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My FIL is 81, lives with his wife, is very active and very strong. He has mentally declined in recent years and has become extremely angry, agitated, demanding, and controlling. He is a Vietnam vet and was an army ranger helicopter pilot in Vietnam. He has always been hard to deal with but is much worse now. He has farms all over the US and with the help of my husband maintains them quite well.
My husband is 60 and we run our farm and both work. My husband is very dedicated to his parents and help them on their farm 2.5 hours away weekly. My FIL is always dissatisfied with my husband, even though he does a great job for them, and constantly chides him on how awful he is. (By the way my husband has a Masters degree, worked in a management position for the last 20 years, recently retired from that position with a full pension).
This past week my FIL started a fist fight with my husband (he was upset about something trivial that had nothing to do with my husband). My husband had been working on my FIL farm all day and his Dad started attacking him when he arrived at the barn. My husband refused to fight him and kept pushing my FIL off of him and his Dad kept trying to punch him. He did finally punch my husband a few times and a friend pulled them apart. My husband decided it was time leave.
My husband is on his way home now. They were working a farm about 1600 miles from our home. He drove up there just help his Dad.
What can we do about my FIL? He gets angry if we try to talk to him. My husbands siblings think it's no big deal. They don't help out on the farms and really don't see him much. My MIL says she just wants to keep her husband happy and we should do whatever he demands. I feel my husband needs to stay away from his parents and just take care of ourselves and our kids. My husband will keep going back and I'm afraid someone is going to end up hurt or worse. What can I do?

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As I heard Dr. Phil explain last week concerning in-law trouble...it is your husband's job to handle his side of the family and your responsibility to handle your side of the family. I agree with others here who have suggested...let your husband lead in dealing with his father. Support your husband and be there to listen if/when he wants to talk about his father troubles or wants to take some sort of action. But, your role should stop there...listening to and supporting your husband.
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Babe,
As much as you would like, you can't fix this situation. You say FIL has meds but won't take them. Your husband won't press charges. The power is out of your hands. The only solution is to distance yourself and family from this toxic man. His wife has put up with his bullying for 60 plus years. She isn't going to change unless a tragedy occurs. Why anyone would listen on the phone while someone is screaming at them is beyond me. What a sad situation for all of you. Think of the relationships your FIL has missed out on by being this way. Sad
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When my dad found out he was losing his drivers license at age 91 he became extremely distraught. He wasn't physical as you described your FIL but his behavior was completely out of character as it seems was for your FIL becoming physical with your husband. We called the local police believing dad needed mental help. We already knew he had dementia but struggled with how much of his issues were the dementia and how much was personality or regular mode of operation, (narcissism) in his case. This moment was a turning point for us knowing he could no longer function appropriately without our intervention. Local police were not helpful. They would not get involved in domestic cases but rather only criminal cases. Even with several guns in the home they simply asked him if he would harm himself or others and he straightened up and told them no, so they left. Several weeks later I found him very confused and again distraught and called his doctor. He told me to take him to the hospital and he called ahead to let them know the situation. Dad was checked out completely physically and then admitted to the geratric psych unit. Fortunately I had all the POA and advanced health directive papers with me. He spent two weeks and they would not release him without us removing both his car and his many weapons and the ammo. He was furious but he was safe, we were safe, and others were safe with the added bonus of blame sifting off us. With dad's dementia and reasoning issues we found dad could not recall correctly he situations events. This later helped us to find an appropriate memory care unit where he is today. Just know you are not alone in this tough road. It's awful how one person can traumatize an entire family but family dynamics are tough and then mix in dementia and it becomes overwhelming. Reaching out helped me a lot in recognizing it doesn't matter whether the issues are dementia or 'personality' related, they are simply not appropriate and must be dealt with. We found the doctor to be our best help in our journey but nothing would have happened without the proper POA papers.
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Given FIL age, I'm sure he's on some kind of meds at this point, maybe Ativan should be added to calm him down a bit. Talk to your husband about it, and he can discuss it with his mother. She's the only one that could really take care of that matter. Otherwise I'd recommend your husband keep himself off the same ground as dad as much as possible. Any time he can go work on a different farm than dad, the better, or even just change the schedule around a little would help. He's still working, helping out, but dad can't get at him. Or maybe your husband can handle his dad, he gets angry about it and upset when dad acts up, but this just is the way it is. Could be much of the reason the other siblings are not involved, they can't take dad. If the behavior continues though, it'll likely get worse and not just to your husband, FIL could start lashing out at other people, which then again would warrant medication to calm him down.
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Don't know why that posted twice… sorry.
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Dear Babe,

I feel compelled to write because of your situation.

