Thanksgiving, revisited

This is a messy situation, that requires far too many words to bother reading, but I just want someplace to write it down, to document, to witness, and to have it so I can look back and remember what really happened…

I started this on 12/27/2015 and finished it today, 3/5/2016. It really is much too long…

First some history. What really happened on Thanksgiving will follow.


Dec 2013 Mom had fallen at home, in the garage, some time during the night. My dad found her later, but because of his Parkinson’s, he could not help get her up. He also felt that she should be able to get up on her own. So he covered her up with blankets, and sat there with her. He called me maybe 8 (?) hours later and left a non-descript message at work. I am not good with messages at work, they sit on my phone usually, because I teach and am in and out of classes.

My sister ultimately got over there and called 911 after seeing what the actual situation was. Because of staying on the ground, Mom now had rhabdomyolysis: , including acute renal failure. She was seriously ill, and we were all preparing for the worst.

But Mom was a woman with nine lives, and much to everyone’s surprise, she improved, her kidney values normalized, and, against the doctor’s recommendations, Dad chose to have her brought home for us to care for her. We had a conversation with the doctor – Dad, Sister, and I. My sister, in spite of working from home and five kids at home, was going to spend the nights at the folks’ and stay there and help. I remember the doctor warning us that this is a bigger job than we realize, and don’t hesitate to bring in help. (He was right.) I also remember him being very angry with my dad for not calling 911 and providing adequate care for Mom. Skilled nursing and an increased level of care was recommended, but my dad resisted, was defensive about his (lack of) actions, and us kids really didn’t fully understand Mom’s limitations at the time.

The doctor was right, it was a bigger job than we realized, and my sister couldn’t manage it (none of us could have). Aside from their physical demands, my folks were difficult, and my sister’s job was in jeopardy. Dad would not bring other care in. So, Sister went home, and all three of us sisters (and BIL) did what we could, and we were all exhausted, running on fumes from the years of care and the need for ongoing increased care.

Mom then fell Feb 2014 and hit her head and needed to be taken to the emergency room. The staff there was great, Mom checked out okay, but she was a mess in general (weak, confused, unkept), and they found some way to get her admitted to a care facility.

At the facility she improved dramatically, a testament to what good care will do for a neglected senior. At home Dad worked under the philosophy of “use it or lose it”, so she was forced to try to do a lot of things for herself that she really needed help with, and she suffered because of this. At the facility, she was sleeping, she was fed, and someone else was caring for her illeostomy bag. She even made friends, which was a first for her. She was relatively happy there.

I remember at the facility, after she had improved, she held my hand while watching Dad talk to someone. She was telling me that she understands it’s time for her to be on her own now, and Dad won’t understand that. She knew she shouldn’t be at home anymore and was ready to be properly cared for. She seemed relieved.

Dad’s plans, however, were different. He kept telling us how Mom kept talking about wanting to come home (not true), and how terrible it was at the facility (not true, though none of them are perfect). This might have been the first time we profoundly noticed that his perceptions and interpretations of events were very very wrong. We had no clue that that was going to get much much worse.

Dad refused to provide outside care for Mom, and was still the one making the legal decisions for her. He decided to take Mom home AMA (against medical advise). He wanted all of us to divide up the 24 hour care.

We pleaded, we cried, we felt terrible that we couldn’t provide this for our mother and we had to stand up to our father to protect what little we had left of ourselves after giving more and more each year. It fell on deaf ears, and that time, including a terrible emotional meeting with the social workers, marks the beginning of the end of who my father was.


After that big emotional scene, Mom came home, we all did what we could, and it was a terrible situation. The facility said that they would report to APS (Adult Protective Service), and they didn’t. I should probably note that this was very tough on Dad too, but he was playing the role of hero in his eyes and refused to make both of their lives better.

After the facility, I had a binder of information about how we might be able to bring in care for Mom, about looking for facilities, etc. I did what I do, I researched everything I could, knowing that they didn’t have much money, and there were two of them whose futures had to be planned for. (Dad recently bragged that he hadn’t bothered to read any of the information that I had brought over.)

After another episode of some sort, and Mom is in the ER again. This time, at my encouragement, they do refer the case to APS. Their involvement starts Dad’s mindset, you are either for or against me, and you can’t be both. So, if you are not doing exactly what he desires of you, you are officially against him.

APS tried for a long time to do what they could. They got Mom a grant for a home aide several hours a week, they strong-armed him into signing health and financial DPOA’s. We all survived.

That summer I also discovered that he had a chunk of money that he had been keeping secret from everyone, that could have been used to provide some care for Mom, without compromising his future 😦

But I was the most proactive one doing research, so I was most against him. And from that time on, he became meaner and meaner towards me. First it was a bit snarky, and then it got to the point I wouldn’t go over there alone, I needed other people there so he would be halfway decent. When we had to take that chunk of money to provide care when we kidnapped Mom and placed her in a facility, I was the one that took the lead on the financials, I am the most “not on his side”. (Thanks to Sister and social worker for the actual kidnapping!)


