signed up for that. We called Xcel Energy and asked what options we have there and they said that we could start an account in our name because if Chewy disconnected his account, the complex would get the bill. ‘Landlords get very, very upset if they’re paying electricity on occupied units.’ So Raphael started his own account. Now we won’t worry about electricity.
I will admit that I was petty about a few things. I knew she would be taking the dishes at some point so I didn’t bother cleaning any of the pots and pans – those were my job. The kids did the rest of the dishes. The night she and Chewy packed up the kitchen, she was petty in return by throwing away the pot of steak that I had just cooked. She opened the kitchen window all the way in freezing temperatures, too. Dee then demanded we return all the furniture and we started clearing them out. When they didn’t take them out of the living room where it was so cluttered that we couldn’t move around, I put them all outside. Suddenly we had space to move and fucking breathe and it was liberating. I hoped so much that they’d take the couch right away but I got stuck with it for another week or so.
One day they showed up and Dee told me that they were taking the couch. I said nothing, but I moved me and my stuff to MY couch that Lio sleeps on. Silently celebrating because there was no way the kids and I would have been able to get that monster out of here, but no way was I going to let that slip when they were providing free labor. We bundled up because they took off the back door, opened the windows and left the front door open the whole time that they were moving this one single item. Yeah. It was freezing. Tommy showed up to help them with this move and that was a little bittersweet. I knew I’d see him at some point, but I wasn’t going to talk to him either.
Last year, I didn’t get to spend Christmas with my kids. Tommy’s mother had passed away and I asked if they needed anything. Tommy needed a ride back home and I arranged with grandpa for him to take the kids and I would take Tommy back to the Navajo reservation. The funeral was days before Christmas but Tommy wanted to stay until that day. Because of the circumstances, I agreed. The kids knew we wouldn’t have money for gifts either and they were fine with skipping Christmas because they understood. One night, Tommy was hugging me in tears thanking me for how I’ve always been there for him. I said that I always would be. Tommy was the Diné son that my mom adopted when I was 14.
Tommy was friends with me on Facebook. I had blocked Dee after the fight because my Facebook is where I can put my vulnerable or deep thoughts to the very few people that I trust. Things like family issues, suicide ideation and the darker elements of what I go through but want to share because I have helped others who struggle similarly. Tommy posted a meme tagging Dee that read, ‘I don’t mind being the villain in your tale because you are the bum in mine.’ Many laughing emojis on the post. A year ago I grieved with him; I was family, a little sister. The kids even helped pay for that trip. This year, me and my kids are bums. This was my last sibling. You’ll see him in some MCU show next year. I can’t wait to see this Diné uncle acting all holy and talking about mathematics and medicine.
Then Tommy and Chewy tried taking out the standing freezer from the kitchen. I waited until they had it near the back door. Without looking at them, I said, “I bought that freezer and can prove it.” That seemed to stop both of them but they didn’t release it. Dee came in and Tommy asked, ‘who paid for the freezer?’ I said, “I did.” Dee chirped in, ‘prove it then. You gave it to us.’, but Tommy wisely dropped his end and said, ‘forget it, we’ll buy another one.’
Friends. When it was four of us at the old apartment, and if it was going to be five of us here in this one, a standing freezer would be great. For three of us? It’s a bit much and we don’t really need it. But Dee took back all the furniture, intended us to suffer as much as possible, so yeah. I’m keeping the $300 freezer and you can have your $40 junk furniture. It’s petty af and I thought someday I’d regret it, but that day is not today.
I bought the water cooler that they had in their room, too. Chewy had it under one arm, ran down the stairs, opened the door and ran out with it, damn near Naruto style. Barely paused when he opened the door and vanished with it. That one was so comical that I had to laugh and I told the kids that they can keep that one. The last time I saw it, it was filthy and I’m betting they’ve never cleaned that either. At least I can defrost and clean the freezer.
The last time I acknowledged Dee; sort of. She was droning on about obeying rules and that’s when I stopped listening; she’s not one of my kids lol. Once more, Chewy only stood in the room, head down and silent. At some point, he picked up Boba and cuddled with her and set her down when Dee told him to leave. There are times like this where he seems more like a pet than a partner. Dee told me that they’d both be moving at the end of December and I put my headphones on to block anything else out.
Since they’ve been mostly gone – they showed up randomly – things have been volatile. Lio expressed ideation and we booked a doctor visit so we could get a referral for a therapist. This is where the bulk of our focus has been the last four weeks.
Lio in particular has been in a bad state. If I ask if it’s okay to talk, he is in immediate distress or just starts tearing up. I have been going through my own struggles, but I got connected with a therapist before we could get him an appointment. Raphael visits and plays him music or teaches him a random thing he learned. I do my best to focus on gaming when Lio asks to play. We cook together and have made art. Between the two of us, we haven’t been able to eat a full meal. We’ve both lost weight.
Last week, we had a talk and I had the breakdown. Ugly crying, the whole nine. It’s not my fault, but I couldn’t help but apologize that every family that we’ve lived with are toxic and ableist assholes who are comfortable exploiting and discarding us. We all shared what we were feeling at the time and affirmed to each other that we’d be there for each other. In the days since, I still tear up; I’ve cried just writing some of this out.
