Sunday, July 1, 2012

How quickly things change …

A couple of months ago, I was thinking about how nice and quiet my life is, no drama or Big Events, just a contented, happy life. Things can change so quickly, though, and so dramatically. In the last two months:
  • I left my job
  • My dad’s wife passed away
  • My daughter was in the hospital for tests related to her lupus
  • Dad’s dog had to be put down
  • A good friend/neighbor passed away
Worst of all, my dad is no longer speaking to his family.
When Dad’s late wife was in the hospital, my brother and I spent time with him each day there; my brother usually took him in the morning and then I went in the evening to sit with him and then take him home. In spite of the circumstances, it was wonderful to be with my Dad again and listen to his stories, talk with him, share conversation and jokes.
After my mom passed away in 1990, we spent a lot of time with Dad, but after he remarried 16 years ago, that changed. We’d invite him and his wife to get together and were told they already had plans with her family. We’d invite them to holiday gatherings; at first, they’d come for an hour or so, then leave to spend the afternoon and evening with her family. One Christmas, we pulled up to my brother and sister-in-law’s home just as Dad and his wife were leaving so we had to give them their Christmas presents through the car window, with the car engine running and his wife telling us to hurry. Eventually, they just stopped coming to our family’s holiday gatherings so they could spend the time with her family instead. It was sad for us and we missed our Dad tremendously, but there wasn’t much we could do.
(Eight years ago, my Dad and his wife became legal guardians of three of her grandchildren, who have been living with them. Two of them, an adult grandson and a minor granddaughter, still live with him. He’s no longer legal guardian of either. I’m very proud of my dad to have stepped up to help raise his wife’s grandchildren, even though he was already in his 70s at the time.)
When Dad’s late wife passed away in May, my brother and I spent each day with Dad, helping him with finding bills and other paperwork, getting things organized so he could handle things more easily. (Dad’s had some strokes and suffers from memory loss at times.) We also wanted to be sure the home was safe and healthy for Dad. It was a mess (a lot of hoarding): paper piles everywhere, medicines and medical equipment in multiples of multiples, multiple kitchen appliances, boxes of food on the floor, a lot of things on the floor, actually, instead of put away.
And the kitchen – when Dad and I checked the produce drawer, there was rotten, blackened, moldy food filling the drawer, with rotten tomatoes that had gone to liquid in the bottom. A container of flan had an inch of mold growing on it. The freezer was completely stuffed with freezer-burned food. You get the picture. Not a safe place for a man with memory loss. He could’ve eaten the rotten food or mistakenly taken the wrong medicine.
My brother and I worked at cleaning up the kitchen and the bills, etc. for over a month. We took him on errands, getting prescriptions, making appointments, having lunch, taking him grocery shopping for foods he wanted. We started looking at services who could come in to cook and clean for him. We had a wonderful time finally being able to be with Dad, gathering his stories as we worked together to have a safe kitchen area for him. Kitchen surfaces were greasy and dusty; we knocked down cobwebs from corners and walls. As we cleaned, I’d ask Dad “Do you want to keep this?” If he did, I’d say “OK, let’s wash it and honor it and display it nicely.”
I took him to my cousin’s retirement/birthday party one Saturday and he had a wonderful time seeing family he hadn’t seen in many years. He accepted our invitation to attend my granddaughter’s/his great-granddaughter’s birthday party on 6/16 and we made plans to go to the pier for breakfast on Father’s Day 6/17. He also accepted my daughter’s/his granddaughter’s invitation to join the family at an Angel game and he was looking forward to all of these.
On Friday, June 15, I brought a family album with me for Dad to enjoy. He asked my brother to please make copies for him because “I don’t have any pictures of my family in the house.”
One of the appointments we took him to a couple of weeks before was to see his trust attorney, who reviewed the trust with him. When Dad reviewed it, he protested and told the attorney that he wanted changes made to it, including giving my brother Power of Attorney and  making sure that his children and granddaughter were included in the trust. (Dad’s original trust was changed in 2009, after he’d had his strokes and memory loss. The previous trusts for each of them provided that his wife’s family received her estate and Dad’s family received his, including the home that he and Mom had bought and paid off. The 2009 trust gave everything to the three grandchildren, which Dad said he wasn’t aware of.) The attorney suggested that Dad think about the changes he wanted made and to come back to make all the changes at once. My brother later prepared a list of Dad’s wishes so Dad could review and make certain of what he wanted changed.
So on Friday, June 15, everything was wonderful with Dad and I again confirmed I’d pick up him at 1 for his great-granddaughter’s birthday party the next day. On Saturday, I went to pick him up; no answer. I called the house; no answer. I called his wife’s family members; no answer. I went to the neighbor’s house and she didn’t know where he was, either, but was finally able to contact another of his wife’s family who said that Dad was safe, but wouldn’t share where he was. The next day was Father’s Day and my brother planned to pick him up; called the house; no answer. On Monday, he came to pick up Dad for his doctor appointment; again, no answer.
I was extremely worried about him by this time. We hadn’t heard from him for three days and didn’t know if he was OK or missing or what. I called the police, who met me there. Dad was OK, but the grandson and granddaughter were yelling at me and saying that they didn’t have to answer our calls about my Dad, that we never visited Dad (they probably didn’t know their grandmother always had other plans so we couldn’t) and that Dad didn’t want to talk to us. I left in tears.
And so it’s been like that ever since. We thought we could finally have Dad back in our lives and after two months of joy with him, we’ve been robbed of that again. My daughter took Father’s Day gifts to him two days later and although he came to the door (his late wife’s family was there), he didn’t let her in or give her a hug or kiss. My daughter and my dad used to be like two peas in a pod, super close and loving; as a kid, she accompanied him everywhere; after Mom passed and we’d visit Dad, she and he would snuggle closely together, her little head tucked under his arms wrapped around her, watching TV.
I don’t know how my Dad is doing. I wake early each morning, praying for his well-being and for a safe home for him to live in, with . I send him loving thoughts through my prayers. I miss him and am broken-hearted that no one has a kind heart to let us know how he is. Our primary concern is for our Dad’s well-being, that the home is clean, that he’s eating good food, with no rotten food or things on the floor he could trip on. I know that deep down, my Dad still loves his family, each and every one of us. I pray that we can gather together again some day and share our family’s love again.


Stacy Wills said...

oh my heart breaks with yours. adding prayers...sending love.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

How very sad, Rose! If there are any agencies in your city who deal with elder abuse issues, perhaps you should seek advice from them. Isolating an elder from his family is abusive.

Rose - The Center of My Self said...

Thanks so much, Stacy and Debra. It was such a 180-degree turnaround between Friday afternoon when everything was great and Saturday when I went to pick him up and he couldn't be found. Friday evening, he went to dinner with his late wife's family, so something had to have changed then since everything was great just a few hours before that.
Elder isolation is abusive. I would think that anyone with a kind heart would see that and not keep him from his family. He's not answering our calls and the late wife's grandson said Dad didn't want to talk to any of us, so I can't even being to imagine what happened that Friday night after two months of loving contact with Dad. Since Dad himself has chosen not to take our calls, we can't do anything more but pray that something will change at some point and we can have our Dad back. Everything is temporary.

Lori Skoog said...

What a very sad situation. Don't you wonder how some people just don't get it. I hope things turn around soon so you can spend some time together.

Darla said...

(((BIGHUG))) Family dynamics can be challenging, and we often feel bereft and/or confused, don't we? May all of you emerge peaceful from these trials...