Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tough love

It's been tough taking care of an elderly, stubborn parent.
First of all, it was a surprise to suddenly have my father in our lives on a daily basis. This man has done little more over the years than drive by on Christmas and Memorial Day to say "Hi, gotta go. See you later."
He doesn't care to know his grand- and great-grandkids and he has to ask me when my birthday is. He really didn't need us at all until his health began to fail and his wife went into medical rehab.
One fine day we found ourselves taking care of him and his many needs as well as dealing with past debts and poor decisions that made it tough to arrange a comfortable future for him.
And although my brothers and I embarked on a form of "Tough Love" to teach this 87-year-old guy some new tricks, I think he's won the battle.
We thought we needed to establish some ground rules. So we did.
We thought if we worked with him we could help him be a better husband, a better father and grandfather and a less self-centered human being.
Foolish us.
We came into this fight thinking we had a chance.
I mean, how hard can it be to teach this frail, elderly man to cook his own microwave meals, pick up his socks and throw away his litter?
What kind of rocket science is it to recognize that a bill needs to be paid on time, that taxes need to be filed and that appointments need to be kept?
Apparently it's trickier than we thought.
First of all, he outwitted everyone when he got tired of waiting for doctors and specialists to decide he needed the hip replacement surgery he wanted. One day, he just called 911 and fetched an ambulance.
Then he decided he was going to the same rehab his wife had been in and we could start to come visit.
He languished around for almost four months before he decided he'd get up and walk. Before that, he just told the physical therapists to back off.
Now he wants to live in the same fancy retirement center his wife is in. Never mind that he doesn't have the means to pay for it.
We've been working under the assumption that what he wanted was impossible and impractical. He does, by the way, have an enormous amount of debt he needs to pay off.
But yesterday, he announced a move-in date for himself. He says it's all arranged.
I'm ambivalent because on the one hand it will relieve so much stress from my life but on the other hand, didn't we tell him he was in "time-out" until he learned better?


  1. Interesting challenge you face here, Sharon. I remember you telling me how little your father was in your life and now he's there full time! I don't know how you cope without contemplating patricide!

    I also see the day coming when my siblings and I may have to do something with my own parents. They are 82 and 84. My dad is, how can I put this nicely, a character. (He has become Sophie on Golden Girls, saying whatever comes to mind without considering the consequences!) We tell mom that if she dies first, she has to take him with her! Unfortunately, she has a bad heart and diabetes and will probably die first. My dad has the genes of people who live to be almost 100. I may be in your shoes one of the these days -- soon!

  2. Hope not. It's really not fun and it tests all the Gospel principles we're supposed to have learned to follow.