It’s coming up on a month and we are finally getting into a better state. We have cooked together and been able to laugh again. Then the end of the month was upon us.
What do we do now?
I do not know.
This is the second time that I cannot make decisions for my sons about how or where they live. I said that they need to tell me what they want to do and I can suggest some options, but it can only be from my experience and perspective and that they need to do some research or figure out what’s most important, such as location or even just finishing out the lease. We’re still working on this aspect.
In the meantime, because Dee and Chewy refuse to speak to us, we are unsure what will happen when it comes to rent. Dee claimed that they were moving out at the end of December, yet they returned the other night without a word and have been here since.
When Lily had her episode about dishes, I had offered to move if that’s what she really wanted. She agreed. We weren’t on the lease, so we weren’t financially and legally required to continue paying anything, then or after we moved back. In the current situation, my kids are on the lease. If the kids leave, they are still liable for rent for the remainder of the lease. It feels like Dee tried forcing that route where we’d be homeless but still paying her rent. So let’s talk about those bills for a minute.
I paid the full electric bill for three months. I bought almost all the food and it was community. Chewy and Takoja could, and did, take food for work. I shared my soda and bought extra food to share if I got delivery. When the kids moved in, they paid half the electric and internet from the start. Since July, for six months of service, Dee and Chewy only paid half the electric for three of those months. The kids have paid half the rent since October and I’m pretty sure that they didn’t sign the lease until November, so they also got a free half month of rent out of us on top of half the electric and internet. I have receipts.
As lease holders, the kids must pay their equal share of rent and they’ve always done so. The bills were being paid. We were buying and cooking food. What more did she really want? After all this has gone down, I am guessing she wanted three servants to command while they paid her bills and rent; not only was she not working, but she expressed how she didn’t want to work, which is why she quit her job. Because her argument at me that I ‘do nothing’ is bizarre too. SHE does nothing as far as I can tell. Rent was paid. Bills were paid. What does she think she needs to see me doing? If it’s dishes, that’s a her problem. We were on it. She acknowledged it, too. Was I supposed to be servant number four? She’s an adult. If she had someone covering her financial obligations -like Chewy- then we can’t complain that she’s not contributing anything else to the household, right? We respected their dynamic. Bills and rent were paid. Why this weird obsession over what activities I should be demonstrating to HER.
I think maybe the one thing that comes to mind the most is Chewy. That scary night on the couch. The night of the fight, how he stood next to Dee, head down and silent. The same posture when he silently picked up Boba to cuddle while his girlfriend threw a tantrum next to him like it was perfectly normal. That when they started taking boxes out, I watched on camera as he took boxes out and closed the door. Then after one particular trip, he started closing the door and went back to open it all the way. Then left it even though Lio was visibly struggling to find something to cover himself from the cold. I asked him once if I could say something and he shook his head. Raphael told me when he tried asking Chewy something at work that he wouldn’t even acknowledge him.
Before the kids moved here and Takoja was moving out. I had asked Dee if they would be okay with rent the following month. To which Dee told me, ‘it’s okay. Chewy will work triple shifts the rest of the month.’ Triple shifts would be ~15 hour days, 4-5 days a week for 2-3 weeks. Later, she offered the kids to move in so we could share the cost of rent. In retrospect, this should have been THE red flag.
Now I’m going to share something educational and maybe amusing about being Lakota. Mother in laws don’t speak to or look at their son in laws. Ma told me that when she took my father to the Rez, she told him about this, but he’d joke about it. Grandma was walking through the dining room and his legs were in her path so she merely stopped and stood silent so he could move them. Instead, my father waved where she was looking and asked if she wanted to sit on his lap. Ma got a lecture about it, lol. Last year around the funeral, Dee and Chewy were there, too. I had mentioned that it’s hard to talk to or look at Chewy because I think of Dee as a daughter and even though they’re not married, that’s her partner. But they aren’t Lakota, so I did my best. So it was a weird comfort for Chewy to stop speaking to me, if that makes sense.
Chewy. While I do not appreciate that you opened windows and doors so we’d freeze or at least suffer, what I said that day still stands. You need to remember that how she treats you is how your kids will grow up. You can hope things will get better, but that typically doesn’t happen. You probably have more support than you think you do, so it doesn’t have to be from me, but blink twice at someone ffs, especially that dude you see in the mirror. Therapy does work, but it does take time to find a therapist that matches with you. You deserve to be supported as an equal partner who actually has a voice and autonomy.
I’m almost hoping that Dee takes me to court. We can talk to a judge about those documents I spoke about. We can explore the legality of manipulating disabled individuals to sign something and then illegally trying to evict them. As it is now, I’m willing to maintain the peace at my sons’ request. So long as Dee and Chewy pay their half of the rent. Which they haven’t and today, January 6th, was the last day to pay rent without late fees. So maybe we’ll be going to court after all.
I expect Dee will throw a tantrum every time she comes and goes. At first, it was unsettling; if you grew up with a violent parent, that kind of thing can be triggering and it was. But I made a game out of it to help us not have that reaction. Will it be the slam that shakes the windows or the soft slam. When they come or go, she’s always the second one to pass through the door just so she can slam it. The other night they checked mail and on the return, she threw our mail onto the living room floor. And slammed the door. But she’s an adult, right?