She Knows No Boundaries

Maintaining boundaries around a family in crisis is tricky business.

Maintaining boundaries around a family in crisis is tricky business.

I’m hooking up with the Five-Minute Friday crowd–five minutes of unedited writing on the prompt cooked up by Lisa Jo Baker and friends. This week, the prompt is ‘She’.


She left me speechless.

She was supposed to be like a relative, a safe person, someone who had promised to help us through the cancer journey. But it didn’t turn out that way.

She wanted to help by controlling. At a time when our lives consisted of constant turmoil, she added to the stress by thoughtless comments to our girls—trying to be chummy, perhaps, by asking them (aged eight and nine) if they had boyfriends at school and who they had a crush on.

I gritted my teeth and gently tried to explain that our daughters knew the importance of waiting until they were in college to have serious relationships—it was our family value.

She insisted on ‘helping out’ by doing my laundry when I stayed at the hospital with Pedro—even if it meant I had to ride trains for hours at a time to drop off my laundry and pick it up. I started sneaking my dirty clothes to a local laundry and dropping it off when I knew she wouldn’t be around.

It got worse. Some times, when I called Pedro, and she was in the room, she would answer the phone and tell me that I couldn’t talk to him right now—she always had a reason, she thought. He had to finish eating. He needed rest. But none of those reason had validity. His girls needed him. I needed him. She was NOT his mother.

She started opening his mail “because he didn’t have the dexterity to open it himself.” I felt invaded. Some of that mail came from ME!

She had good intentions, but somewhere along the way, they took over her sense of right and wrong and common decency.

It felt creepy.

A friend overheard her chatting with a neighbor at the local grocery story about how she had given up so much for Pedro to help cure his cancer. How he had become like a child to her.

She knew no boundaries. I didn’t want to offend, but her ‘help’ had me pulling my hair out and burdened me more each day.

She left me speechless.


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Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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