The constant I have seen from caring for my mom and being on this site for over 4 years is that people have a hard time understanding that Dementia is a mental illness, it's progressive and it can be dangerous because it involves other people. Patients with Dementia don't just lay there and cope, they continue in their world doing what they think is right but they can't make those decisions anymore because they're Demented.

Your FIL is demented. That means that there is no reasoning with him. Period.
Whatever his background is or whatever he has accomplished in the past is the past.
Today and tomorrow he is demented. That means that he is capable of Crazy.

Combine that with PTSD and flashbacks and his physical strength and you now have Dangerous.

This is called Elder Rage.

Like it or not, at some point someone has to get the guns and subdue this man before he flips out and really hurts someone. There are documented cases of dementia patients seriously harming and sometimes killing.

I am not telling you this to be dramatic but to make you aware that you are dealing with Dementia. If he is acting out like this, what little thing will it take to set him off where he will go nuts on say, the meter reader?

Dementia is the most devastating disease because of the people surrounding the patient. Dementia comes in on sneaky feet and slowly takes over. The changes can be gradual until something like what your husband experienced brings it all into focus. Even then, most people have extreme difficulty processing what has happened and more importantly Why it happened.

You have all of human nature in play here:
Grandma says just keep him happy. Because that's what she does to survive in his world.
The siblings say: What's the big deal? Because in order to deal with their father they have to face his dementia and disrupt their lives.
Your husband has seen the beast in person and is probably heartbroken at the bottom of it all. That's his Dad.

The reality is actually simple. FIL is very sick and whatever you do is going to make him angry and you sad. Right now there is no upside.

It's hard to wrap your brain around and it was hard for me. My aha moment was when I was griping to a doctor about my mother and he lost patience with me and said: Whaddya expect? She's demented!
Whoa.

That caused me to totally change how I managed the situation.

I will mention one more thing:

Some time ago I responded to a caregiver who posted on the Grossed Out thread about her dad.

She was trying to reason with him about moving into a facility and she couldn't understand why she wasn't getting through to him. In the meantime she wrote about how he was smearing poop on the walls in the bathroom.

For some reason she couldn't connect the fact that if her dad was smearing poop on the walls in the bathroom, why in the world would she think she could reason with him?

If your FIL is trying to beat up your husband why in the world do you think anyone can reason with him?

When I pointed this out she became angry with me.
Classic 'shoot the messenger'.

Good luck Babe. Taking care of my mom and dealing with Dementia was the hardest thing I ever did.

Venting is a good tool and there are amazing caregivers on this site to hear you.
Keep writing!

lovbob
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Dear Babe,

I feel compelled to write because of your situation.

The constant I have seen from caring for my mom and being on this site for over 4 years is that people have a hard time understanding that Dementia is a mental illness, it's progressive and it can be dangerous because it involves other people. Patients with Dementia don't just lay there and cope, they continue in their world doing what they think is right but they can't make those decisions anymore because they're Demented.

Your FIL is demented. That means that there is no reasoning with him. Period.
Whatever his background is or whatever he has accomplished in the past is the past.
Today and tomorrow he is demented. That means that he is capable of Crazy.

Combine that with PTSD and flashbacks and his physical strength and you now have Dangerous.

This is called Elder Rage.

Like it or not, at some point someone has to get the guns and subdue this man before he flips out and really hurts someone. There are documented cases of dementia patients seriously harming and sometimes killing.

I am not telling you this to be dramatic but to make you aware that you are dealing with Dementia. If he is acting out like this, what little thing will it take to set him off where he will go nuts on say, the meter reader?

Dementia is the most devastating disease because of the people surrounding the patient. Dementia comes in on sneaky feet and slowly takes over. The changes can be gradual until something like what your husband experienced brings it all into focus. Even then, most people have extreme difficulty processing what has happened and more importantly Why it happened.

You have all of human nature in play here:
Grandma says just keep him happy. Because that's what she does to survive in his world.
The siblings say: What's the big deal? Because in order to deal with their father they have to face his dementia and disrupt their lives.
Your husband has seen the beast in person and is probably heartbroken at the bottom of it all. That's his Dad.

The reality is actually simple. FIL is very sick and whatever you do is going to make him angry and you sad. Right now there is no upside.

It's hard to wrap your brain around and it was hard for me. My aha moment was when I was griping to a doctor about my mother and he lost patience with me and said: Whaddya expect? She's demented!
Whoa.

That caused me to totally change how I managed the situation.

