Firstly I must apologise in advance for the length of this post. I have been reading the forums for a while now and have never felt able to engage, until now. I feel that I must tell the whole story so you can see the big picture of what’s going on.
I am 50 and lost my mother in 1991 when I was 21 years old. She was only 48 and had a brain haemorrhage so it was all very sudden. Mum was my best friend. I always remember the first day after she died, cooking sausages for my Dad as the dutiful daughter stepping into Mums place. She did everything for him. From that day forward I became my Dads right hand woman, it sort of seemed expected but I also felt so sad for my Dad at losing his wife, he was 61, just about to retire and had had some health scares the year before so I think I always thought he was vulnerable. He was also quite a depressive and has been on anti depressants for as long as I can remember (he offered me Valium on the day of Mums funeral which I was horrified at – I didn’t even drink alcohol then). At that time I lived at home with Dad and literally took over the role that Mum had been.
My Dad over time did learn to do most things for himself and was very self sufficient BUT I was literally on the other end of the phone at any time for whatever he needed and I always felt this was expected as at times when I didn’t give my full attention he had a way of freezing me out and making me feel selfish. I moved out after a couple of years and had my own flat for over 20 years, worked hard and struggled financially but was determined to try and be as self sufficient as I could as his disapproval of me for anything that wasn’t “perfect” was too much for me to bare. He was a very successful businessman and very financially secure, very typically old school.
Over the last 30 years I have always been available to Dad, I always perceived him as “old”. I had several failed relationships ( I always picked men totally opposite to my Dad) and I think that was due to my misguided perception that only someone like my Dad would do… they all said to me at some point did I realise that I would never get his approval no matter what I did? They were all absolutely right.
I chose not to have children, I don’t think I ever felt I had enough in me to cope as I felt I already had a very large baby on my hands constantly plus I also feared my children losing me at a young age as I did my own Mum, I couldn’t bare the thought of that, knowing how much it had affected me. I opted for a furry family, a beautiful brown Lab and two gorgeous cats and lived very happily with them for 10 years alone (I haven’t dated for that long either, although that’s the least of my worries!)
I also lost an eye when I was 9 years old and have had a lot of counselling about that and the loss of my Mum without which I think I would have really struggled.
I cooked a Roast dinner at Dads house every Sunday for years to get “the family” together which consists of a brother (3 years older than me and in Dads words “has his own life”) his partner and their son and Dads lady friend. I have been the one that they all turn to for help and I’ve been as accommodating as I could with as much humour and good nature too. Often being the brunt of jokes, criticism or ridicule. I’ve always tried to take the higher ground and be as dignified as possible as I know they must need to be that that way to feel better
So, about 5 years ago I had a dreadful neighbour move in who made my life absolute hell. I was so unhappy and very stressed for a long while with no ability financially to move. I asked Dad could I move in with my animals temporarily whilst I sorted things out (he has a large detached Bungalow) he said no he didn’t think he wanted that and proceeded to get very annoyed with me in front of others anytime I mentioned how unhappy I was and how stuck I was. At one point he said if I could help you out I would but I don’t have the money available. (Having had to take control of his finances over the last 2 years I now know this to be very untrue, which was shocking and very hurtful to me).
A year later (2017) he had a huge health scare, he has had vascular issues for years and all of a sudden his breathing was dreadful and he had clots on his lungs and subsequently was diagnosed with Heart Failure. He had a vascular scan where were told that it didn’t look great and that there was nothing to be done. After a week in hospital he returned home and I then became very much on hand, visiting 3 times a day to help him, doing his meds etc. In my mind I really thought he didn’t have many years left, he was then 86. I said to him about me moving in again (I was still dealing with the awful neighbour) and he said he thought that would be a very good idea and that it was the right time now.
I moved in with my animals at the end of 2017. I found it so very hard losing my independence but truly believed it was the right thing to do, Dad may not have long left and I never wanted him to go into a home. He was fairly independent (I did take on all shopping, cooking, washing, cleaning etc) and he was still driving… then on January 3rd 2020 (last year) Dad fell and broke his arm whilst out playing snooker and life absolutely changed.
A month in hospital, daily visits, the merry go round with so many different departments, phone calls and madness suddenly became my life. Dad had become very much a falls risk, was unable to complete his normal day to day tasks and I was then in charge of things going forward. He went into a place locally for respite care for 3 weeks after hospital as I was simply worn out at that stage and needed time to organise care at home to help me. Great place but every day Dad would say when am I coming home. I knew I had to bring him home without doubt, after all it is his home and he had the money to pay for care and I worried about him constantly.
Then Covid struck. In the last 12 months I have had to organise his care to help me, that is stressful in itself, new people, getting used to them, then they leave and it starts again and all the while I am here 24/7, waiting for him to want to go to bed every night as I do not have night care for him (he has a bell to ring) and if I try to get him to go earlier it’s like sending a child to bed. I’m never sure what is mild dementia and what is bloody mindedness He needs someone in attendance at all times as he is a huge falls risk and was diagnosed with borderline dementia so he is likely to decide he is getting up when he shouldn’t be. He also has accidents now and again and his care is ramping up a bit.
Despite struggling emotionally with the situation, I have been very proud of myself over the last 12 months as I have had very little release from it all. Different carers, carers letting me down, his lady friend (two absent sons) being in our “bubble ” and facilitating their friendship (she is 89, very able but an absolute pain in the backside, I’m fond of her because I’ve had to be but she has let me down on many occasions and is so damn Victorian its ridiculous). Cooking meal after meal, keeping good humour, being patient, trying to be understanding of their age, accepting that my brother will only ever be remote support (I think it’s better that way though to be honest), three failing animals who are my absolute world and making me very sad (Brown Lab is 13 and has fits, two cats 15 & 16) and to top it all the Menopause – what a joy.
In the last two weeks I have had what I can only imagine has been a mini meltdown and with the help of a few glasses of wine have thought it a good idea to tell every person that has ever hurt and upset me some home truths. Mostly to my Dad (who is TOTALLY unfazed by anything – I still feel terrible guilt to have said these things to a 90 year old man even though they were things that he did) and my brother and also included Dads lady friend.
I have felt intense guilt that after so many years of saying very little and knowing it was the best way, suddenly there it is, all spilled out. Everything I said was true, many, hurtful things that Dad did or said to me, the same with my brother. As i said Dad was unfazed and brother was argumentative but quite understanding afterwards (thankfully)
My two closest friends are thrilled that I have spoken out, but I have been hating myself for the lack of dignity doing it after alcohol. Although I have such control day to day, I would never have said anything. The thing that has really got me is that I didn’t see it coming, I didn’t plan it and it just seemed to blurt out.
The only plus is that it has actually stopped my constantly swirling head about so many hurtful things from the past. But the feelings I have now are that I simply know that I cannot live in this situation indefinitely as I don’t want to be that person getting out of control. Dad could be here for another 5 or 10 years, it’s his home not mine. He has the money to live here and have full time care live in but I would have to move out (only two bedrooms) which wouldn’t be easy or fair to my old animals plus I have little financial ability as I paid to have a small extension on the bungalow just so I could have a room to myself as it was very open plan.
I feel like an absolute fool, I have actually never felt so stuck and unhappy in my life. I just want to look after my old, beautiful furry family in solitude but I am stuck here with a very difficult choice. My conscience will kill me if I was to leave the situation (and I’d still have to manage everything) but my relationship with Dad could very well suffer if I continue too. At the end of the day I love him very much and have felt like his guardian angel for years.
To quote him “I feel like you were born to be there for me, we were thrown together after your Mother died and I have always thought that you were happiest being by my side”
Give me strength.