This weekend, I will be accompanying my 82 year old dad and my fiance "Ff" on the 8-hour trip to my parents' old country house, which we put on the market after my mom died 2 years ago. This will be the third time in two years. My mom and I loved that house. I have a sinking feeling of dread, regret, and horror about selling it. But it is too far away for any of us to enjoy it...so I hope to sell it to a nice person who will love it as we did.
I dread going back there in the company of my dad. He is as cheap, rigid, and full of self-denial and denial of everyone else as my mom was generous, flexible, and fun-loving. Dad is also more and more delusional, forgetful, and full of bizarre ideas. Of course, he is also still devastated at my mom's loss. So I try not to blame him.
But being with him makes me feel rotten and hated. Ff is no help because he cannot talk back or say no to seniors, so he complains about my dad to me and tells me I have to be more firm with him.
An old friend of the family, "Tio," would like to come with us to support me and I think that would help me get through this. Tio is 87 himself and may not get another chance to see the place (where he also spent many happy summers with us). But dad hates him now, mostly I think because he is jealous that my sister and I spend time with him.
Dad thinks that the old furniture, tools, and stuff in the house are going to be important to a buyer--so he doesn't want us to take anything. He'd rather give sentimental items to a stranger than to his daughter. Ff wants to get stuff from the house too, but won't say so to my dad's face...so I have to and I am therefore acquisitive. Never mind that I am the one who found the realtor, who will be working all weekend to clean the place, who is taking time off work to do this trip.
Dad thinks there is a prospective buyer and wants to go show him all the tools and stuff. This guy seems like anything but reliable from the emails I have exchanged with him.
When I am around my dad, his attitude of denial permeates everything and I start thinking I don't have enough money and I shouldn't eat and I should just dissolve. Tio makes me laugh and makes me feel supported. It would also make me feel a bit better about this awful trip if I could take a few nice things my mom would have wanted me to have.
I am thinking--and my sister, who has POA and is the Executor of my parents estate, agrees--we should just bring Tio and take a few things that we want, while gently explaining to Dad that Mom would want it this way. But I don't want to disempower Dad and deepen his misery. But I also don't want to put up with him treating me like dirt! This is making me crazy and I am also thinking of just refusing to go.
I know--its one weekend. Just do it. But the last time, and the time before that, were supposed to be the last time too. Then dad wants to go and pick up a bathroom scale he left, or a grill, or speak to some mythical buyer. And Ff keeps saying yes, and then I have no choice.
It was challenging--dad was anxious and angry as always, though Tio and Ff were cheerful buffers against his negativity. Dad was grumpy about having my dogs and Tio along but I needed them to get through this.
It was good to be where my mom's presence is still powerfully felt. I see that I needed to go one last time to honor my mom and honor that place, and now I can let it go. Dad even let me take a few things and the house looks better cleaned and slightly decluttered.
Learning to get emotional space from Dad, so I don't get pulled into his darkness. Limiting my time with him, bringing along human and canine buffers, directing the conversation to topics that cheer Dad up, not telling him things that will make him angry or anxious--I am slowly learning the strategies.
My Dad is like your Dad when it comes to selling their house [their current one] thinking a family would enjoy having all the furniture when the house goes on the market. I had to explain that in their house price market about 99.9% of the buyers will already have their own furniture, and an investor buying to use for a furnished rental would want new furniture. Dad's 30 year old recliner isn't going to be a game changer, neither will his basement work cabinet filled with old coffee tins of nuts and bolts :P
By the way, how did the trip turn out?
We have a great Realtor who understands the sentimental value of the house and who thinks she has a buyer who loves the house as is. She also said that when we come up, we can just mark the stuff we want and she'll get it to us when the house sells. Brilliant!
I agree totally with cwillie and windyridge that at this stage of unreasonableness you have to just work around Dad. You try to make him feel empowered and placated and then you just do what needs to be done without telling him.
I agree about dementia--but is there anything you can do about it? What difference would it really make once we had that diagnosis, if we all know that's what's happening? I'll look into it further on this site, thanks.
I am going to focus on the woods and the trees, bring my dogs and watch them run and play, and eat lots of empty calories to counter Dad's nutty self-denial bordering on anorexia (he's always been that way about food, though worse now...I think it gives him something he can control).
I feel awful about how dad treats Tio, who gets sweeter and more giving as Dad gets more grumpy and cheaper. Want to bring Tio to do something nice for Tio but it might just make dad even more impossible to be around.
Confusion, delusions, paranoia, and being mean are not normal age-related decline. A lot of family doctors will say that because they are not trained on the specialties of aging. Just like they aren't trained in pediatrics. When you can (which is ASAP), have dad seen by a geriatric specialist who will not miss these red flags.
How to get dad to cooperate with going to this new doctor? However you can. Say it's for insurance. Say it's for benefits. Say you don't know why, you were just told to do this by the doctor's office. Whatever you think will work.
Your fiancé needs to be educated on dementia as well, so he won't undermine you or what you and your sister will need to do and how you will have to get it done. There is a fine line between saying yes to placate and saying yes with the intent to follow through even if bad results are guaranteed.
Unfortunately plans have been made and you probably can't back out now, so you will just have to make the best of it. Deflect and redirect your dad. Listen to his advice, and then just go ahead and do whatever needs to be done anyway. Tio may be a good resource if he is on board with the plan to help to distract your dad, lots of "remember when" stories to distract him from things??
Ff is a real problem and you need to establish some ground rules ASAP. You say he defers to dad then complains after the fact to you ( passive aggressive behavior). "Ff keeps saying yes, and then I have no choice". That has got to end now or it will be the cause of serious difficulties in the future.