I will mention one more thing:

Some time ago I responded to a caregiver who posted on the Grossed Out thread about her dad.

She was trying to reason with him about moving into a facility and she couldn't understand why she wasn't getting through to him. In the meantime she wrote about how he was smearing poop on the walls in the bathroom.

For some reason she couldn't connect the fact that if her dad was smearing poop on the walls in the bathroom, why in the world would she think she could reason with him?

If your FIL is trying to beat up your husband why in the world do you think anyone can reason with him?

When I pointed this out she became angry with me.
Classic 'shoot the messenger'.

Good luck Babe. Taking care of my mom and dealing with Dementia was the hardest thing I ever did.

Venting is a good tool and there are amazing caregivers on this site to hear you.
Keep writing!

lovbob
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I really admire the thoughtful way you're going about this, BB. Good stuff! - hope you begin to see progress soon.
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Good luck, Babe!
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Any more ideas would be appreciated. I'm taking notes of these things so far. I want to have as many ideas in place as possible so the family can start planning instead of saying there is nothing we can do. It's like getting tools and instructions ready for the job ahead. In the end the family will expect my husband to take care of the situation.
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Shakingdustoff you hit the nail on the head! From listening to my husband and his friend they were lucky he had no weapon when the fist fight happened. The verbal abuse through the years can be brushed off but the physical altercation is going over the line. Will google the baker act.
The MIL is nearby us at the moment. She is going with my SIL to pick him up next week. There will be another person there. They know the situation but they are a bit naive about dementia and think he would never do anything physical. He's their Dad and would never do anything to harm family!

You are right about moral responsibility. That is what is driving me now. Years ago I convinced my Mother to move close to me. My Father had passed away and she was living alone in an RV community 12 hours away. She was suffering from COPD and was very dependent on neighbors. My husband and I were taking a walk around the community and I witnessed so many people who had no business being alone there anymore. Most everyone was very old. We walked by a couple who were trying to get in a car. The wife was in a wheelchair and the husband was trying to get her loaded in their car. The wife started crying and moaning as he pushed and pulled at her. Suddenly he started punching her over and over again! She was half laying in the seat of the car and he just kept hitting while she screamed! My husband said stay out of it! It's not your business. The wife made no more noise as he shoved the rest of her in the car. It made me sick and I just kept thinking who is policing this? Do they have children? Thank God my Mom came willingly. My Mom saw these things but said no one ever got involved.
I grew up in the Methodist church. My Mother was Catholic. I consider myself a spiritual person but not a religious one. We let my Mom go in the end. Chose to disconnect life support and my religious upbringing made me feel horribly guilty. My Mom was on hospice and had a huge mass in her lung that was incompatible with life. (She had opted out of treatment years earlier). She was mentally ok but she couldn't roll over in bed and was in adult diapers. Her organs were failing. We couldn't keep her O2 above 85% on 10L of O2. She had refused a ventilator. It's a horrible position to be in with someone you love. You can really get in a tug of war with morals, religion, and what you know in your heart.

I wonder if the trip to the farm so far away put my FIL into more of a confusion? I know as you get older you can have a temporary dementia when you change to a different environment. Maybe that trip put him over the edge. Well the SIL can deal with it now.

I am going to continue to study these ideas so my husband will have options for his Dad. My husband is the oldest and when the siblings get tired of dealing with things they will expect him to take care of it.
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Is grandma at the farm with him? If you fear for her safety, can you call local law enforcement?? Is your sister in law going there by herself to get him? This is so sad. It certainly sounds like he's lost his reasining and his friends too feel threatened.
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One good thing at the moment. The FIL is still at the farm very far away. He had friends helping him but for some reason they all left early one at a time and went home. They refuse to talk to the family now. The plan was for everyone to stay and help until May 31. The last friend that left took the last car there so the FIL has no transportation. He's stuck there and is about 20 miles from any town! He has food, water, and meds.
My sister in law is going to go and get him next week. She is even farther away than we are. She is the one that says just keep him happy. She is the only one he will talk too now. He calls her at 2am and screams at her.
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Pam, you've just given me some ideas for dealing with some issues with my father. Thanks!