Thanksgiving was difficult. Mom died on 11/6. She was cremated, and I hoped to have a day of memory on Thanksgiving. My sister brought food, I put together a tribute slideshow, etc.

Dad was starting in on Sister about the money that we had to take from his control to care for Mom. We all were just settling in, but Sister started talking about leaving (what we do when Dad gets mean like this).
I walked over between them, with my arms out in front like a referee, coffee cup still in hand, trying to stop the interaction, and Dad hauled off and hit me. He missed “me” and got my arm and knocked the coffee cup from my hand (thankfully not very full and had a lid). I turned to him and basically said “WTF”, as he tried to pick up his walker and further hit me.

I held his arms so he couldn’t move them, I don’t quite remember what I said then, but I let his arms go (I just kept telling my self not to bruise him or make him fall), and he tried to swat at me several times.

Dad told Sister that one night Mom wouldn’t be quiet and stop yelling, so while he was changing her illeostomy bag, he said he put a washrag in her mouth to keep her quiet.

I then confronted him about the washrag, and his immediate reply was “who told you that?”. I then went off on him, asking him about his treatment of Mom, asking him if he ever got mad at her like me and hit her. I said a few more things about this, and then I just had to leave the room.

We have no proof Dad ever hit Mom. Mom says he did, byt we didn’t believe her, because she also said that we would hit her, and we know that wasn’t true. We struggled with this A LOT….

Thus was the end of the Thanksgiving as the food was proportioned, packed up, and we all left.


Dad has memory problems, and a weird hero complex. As he tells this story to my nephew, Dad got mad at me about Mom so he started yelling at me. I started to attack him and he had to restrain me by holding my arms (which he could not physically do). I responded by biting him. To get me to stop biting him, Dad started head-butting me, and then I responded by hitting him twice, really hard in his gut, hitting (aiming for?) his abdominal aneursym. It’s a fantastic tale he has imagined.

He explains to all now that I have gone totally insane, and I think he really believes that.


I don’t think I’ve seen Dad since this incident. To add to matters, he finally discovered that I had taken the rifles and ammunition from the house, as a precaution. I am not sure he and I will be able to speak until he actually loses enough memory to not know who I am. I am clearly, in his mind, Against.



my dad is a narcissist

I guess dad has always been a bit of narcissist, but Mom took the brunt of it, and she sheltered us from what she could. That is not to say that Mom was perfect, or didn’t make mistakes, but, even as she aged, and before she died, she cared about us, and our lives. In fact, before she started her two days of seizures from which she never later woke up from, some of the last words she said to my sister were not to cry – she didn’t want us to cry because she was dying. (Love you Mom!)

This whole thing is important for me to understand. I always wondered how I could marry a sociopath/malignant narcissist (thankfully, now my ex), and how cliché is it to find out now that it’s probably related to patterns from my father. I had no clue, but I’m thankful for this added perspective.

Information on the web is hard to find, so much of it is extreme, and we weren’t exposed to extreme – whatever dad’s personality issues where when we were young, they didn’t appear overtly destructive to me, but more related to apathy or a lack of empathy, I guess a more silent destructiveness. That is, until now, as dad is ageing. Google narcissism and demetia together, and all sorts of hits come up, mostly things written by adult children trying to care for these difficult elderly adults. There is at least one study possibly linking narcissism to frontal lobe dementia.

Looking at one list, they list that narcissists require loyalty, and they keep score. This hits home – dad is obsessed with whether a person is either “for or against” him. When we argued for care for mom, in his mind, he took that as being “against him”. And he does keep score – that part of his memory is intact. In 2013 when I was actively looking for ways to get mom into assisted living, that was the beginning of him turning against me in an angry and evil way, which has done nothing but elevate since that time.

He also remembers things wrong, but mostly in terms of interpreting interactions incorrectly – usually interpreting them the way he prefers. I’ve seen this consistently with all types of interactions, and is one reason he can’t evaluate medical decisions properly – everything he hears is about how it will work out the way he hopes it to.

Empathy, introspection, humility, evaluation have become nonexistent.

I don’t think of my childhood as being scarred by my parents. They made mistakes, but I found ways that provided me structure and support. I’m not sure my sisters can say the same things.

I understand the person my mom became when she had dementia. I do not understand the person that dad has become, and that tells me that I didn’t understand the person that he was. They say that frontal lobe problems cause behaviour changes, but this doesn’t feel like it’s all just dementia, this seems like more of something that was already in him. I think I have some reading to do:

My Dad

I try to remember Dad, who he was, but it’s clouded by the problems we are having with him right now.

Dad wasn’t much involved with us kids, that was left to his wife.  Certainly any involvement was when it was convenient for him, unless there was some emergency.  I’m not sure about my sisters, but I don’t recall hearing many terms of affection from him, and certainly no guidance about life in general.

I remember wanting him to teach me things, about working on cars, and even how to shoot those rifles that he kept in the rack.  But I was a girl.   He did sometimes take us fishing when we went camping, but I think he preferred not to.  He did have us “assist him” when he was working on things because it was something he needed.  He was a mechanic and could fix just about anything.

