Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Family Stone

I feel like my outfit in the post below is diametrically opposed to how I have been feeling lately. It's colorful, fun, loud, and I feel morose, depressed, and in conflict. I hear about other peoples' parents, and how wonderful they are, and sometimes I feel short-changed. I'm not talking about my mom - this is all about my dad. I don't know if it is an early onset of dementia, or depression, or just general crankiness from aging, but I have days where I wonder where my dad has gone. I have days where I wonder if we still have a relationship, or if I even care that it feels like it's slipping away. I have days where I wonder if I love him, and then immediate, crushing guilt.
In the past several years, he has become a different person than the man I knew growing up. He has become bitter and negative and impossible to be around (for me anyway). Every conversation I have with him is combative, and my mom tells me things he says to her, making her feel ignorant for WHATEVER she does. My mom grew up with a father who was physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive, and I do not have fond memories of him. I remember stories of my dad arguing with him, not understanding why this man didn't like my dad. EVERYONE loved my dad. He was the kind of person that people immediately felt a kinship with, who was gregarious and outgoing and kind. Now my dad reminds me of my mother's father.
I don't understand it. I fear that it could be the early onset of something much, much worse because he has two siblings who succumbed to the same thing. It is hard to emotionally distance myself when he lashes out at me, which he does, yet at the same time, I feel a million miles away from him. It is hard not to defend my mother from him when she comes to me to unload, yet if I DO say something to him, she is the first to call and say, "I really wish you wouldn't have done that." My relationship with my father is different than my sister's, for one because she is physically removed from the situation, being in Germany, but also because she has always had a different relationship with him. She can get away with saying things to him that no one else can.
I feel myself moving into a role in my life that I am not ready for, nor do I want - caretaker to my parents. I don't want to have to discuss things like visits with doctors, or diagnoses, or when is the appropriate time to take one's car keys from them. I already have three toddlers - it is daunting to think that one day sooner rather than later I may have to take on a parental role to my parents.
I would love to hear from anyone who has had similar experiences with their parents. Feel free to comment on this post if you feel comfortable doing so, or e-mailing me. I'm at a loss, and maybe because it is this particular time of year, I feel the weight of all of this bearing down on me more than ever.


Nichole @ Parlour said...

I totally understand, only for completely different circumstances. But, still, I feel like I am the parent and I know sooner, rather than later, any bad or rash (there are many) decisions my Mother makes I am going to ultimately have to pay for. It's just like she is reverting (or maybe never grew up. I'm sorry for the struggle you are going through. It must be very painful to feel that the person you've known and loved is no longer around. I have to ask, has he been to a doctor, or is that just crazy talk?

Cathy W. said...

Shannan - It is so scary when the seasons of our lives begin to change. My husband's father was diagnosed with Alzheimers a few years ago and this holiday season we have seen the biggest changes in him yet. A few weeks ago a highway patrolman found him walking about a mile from my in-laws' house in his P.J.'s and sock feet at 3am. Imagine my mother-in-law's horror when she received that phone call! She has since installed locks and a security system. We take each week with whatever new challenges we are faced with. He has good days when he is happy and loving, and bad days when he is sad and depressed about getting old. One bright side of this disease for him is that he has been able to express his love for each of us, but particularly his wife and my husband, like he has never done before. We will always know how much we were loved by him!
I am sorry for what you are going through with your dad. Personality changes can be a part of dementia. It sounds like he might should see a doctor and figure out why these changes have taken place. Is it dementia, or could it just be depression? At least a doctor could help you and your mom find some answers.

MerciBlahBlah said...

Thank you ladies for sharing with me. No, he hasn't seen a doc, and that is one of my fears, that if we suggested that to him he would blow up. We can barely get him to see a doc for physical things (he has terrible knees and really needs surgery but has put it off repeatedly). Honestly, I don't even know how to go about suggesting he see a doc. I have no doubt he has been suffering from depression for a few years now, not that he would ever admit it, but I don't see how you could NOT be depressed when all you do is sit in your house, watch TV and drink beer. Ugh.

Jenny said...

The same thing happened with my grandfather a while back. I actually totally severed ties with him around 2002 because I could not take his verbal insults and bad vibes. He used to be the most fun and happy guy ever, everyone liked him, but something changed. Maybe it was his health failing, insecurities, regrets, out of control diabetes, dementia - I don't know. My Mom had a really hard time with him and his wack-a-do ways. He called her names and basically said she was worthless. She finally told him her feelings and it never took, but it helped her. He has since passed away, but she had made peace with the situation. I don't have much good advice. yeah, he probably does need to see a dr. but it's hard to get help for a problem you won't admit you have. I'm so sorry, it's got to be terribly frustrating and hard. I really hope things get better. My prayers are with you.

Courtnee said...

Shannan, i am so sorry:( I have a difficult relationship with my mom for different reasons. I feel like she's always been bitter and took it out on everyone around her but especially me because I have a close relationship with my dad and he is cause of her bitterness(despite the fat that they've been married for almost 60 yrs.) Anyway, we are not that close and there are lots of times where it doesn't bother me and then I feel guilty because it doesn't bother me more.
Our situations are a little defferent but I wanted you to know that you are not alone when it comes to sadness around the holidays when you wish you're family was different.

GiGi said...

i get it girl.
a huge hug to you....family is tough, we can't choose them. friends however, we can choose, and i am glad that you are mine.

much love to you, and your fam is in my heart and prayers.

Paula said...

your family situation resonates all too well for me and my partner, sean. his father had his first major stroke at 35, and multiple strokes over the past 3 decades. it radically changed his personality and interaction with the family and placed sean in the role of mediator between mother and father since his brother is 1200 miles away (it's hard to get an alcoholic stroke victim to understand what inappropriate behavior is). after the last major stroke at 62, and many battles to see doctors, etc., we had to put his father in a retirement home. that was four years ago and both of us were in our early 30s. transitioning from child to caretaker at such an early age is a difficult burden; however, it has significantly improved sean's relationship w/ his mother since all conversations are no longered based on his father's actions/stroke/etc. whew. putting his father in a home was difficult, but a blessing in disguise. additctions have been removed, doctor visits can no longer be avoided, conditions are able to be evaluated and treated, and the burden was partially ameliorated with the help of others. i am truly sorry this is weighing heavily upon your shoulders and hope some sort of resoultion is found for you and your family.

Freelance Shop-A-Holic said...

Wish I could sit n have a cup of tea with ya so you could just sit n bitch... Your blog will have ta do
thinking of you!

Life gets so wonky sometimes. My dad was a dick from birth. Sorryyoire going through this!

merciblahblah said...

Thank you EVERYONE for sharing your stories with me. Don't know what it is, but it always makes me feel better to know I'm not the only one going through something. Your kind comments sincerely mean so much to me.


livingladurée said...

Oh boy! My girlfriends and I have a single common denominator in our lives....our difficult relationship with our mothers. For me it began in adulthood rather than as a teen. At times I beat myself up about not being able to change our relationship but I have learned to let go a little and accept her for who she is. The only person we can change in life is ourself...moral of the story is break the cycle. I have two daughters and I am determined to travel a different road with them. I hope you can come to terms with your father and the greatest gift you can give yourself is to forgive (yourself and him).

Merry Christmas Shannan!