Bandolier Babe, I really hope something can be worked out quickly. This must be very stressful for your family.
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I know he needs to be in control but his mind is too far gone to even understand that anymore. I'm not afraid of guns. I hunt myself but I am afraid when a gun gets in the hands of a crazy man. It's not my imagination. The man is sick and if you knew him you would understand.
My husband has no plans to see his Dad again anytime soon. My husband is burly and much stronger than his father and any of the siblings. He worked in wildlife law enforcement and can take care of himself. My husband has been in situations where people have tried to kill him, he wrestled three men down to save himself. He is extremely strong and not afraid of anyone. Sort of like his Dad. He's not afraid of his Dad, he pities him. He knows now his Dad is sick enough to attempt to hurt him.
I have spoken with a VA geriatric physician. He says we need to get the control away from him before he hurts someone. He suggested my husband press charges against his father. That won't happen. Meds have been prescribed but the FIL refuses to take them.
The FIL was diagnosed years ago with PTSD. He has frequent terrible flashbacks. He was the cleanup man after battles. He flew soldiers out of battle zones and went back to clean up body parts afterward. He pulled dead friends out of the mud and lives with those memories. The government told him to give up his guns. He called senators and representatives and was able to keep them. He was abrasive back then but never threatened anyone. Hunting and collecting guns was a calming hobby for him. It's different now.
The family prays that he just hurries up and dies. They think that will solve all the problems but he may outlive us!
Calling the national Domestic Hotline for advice may be good. I don't want to cause any problems at this point but some advice and recommendations would be great.
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Bandolier, my father was a pilot, he flew a B25 in WWII. Pilots are always in control. The only way to make progress with him or your FIL is to convince them that the good idea came from their command of the situation. No other way. Don't even think of interfering with his wife or sowing the seeds of insurrection. Talk to the VA about how to deal with a chopper pilot. It has to be his idea, his way, his control.
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Yes he's mortal. You know, I'm not even mad at him. I know he's sick and can't control himself anymore. He needs help and the family think if they keep him happy he will be fine. I found out today that there are two restraining orders out on him from neighbors.
My kids are going to talk to their Grandma and see if they can help ease her out of the situation. Maybe we can get her to come stay with or closeby us. At least start the seed in her mind so she knows there is a way out. The family could then step in and work on their father.
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bandolierbabe, OK I understand your fear of guns. But guns on a farm are a tool, like any other tool. Are you afraid he will go after his own son with a drill? Maybe a hoe? Mow him down with a combine? Probably not with those either. The old man is a hand-to-hand kind of guy. A chest thumper. Don't let your imagination get the best of you. Let them sort it out within the family.
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Babe, I'm sorry if it sounded like I was suggesting that you leave your husband. I was just trying to make the point that in this kind of family drama, only you can change your own actions. You and only you can determine how to shift the landscape.
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"He is a Vietnam vet and was an army ranger helicopter pilot in Vietnam."

Has FIL ever been diagnosed and/or treated for PTSD? Rangers saw a lot of action during the Vietnam War, and even those who weren't in special ops came back traumatized for life.
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Also, if the family is going to call on your husband for help when the father kicks off, then the family has got to back him up with a united front. Would there be any mileage for the short term in suggesting that he must not ever go alone, but must have at least one other (preferably burly) sibling with him at all times? Easier to restrain somebody without hurting him if you have overwhelming force at your disposal.

I don't care how busy or distant the other family members are - if it's considered all right for your husband to cover thousands of miles in this cause, then it's all right for the rest of them too.

It would be lovely if your husband would consider counselling. I'm guessing that idea might not quite get off the ground, though..?

If your husband is satisfied and certain that there has been a steep decline in his father's mental state, then that is a fairly straightforward thing to report to the medical/welfare authorities. He could call his parents' family doctor and discuss the situation. He could report his concerns for his mother's safety to APS in the area. US gun laws are a befuddling mystery to me, but presumably there is some way of reporting it when a licensed owner appears to be going off the rails? These are all simple options, but I do realise there's nothing simple or easy about the situation - just hoping one of them might look like a possible way forward.
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Boy, your FIL is a time bomb waiting to go off and it is scary as all get out. After the recent shooting in California by a young man with mental illness, I'd be worried about his loaded guns. But I have no idea how to get them away from FIL. Sounds like his wife is the closest in the line of fire if you can manage to keep your husband away. When "they" call for his help, who is it calling? His mom or dad? If it's his dad, maybe he could use that as a bargaining chip to get dad to see a doctor about his worrisome behavior? If it's his mom, I'd just try to keep your husband away as long as possible, because until his dad gets some medication, nothing will change and things will only (probably) get worse. So sorry for you and your husband - I'm sure he's feeling so torn because he's a good man who wants to help his father.