We were what they now call “free range kids”.  I wouldn’t change that part in any way.

Dad once said that he wanted to raise us girls to be independent and do things for ourselves.  So that is what he thought he was doing (at least in hindsight) and in a way he was doing just that, but it wasn’t due to involvement on his part, but because of lack of involvement.

A few things that I contribute to my success are worth mentioning here….  I was a member of Civil Air Patrol for over a decade, and being surrounded by good people doing good things had a profound effect on me.  They helped me build my confidence, develop skills I would never have otherwise, and they exposed me to different worlds, as well as helped me hone my sense of right and wrong.  The CAP filled a void that I had growing up and made me a better person.  It’s kind of amazing how this can happen to a straight A student, but the only career advice I ever received in high school, was about 4 days before college admissions closed, and Dad suggested I apply to the local university instead of the local junior college.

But what saddens me about Dad, which I realized last year, is that I had grown up with a father that showed little to no empathy.  No wonder my mother lost who she was, she was always striving to win that piece of affection from Dad.   It is precisely this lack of empathy that is being amplified as Dad goes through his own process of dementia.

When I was a kid, there were only a few major tv stations, and, after hours, almost all of them aired that “test pattern” because they went off-air.  But on Friday nights, there were late night horror movies that I was allowed to stay up and watch.  I’m not sure how “late” that “late night” really was though – late for a kid not yet in high school.  Mom would go to bed, and I would stay up and watch while I waited for Dad to come home from staying out and drinking beer with the guys.  I don’t know how it started, but our routine became that we would sit at the counter and debate, and try to solve the world’s problems.  I was just a kid, but I guess I learned to argue with the best of them ;).  I grew older and this got old, and when I started to go to bed early instead of waiting up for Dad, he would come and wake me up when he got home, so he would have someone to argue with, and argue we would.

I always thought of those times as special.  I did noticed later, when I was working on my PhD and we would continue our debates, that he would think funny and not in a logical manner – it was often nonsensical and frustrating.  That had been the case since I was young, but I never thought twice about it then.  But I think about that a lot lately.  Every time he’s had a brain scan (since long before there was any thought of dementia), they have always wondered about a strange spot in his brain.  Looking at him through now adult and more knowing eyes, I suspect all along there has been some sort of brain defect, maybe even a previous head injury of some sort.

I lived at home until I graduated with my BA @ 23.  Of all us kids, I knew my parents the best, in some ways.  I learned to forgive them for being human and having failings.  As a now, uh “mature adult”, I am thinking now about different parts of them.  Part of this is survival.  How do I help Mom survive Dad, and how do I survive him and his illogical, uncaring and hurtful thinking?   And finally, how can I use this to find a way to grow older in a more graceful manner….


My Mom

I try to remember Mom, who she was, but it’s hard right now.

She was born in Austria in 1925.  She lived there during WWII, when Hitler took over, and when the Americans bombed.   She was forced into the Hitler Youth Corps during that time, which I could never get her to talk about much.  It was after the war when she met Dad, who was in the Army stationed in Vienna.  He came home to California, and eventually she got on a ship and travelled to Canada.  She worked there for awhile to repay the cost of the ship fare.  She was independent and she was brave.

It’s not clear that she came over because of Dad.  They both have told me no, but I seem to recall them telling me yes at some point.  When Mom was in the hospital back in 2009, and pretty delirious, she told me about a love of her life that she had, and it wasn’t dad, but I don’t know if that was a high school crush or what.  When she was recently in the rehab facility, she would talk of her love and her lover (very uncharacteristic of her), and then cuss Dad out when he arrived because he was not her husband – I do not know in what world she was living in at that point.  The reality is that my parents have been married for 61 years now, regardless of what happened before that, and that’s a VERY long time.

When Mom moved to the States with Dad, they moved to a very small town on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, where Dad had gone to high school.  Small towns can be difficult towns to live in.  Small towns can be difficult to assimilate into, particularly when you are from a foreign land with the wrong kind of accent.  They weren’t very kind to her.

I often wondered if she wondered what the heck she got herself into – travelling across an ocean, giving up an independent lifestyle in Canada, and moving to this hick of a town that wasn’t very nice to her, to a mother-in-law that also wasn’t very nice, and to a husband that she probably didn’t know very well at the time … she probably lost a lot of who she was.

She was nosy and snooped on us kids, but she really just wanted to be a part of our lives and know what was going on with us.  My parents did a lot of things wrong raising us, but it was a different time.  I am the youngest of three girls, now almost 54 years old, and the lasting memory I have of my mom is of her trying to help me, again and again, by figuring out ways to get around my dad.  She was very proud of me, and in later years, more and more dependent upon me, until I had to pull back some.  I know that she still worries about me, even in her compromised state.

I can’t help her in the home that she is in now with Dad blocking us at every turn, but I know that us kids are her last hope.  Now we are the ones that have to join together to find a way around Dad to help her.