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My family is a small one. I am an only child-daughter- and have two grown sons. We have always lived nearby my parents and our lives have been intertwined until recently.
About 5 months ago, my elderly mother decided to take down all of our family photos in her home. She replaced them with generic store bought pictures and told us she was "staging her home for when it would be sold"- however, it is NOT for sale. She has also gathered up all the personalized gifts, cards, etc. made by each of us for them (as children), put these handmade treasures with the pictures and returned them to each of us. There was little explanation offered except that she "thought we'd like to have these things back." Needless to say, we are hurt by this and aren't sure how to react to it all. Now she has begun to complain that we aren't involved with them (she and my dad- who has NO opinion about it all) anymore.
My sons are both married now and have lived about 3 hours away for years. I am still nearby but rarely get a warm welcome anymore whenever I call or visit. We can't seem to figure out what has happened and she refuses to see that there is a problem. We are baffled by this whole thing. Any advice or incite???

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After reading your post, the first thing that came to my mind is that she is suicidal or having suicide ideation. That is what they do when they are thinking this, they give away stuff and get ready to die. Maybe your dad as well. But I could be way off base. But that is what came to my mind first.
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I really appreciate both responses to my question. My parents are in their 80s and have both had major medical scares in the past 2 years. We suspect that this is definately a prep for their death- My dad refers to life after he dies as "A.B."- After Bill.

However, my mom has a history to manipulative behavior. She has referred to me as "ungrateful" since I was a child and even as recently as this past summer. We have tried family outings and vacations when they were able to travel some. Trying to create some positive moments and family memories has proven difficult because of mom's constant complaining when things aren't up to her standard- too hot, too cold, food not cooked to her specs, rented homes not cleaned properly, airlines running late, not eating on time, etc. etc.

It seems like Dad has "finished living" and is just waiting to die. Mom wants more attention from her family and is behaviing badly to get it (kind of like a kid would do). We have been ridiculed and pushed around to the point that we feel we should treat her like a child- when she behaves badly, we ignore her. When she acts appropriately, we interact more. We all dread the holidays and the drama it will bring.

As their only child, I feel the burden of the responsiblity for their care and well being. I also feel overwhelmed by their anger and negative attitudes. They both need help that I am not emotionally prepared to give. It's all so very sad.
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Maybe your mom is staging the house and her life for when it will be sold (read, "when I die") This may be done with the best of intentions.

My lovely and thoughtful Aunt Ethel began divesting herself of sentimental possessions in her 80s. Each time I visited I noticed more pictures cleared out, fewer knick-knacks around. She was dividing things up among her children, so there would be no conflicts after her death. If there were things none of her kids wanted for themselves or their kids, she could offer them to more distant relatives. She had a complete collection of the year books of the small town high school. She donated them to the library. She got her affairs in order.

In her nineties she walked to the community care center where she had been an LPN and registered herself to move in.

She died this year, at age 100. I hope I can live up to her example of living life to the fullest while at the same time recognizing in a practical way that it will end someday.

Since your parents have poor health, I would think this preparation might be on their minds. Mom is not living in a bland house. She has replaced personal mementos with something else pleasant to look at, and perhaps something more suitable for when the house will be sold. Maybe what you are reading as greater distance is simply preoccupation with health matters.

Aunt Ethel talked to her family about what she was doing. Maybe your mother is less articulate about it.

Of course your mother's motivations may be entirely different from Aunt Ethel's. It is just a possibility worth considering.
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Hi Mid,
Are you a caregiver for them or not? How old are they? Do you detect, or have either of them been diagnosed with, dementia? Maybe she has medical news that is too upsetting for her?
If nothing specific has happened, maybe you and your husband--and sons, if they come to town for the holidays--could sit down with your parents and have a pow-wow. 'What's going on, Mom and Dad"? and go down the list of the odd behaviors of their disconnecting from you.
Possibly, your Mother is manipulating you in a passive aggressive way, and Dad is simply in DENIAL. Easier that way. Doesn't have to answer to his wife or admit any participation or responsibility.
Many of us here are used to hearing these stories of emotional abuse and manipulation. You can deal with it pro-actively and face them down, or you can join them in a passive resistance to reality. Either way, it would be helpful for you to know what is expected of you when they can no longer care for themselves.
I hope they have long-term health care.
If you go back and think about the family dynamics since you were small, I'll bet you can figure out a few things. Every family has behaviors that intertwine from the beginning and become a very old, snarled vine of sorts.
Don't forget to cover any legalities with them, or bring in Family law attorney, and perhaps an elder social worker if there are care needs you cannot handle. All the best, and let us know what happens. Hugs, Christina
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