Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Long Goodbye

Shifting gears entirely to another subject that leaves me feeling a little stressed and lacking in control, it looks like my father will not be selling the house I lived in during the latter part of my childhood and moving to another state afterall. As much as this is the way I would have preferred things to end up, the circumstances under which this change in plans has arisen are fully suck-tastic.

I always thought his now-wife was a tiny bit flaky, which struck me as a bit odd for a fairly high-powered professional, but I figured it was just a quirk of her personality. Apparently, this "quirk" grew increasingly worrisome and had been a subject of many unpleasant discussions between her and my dad over the past year-plus. He insisted she seemed flakier; she insisted he was being an ass. Possibly to placate him or possibly because she could no longer deny what he was insisting was a problem, she went to a neurologist. After much testing, multiple opinions, etc., she has been told that there is a 95% chance that she has early-onset Alzheimers. And there's really nothing good about that.

Let me begin by saying that the situation for her and for her (adult) kids is a nightmare. I can't imagine having to face it and am a bit ashamed of how glad I am that it's not my dad facing this horrendous diagnosis at such a (relatively) young age.

But it's not exactly awesome for my dad either, and I doubt anyone else is thinking about him and what this means for him right now. I feel like no matter what my dad does, it's the wrong thing to do. If he moves, he gives up the life he has where he lives now for, what, a couple of years, maybe more if they're lucky, with his wife before she no longer remembers who he is and goes to live in a nursing home? And then he's stuck there. She promised to help him ease the transition, introducing him to people and helping him establish himself socially, but is that realistic now? Or he stays where he is and rips a woman whose mind is already losing touch out of the one familiar setting it has. Or they stay where they are, living apart.

The current plan seems to be to continue to try to sell her house but not his, spending three weeks a month there, and one week in an apartment they'll rent near where she lives now so she can remain in contact with the people and places she knows. Is that really for better or for worse? It seems so incredibly selfish for him to do anything but move, but that sacrifice just seems astronomical now, with no real upside. He's was in his 60s when they met -- this isn't exactly the Notebook.

The reality is that he sensed something amiss months before they got married and talked to her about it numerous times, but she just kept saying that it was who she was. (He has since learned that she spoke to at least one of her oldest and dearest friends and voiced her own concerns during that same period, which I think really upsets my dad. I'd feel better saying he is upset because he feels sad that she didn't trust him but really he feels betrayed, feeling like she lied to him.) Part of me wonders if all his heel-dragging over the move (because, seriously, they got married 11 months ago and still don't live in the same state) was subconsciously related to his gut sense that something was wrong (ignoring the fact that the state of the economy hasn't exactly made it easy to contemplate selling either, much less both, of their houses, as they planned to move to a new shared place). There would be much less guilt and indecision if the move had already been made.

This may be the first time in my life when something bad was happening in my dad's life that didn't really affect me. I don't even know what to say to him. I can't even figure out how to think about the situation. I keep trying to step outside myself for a bit and think about what I'd want my dad to do if I were one of her kids, or if I were her, and I honestly don't know and I'm secretly and shamefully glad I don't have to.

1 comment:

Nicky said...

Wow, what a horrible situation all around. The closest I have to experience with something of this kind was a cousin's second marriage; both of them had adult children, and very shortly after the wedding, the new wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Everybody involved was helped by keeping a few "rules" in mind at all times: (1)try to let everybody involved (both children and spouse) spend as much time as possible with her; and (2)spouse and kids should communicate constantly.

I guess in this situation, I'd also point out that nothing has to be permanent. Couldn't they spend the next several years together in whichever city, and then when your step-mother reaches the point of needing a nursing home, pick one close to wherever your dad will have a good support network for himself?

So sorry that you're dealing with so many weighty issues lately....