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"Home is a place...."

In Robert Frost's brilliant poem, "Death of a Hired Man", he writes:  "Home is a place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in."  In the poem, a farmer and his wife are struggling with what to do about a broken-down hired man, who's returned to their farm to die.  The farmer doesn't want the responsibility, and his wife reminds him that their farm is this man's home, despite the fact that he has family close by.

Is this true?  Do we HAVE to take someone in, if it's home?  Dear Husband and I are struggling with this very thing right now.  Dark-Haired Daughter, who has bi-polar and a host of cognitive disabilities, has been out of the house since January.  It was then she assaulted me and two of our other children in a manic episode.  She was in detention for quite awhile, and now has been living in residential treatment, which has been very good for her.

The thing is, Dark-Haired Daughter does REALLY well in a highly-structure environment - a place with a staff of people who help her with day-to-day tasks (like grooming and taking meds), who encourage her socially, and can step in at a moment's notice when things go awry.  No matter how much Dear Husband and I have tried to emulate this, we are only two people, not a staff of folks, and our home is not this type of environment.  Over the past 5 years, we've watched this cycle of Daughter live and do well in a structured environment and then, at the insistence of experts (many of whom have never met my daughter), get returned home and things fall apart.  We then have to fight and claw our way back to a structured setting, where the experts say,  "See how well she's doing??  Let's get her back home!" 

Not this time.  We are preparing Dark-Haired Daughter for a different home now - hopefully a group home setting where she can enjoy as much freedom as she can possibly handle, but still be surrounded by a staff of folks who can guide and watch over her.  Because that is what she needs.  It will be a different home, but a home nonetheless. 

What we're struggling with is not that we don't want her "home", but which home is best for her.  Our home, with two adults who work full-time and is a place where she would be alone a LOT, is not a good place for her.  It's not that we can't or won't take her in, it's that we would be doing her an injustice by doing so.

Does that sound like a rationalization?  Maybe it's just the aching of a mother's heart.  Maybe home is a place where hard decisions are made, where people always put your needs first, and sometimes that means you have to be taken in somewhere else.


  1. Elise, I feel for you. I hope you take this the way I mean it, but please don't second-guess yourself into knots. You truly are trying to give her a chance to survive and thrive, and it's no shame to recognize that you and DH don't have the skill set or the resources to give her what she needs. You're not casting her adrift; you're not killing her; you're not disowning her. It's not selfish to indirectly benefit from a decision that primarily benefits her and can lead her into a happier, healthier life.

    My mother and I were close to the same point with my younger brother just before he went into the hospital with his final illness: it was very likely that he was going to end up in a nursing home. Would that doing the best thing for someone else always felt good! But to rationalize is not always to engage in self-deception: it is to bring reason out of unreason, to pull something intelligible out from underneath the the jumbled pile of chaotic, conflicting emotions that have buried and stifled it.

    Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.
    Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.
    St. Joseph, pray for us.
    Ss. Christina and Maturinus, pray for us.


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