I Have Just Got To Get This Off My Chest!

How a busy body relative ripped a family apart.

!!!!!!! Excessive use of exclamation points Alert !!!!!!

(names have been changed to protect the guilty!)

This story is told using the best of my recollection.

I am writing this here in the hopes that doing so will help put my mind to rest. I can hardly begin to find the words that will properly convey the story. Any and all of your comments and observations are welcomed.

My in-laws were “snowbirds” for many years, spending the winter in their lovely condo in Florida, and the summers home here in Connecticut. Over the years, many relatives who visited them absolutely raved about how cool their condo was because of a waterfront location, smart layout for elderly or disabled people, and right next door to a beautiful marina. It is located within walking distance of all sorts of stores and services. Eventually, my mother-in-law’s sister, “Ellen,” got a condo in the same building along with her husband. Later, mom’s nephew and his wife, “Mary,” also got a condo in the building. Having known Mary for nearly 25 years, I considered her to be a little bit over friendly, and a bit nosey. Other than that, I liked her.

Several years ago, mom’s sister Ellen’s husband died leaving her alone, but not really alone because of the friendly relatives living in the same building. Because of her advancing age, one day Ellen took a fall. That evening she spoke with her daughter, “Mindy,” in Connecticut and told her that she had fallen and hurt her leg and she was having a problem getting up. Since it was summer time, my in-laws were up in Connecticut, so Mindy suggested that she call Mary for assistance, since years ago she had been a nurse. Ellen begged her daughter not to call Mary, or anybody else, but to fly down to Florida overnight and help her assess her situation. Mindy agreed, and she was there first thing in the morning. When some of her relatives found out that Mindy had honored her mother’s wishes, they pitched a fit and had Mindy criminally charged with some sort of endangerment or something. I felt really bad for Mindy because many times my in-laws had told me and my husband that if anything ever happened to her or dad, DO NOT CALL MARY, because she’ll have her nose all up in their business. I thought they were being a little harsh with Mary, but we agreed. When Mindy was accused of putting her mother's life in danger by respecting her mother’s wishes I felt awful. We, after all, had agreed to not call Mary in the case of an emergency. But we minded our own business, and simply shook our heads as we observed Ellen’s and Mindy’s family self-destruct over the issue. I had reasoned that she probably should have urged her mother to call paramedics, or she should have called them herself. Mindy, a grade school teacher, now has a criminal record for endangerment of some sort, and only had “supervised” visits with her mother (at her own legal expense) for the final years of Ellen’s life. It was awful!

Fast forward to last Wednesday. My hubby and I discovered mom’s dead body in her condo, on her sunroom floor. She had been alone at the time since my father-in-law was in the hospital. We remembered her stern warning, DO NOT CALL MARY, but it was then that I realized that the minute the police were in the condo complex, it probably wouldn’t take ten minutes for Mary to come rolling in. And I was right. Mary’s husband arrived almost at the same time the police got there, and of course Mary got there about two minutes later.

The police determined that mom was indeed dead, and had been for perhaps two days, and they sat outside in a cruiser while we all waited for the coroner. That left me, my hubby, Mary, and her husband (mom’s nephew), alone in the condo with mom’s body.

While waiting I mentally apologized to mom that we were unable to keep Mary out if this as she had so strongly requested, but I then realized exactly what poor Ellen must have realized as she sat on the floor after her fall. There was no way that anybody could have kept Mary out of things if an ambulance had been called into the condo complex.

While the four of us waited for the coroner, we discussed the probable cause of death (my suggestion was ‘old age’ since mom was 94) and speculated that it might be connected to a shunt that had been installed in one of her arteries to improve the circulation in her leg. The shunt was located in the crease between her leg and her groin.

At that point, to my shock, Mary decided that she wanted to see mom’s shunt scar. She bent over the body and opened mom’s bathrobe. Her husband told her what I am sure we all were thinking, “Mary, don’t touch the body.” She hesitated for a second, and I thought she was going to back off. But, no. With the dead woman’s son and nephew standing right next to her, she lifted up mom’s nightie to reveal her scar and in the process exposed her private parts to all of us. That is one sight I can never unsee! I was in shock! Just then the coroner arrived, and she backed off. There was a lot of confusion as they prepared to remove the body, but I kept my eye on Mary as she walked over to the dining room table and started leafing through my in-laws mail. Then she spotted a group of Rx bottles, and she picked up a few of them and inspected them. I started to get up and go over to her, but she looked around to see if anybody was paying attention, and then she snuck into my in-laws bedroom. I was up in a flash (or as much of a flash as I can mange at my age), and when I walked in the bedroom, I saw Mary picking through some things that mom had lain out on her bed. When she realized that she was caught, she got all flustered and left the room. Shortly thereafter I asked her to leave. I did it nicely, though. I told her that the coroner wanted the room cleared for the body removal. She had no clue I was upset about what I had seen her do.

I am FURIOUS! Mom and Ellen certainly had Mary pegged! I can’t believe the gall of this woman, and I will never be able to see or hear from Mary again without re-experiencing the whole shocking scene.

And poor Ellen and Mindy! Mindy got a criminal record trying to honor her mother’s explicit wishes, and the family (Mindy’s sisters) had Ellen declared legally incompetent because she had refused to call for immediate medical treatment. They shipped her off to what I like to call an old folks’ warehouse and she never saw her lovely condo again. She has since died but she knew that if Mary were there when she was taken to the hospital, Mary would heroically offer to lock up Ellen’s condo and take care of things, and then proceed to rummage through all of Ellen’s personal possessions. I now feel awful for not more vocally sticking up for Mindy when she was up on charges. Little did I know at the time that Ellen had very real reasons to not want to call for help, especially since she believed that all she did was hurt her leg.

I am so upset about all this! Is there a mental defect or disease that would make a person pathologically nosy and destructively intrusive like this?
marionD marionD
1 Response Jul 13, 2010

I feel so sorry for you and for what your family has gone through!