On a side note, has your husband (or have you) ever read any Pat Conroy novels? He's written a few good ones about his military father who was a bully and very abusive - The Great Santini comes to mind. I grew up with a military father who was very verbally abusive. It's a scary way to grow up.
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I would suggest that your husband go get some counseling.
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OK, so FIL has always been a bully and everyone has just put up with it. But this is different. Your first letter was worrisome but the following letters are downright scary. It sounds as though something, possibly dementia, has turned him from a bully into something far worse. Keeping father and son apart is a good start where your family is concerned but what about your MIL? Who will keep her safe if FIL turns his anger on her. I have no real experience with this sort of thing so cannot advise you where to go. But others can. Your pastor, a social worker, mental health worker, the police. SOMEONE, soon.
I applaud your decision not to leave your husband. He needs you and your support.
God bless and protect you.
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Oh holy God what a HORRIBLE thing to happen with your friend, BB. Impossible not to wonder if anything anyone could have done might have averted that disaster, even though obviously there's no point or meaning to blaming yourself. Awful, you must have been so shocked.

But, as you clearly do see, a cautionary tale about sticking one's head in the sand, too. Doesn't make it any easier to know what you should do, but it does underline that pretending nothing's wrong is not a good option.

Stick with him, he needs you. His father sounds like a classic monstrous patriarch. But he is mortal...
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One more comment. I won't leave my husband. He is not like his Dad. He's not perfect but he does his best to be loving and supportive to our children and me. I do believe in shifting the ground under his feet. But there are other ways than threatening to leave, to shift that ground. I may be able to keep him away from his Dad but his Dad is still out there...a ticking time bomb.
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My husband made it home. He agrees he needs to just stay away for awhile and the siblings agree. I know when they call he will go running.

My husband thinks his Father has gone crazy. He and the family know there has been a severe decline the last few years. He knows the family is dysfunctional but the family mission has always been "do whatever you can do to keep Dad happy." The family is realizing that you can't make him happy anymore.
The friend who broke up the fight drove home with my husband and they talked on the way home. I think it is difficult for my husband because he tries so hard to please and no matter what, it's not good enough. Now it's escalating to violence.

My husbands family has to take care of the situation but ignoring it seems to be their way of dealing with it. I really think he is going to do something really bad someday and people will get hurt. The family agrees but their attitude is nothing can be done and just try to keep him happy. He is their father and you don't ever say no, or tell Dad what to do.

I have had friends (coworkers) in the past who said for years they were in an abusive family situation. We always brushed it off and said there is nothing we can do. We never took it too seriously. One day Anne saw me in the bathroom and said you are gonna hear about me on the news. You wait and see. No one really listened. She didn't show up for work the following Monday. They sent the police out to her house and found her husband had shot her in the back of the head and her husband then shot himself. We had chosen to do nothing?
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Babe, this sounds like a very dysfunctionsl family situation you've married into. There is little you can do aside from supporting yourr husband's position unless you take a stand to shift the ground under his feet. Unless you are willing to say something like...unless you change your relationship with your father and seek help for him, I'm leaving ... there is not much you csn do. We each can only change our own behavior, not that of others.
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Is the friend who broke up the fight someone your husband can talk to about concerns over your FIL's deterioration? I agree your husband should keep a low profile for the time being, but then again it sounds as if that in itself could be a source of conflict in the family - very difficult. What's your husband's opinion about his dad's mental state? - same old same old, or does he agree there's a change?
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My FIL bullies my MIL, other children, grandchildren, and me. This is the first time I've known him to try to hit my husband. He yells a lot but has never been physical to my knowledge. I believe he is developing a horrible dementia. It concerns me that this might get worse and someone will get hurt or even killed. My FIL is a gun collector and avid hunter. I'm afraid he is getting enough dementia to use them on his family.
I did not witness the altercation but was called by the friend that separated them. He is very concerned also and thinks my husband needs to stay away from his parents. My husband can defend himself from his father but I think the friend is concerned that if my husband loses his temper he might even hurt his Dad.
The family is used to the FIL having outbursts and grew up in his abuse. I really believe they think it is normal.
I do feel it is my job as a wife to support my husband but I am not subservient. Supporting my husband doesn't mean that I have to obey him. I just want to help him understand he doesn't have to keep putting up with the abuse. Let the other siblings deal with it for awhile. His parents call almost daily wanting him to help them with something.
I've been married to my husband almost 40 years. I've never been against him helping his parents. The angry outbursts were no big deal. I don't want to come between he and his father but I don't want someone getting hurt or killed.

I know something needs to happen with his Dad. I took care of my aging mother for 8 years. It was hard and I had to act as a parent to her at times. I don't want my husband to get physically hurt or him ending up hurting his father. I am going to do my best to keep my husband home.
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