John Shore Christian Blog and Commentary

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Father Has No Idea What's Best

To continue the lovely saga of my lovely fatha:

Last night Cat and I went to my dad's home. I was fairly shocked by his weight loss. For about three hours we sat in the living room of his gargantuan house: Cat, me, Dad, and Leone. Leone is the sister of Ann, my step-mother—being my dad's second wife, to whom he was married about forty years. Ann passed away three years ago.

Leone will end her month-long stay with my father tomorrow, whereupon Cat and I will move into my dad's house from the nearby hotel in which we've stayed since flying in yesterday. Leone was already planning to visit my dad when, a month ago, he had his (very mild) stroke. (He's had three heart attacks; he has a pacemaker, and all that.)

Leone is itching to leave. It's no mystery as to why: my dad treats her very shabbily: dismissive, insulting, caustic, belittling. It's awful. I have no idea why she takes it. I do know, however (as does she) that she's in his will, so that might explain some of it.

My dad's will is evenly split seven ways: Leone, me, my sister, and my sister's four children. I personally could give a hang; I barely pay attention to money anyway, and sure don't care about getting any from my dead dad. But … well, enough said about that. You know how crazy people tend to get around that stuff.

So here's the Deal ala' Dad: He cannot live alone. He gets dizzy; he falls over; he melts things on the stove he forgets to turn off; driving he's death waiting to happen; he can no sooner keep straight his (extraordinary!) med needs than I can speak Chinese.

He knows he can't live alone, too. He's not one of those old guys who thinks they don't need help. He knows he needs help. He likes that he needs help.

So the sane thing for him to do, of course, is to move into an assisted living place.

The next thing down on the Good Ideas plan hierarchy is for him to hire for himself an in-home eldercare company—to pay for people to basically be with him, in his home, around the clock.

The completely obnoxious, Worst Plan Possible idea is the one my dad's going for—even though he won't actually say he's doing that, since that would involve actually participating in what's happening to him.

My dad's "plan" is to always have living with him Leone, me, my sister, and/or one of my sister's four grown children. Leone lives in Minnesota; my sister and her kids all live in Hawaii; Cat and I live in San Diego. My dad lives in North Carolina. So … that plan isn't exactly what you'd call practical.

His plan, nonetheless, is for the seven people in his will to, in rotation, come live with him in his house.

When he first went down, my sister came out there. Then Leone came. Now Cat and I are here.

See? His plan is working!

Sort of. Though I've repeatedly told him I am not staying past the eighth, he still thinks I'm going to. He thinks that, on the eighth, Cat will fly back to her life in San Diego, and I'll stay here and drive him to all his doctor appointments, and deal with his completely messed-up financial stuff, and … burp him, or whatever else he needs. (And, medically, his needs are profound: it's more than people who aren't trained in that regard should try to handle.) And I would do all that. I would stay indefinitely, except … well, I have a life. At home. In San Diego. With my wife.

My dad raged when last week I found him an outstanding assisted care facility in San Diego, right by our home. He had asked me to find him such a place—but, of course, when I did, he went apoplectic, accusing me of trying to control him, of wanting to spend all his money, of having no idea how anything in the world works, etc. And he screamed at me about that again last night.

And said that I live in never-never land. And that I refuse to listen to anybody. And that I'm fat. And that I'm stupid, and stubborn, and socially retarded,  and on and on and on.

It was like a pleasant visit. But really different.

Anyway, we'll see what my sister wants to do. If she and her kids want to start taking care of him in his house, cool. I personally won't be going down that long road to nowhere, because Cat has a career she can't abandon, and I'm not leaving her home alone for months at a time while I go live with my dad. He's got the money to either move into assisted care, or to have people tend to him in his house, or to come live near us in San Diego, as we've so often tried to get him to do. If he isn't willing to do any of that stuff, more power to him. But I'm out.

So … there you have it! As I write, Cat's getting ready to go with me out to his house. While there, Leone will catch us up on all his care needs. I'll take Leone to the airport at 3:30 tomorrow morning. From the airport I'll drive back to my dad's house; when Cat's up and ready, I'll come back to the hotel and pick her up, and from there she and I will begin our week of living at my dad's house.

While at my dad's house, Cat and I will be staying in the bedroom that my dad and Ann shared for twenty years. Since Ann died, my dad has lived in what used to be their guest room.

The bedroom in which Cat and I will be staying is furnished with the same pecan-wood, 50s-hip bedroom furniture that has always been in my parents' bedroom. I grew up with that furniture: first it was my dad and my birth mom's; then (after my parents divorced) it was my birth mom's and the man she moved into our house (long story); and then it was my dad and Ann's.

And now, for a week, it will surround me as I sleep. I'll wake up in the morning, my wife in my arms, and gaze upon it. And it will rush me back to a place that, in a way, I've never left at all.