I miss my dad, and he's still here. (Yes, it's long.)

My father is 83 years old and in fragile health. His main medical problem is hypertension, from which many other problems stem.

A year and a half ago, he had a “cerebral event”, and when my mom called to tell me, the stress and weariness in her voice was enough for me to decide to move back to California, in with them, and be a resource to my parents.

It’s hard to describe the change in him. People see him now - a bitter, angry, inflexible old man - and they wonder why I put up with him. It’s for two reasons: my mom and my memories of who my father was.

When I was a child, he was the best dad in the universe. I was loved, cherished, kept safe, taught, and listened to. Dad taught me how to ride a bike. He watched Looney Tunes and the Muppet Show with me and my brothers. He taught me how to argue, how to play Devil’s Advocate, and how to check my own thoughts for mistakes. Any time I failed, which was often, he was there to tell me I mattered, I could do it, he believed in me.

When I was a teenager, we had a special bond. He had a sailboat, a 25’ Catalina, and sailing was Our Thing. Especially during the summer, if the weather was good, we’d pack a cooler, drive out to the lake, and take the boat out. We would talk for hours, about books and movies, school, friends, family, history, anything that took our fancy. I knew even then that I had something special, something that many girls lacked and were the worse for.

In the last ten years, especially the last five years, I’ve lost that. I have to remind myself that it’s part of his failing health. He smoked for 40 years before quitting. His circulatory system is shot, and his brain is probably getting only half the oxygen and blood perfusion that it really needs. I wonder also if it’s not the consequence of decisions he’s made through his life. He stopped finding new things to do, stopped making friends, stopped going out, and stopped listening to others.

He has regressed to the culture of his own childhood, the 30s in Oklahoma, which he once vehemently rejected. Now, it has reclaimed him. He is suspicious and derisive towards non-whites, he is chauvinistic towards women, he is homophobic, paternalistic, and authoritarian. He is so jealous of his perceived standing as the pater familias, he drives his family away.

And me? I’m the spinster daughter, the failure, the frail invalid. I have no meaningful skills or knowledge. I have nothing to contribute, because all my views are mis-informed, ill-thought, or hysterically sentimental. Any fact or opinion I put forth is dismissed if it impinges on his views. There is no discussion, no give and take. The only time my abilities matter is if his computer won’t do what he wants or the television has the wrong setting. Occasionally, on a good day, he’ll ask about my work, teaching, or my avocation, writing, but it’s usually so that he can rail about whatever is wrong with the world.

I am a servant, not a daughter. Or perhaps the two are the same to him. He will interrupt a conversation I’m having with my mom to demand the phone. He will tell me to change the subject if I’m talking to someone else in front of him and he gets bored. At restaurants, he is all charm and sweetness to the waitress. He treats strangers with more thoughtfulness and courtesy than he does me.

Several years ago, he gave his sailboat to my brother-in-law. Only once have I ever been invited sailing.

He is so angry all the time. Angry that the world is not what it should be. He is supposed to be surrounded by doting family who come to him, and he doesn’t or won’t understand that they all have full lives - work, children, friends - and that while he is included, he is not the guest of honor at every occasion.

He is lonely. I know he’s lonely. I find him, sometimes, sitting in the family room with the lights off. But he can’t seem to do anything but pontificate, regardless of what views others hold, and he has no sense that he has deeply offended some of our family and annoyed most of the others. He sincerely believes that he can say whatever he want without any consequences.

He is anxious. Many nights, I hear him shuffling around or waking up from a bad dream with a shout. He drinks too much, especially for a man of his age, with his blood pressure and health complications. He is almost completely deaf, but he gets angry if you don’t repeat what you said five times, word for word, and he won’t consider getting hearing aids.

He is terrified of death. He won’t spend time with Mom to revise the will. He won’t discuss an Advanced Directive. He won’t consider what arrangements he wants made should (or once) he has a stroke and is incapacitated. He certainly will not discuss burial or funeral plans.

I’m sure he’s clinically depressed, but, as with other symptoms, he denies it to the doctor, and the doctor takes his word for it.

I get so angry with him. There is no way to address how unhappy I am with the way he treats me. There is no “when you do this, I feel this” with him, because any attempt is to point out problems is taken as disrespect. Or, on the rare occasions I can communicate how hurt I am, he becomes terribly depressed and despairing. It’s as if I’m doing twice the hurt to him.

If he were a stranger, I could take care of him and dismiss his moodiness or rant about his attitudes, but he’s not. He’s my dad. Or, rather, he’s what’s left of my dad. The man of my childhood has eroded away. I miss him terribly, and I fear that when he dies, I will not only be relieved but happy.

Oh phouka, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I can’t imagine how difficult all this must be for you. It sounds like pure hell and you are truly an amazing daughter for being so selfless. I can’t offer any advice but would like to say thank you for all you do. Your father is very fortunate to have you and just remember that you are a huge blessing to both him and your mom. Please take care of yourself and I’ll keep you in my thoughts.

If only he could read your post…

Man phouka, that made me cry. I am so sorry you are having to go through this…my thoughts are with you and your dad.

I am so, so sorry you are having to deal with this. If you do feel relieved when he dies, that’s ok. You are mourning the loss of him now. And it is definitely a loss because who he is now is not the person that you remembered, grew up with and loved. I am sure your head knows that, but it just takes longer for the heart to catch up. I know the sailing issue has to be like a kick square in the vagina. I know the saying is “Once a man, twice a child” but no one tells you the second time around the mental childhood can come with a mean streak and brattiness.

Just know you are doing all you can, and you are helping your mother immensely. I seem to remember that Mona Lisa Simpson has spent a great deal of her career as an RN to dementia patients. Hopefully she will come by and have better comfort.

Huh. I had though it might be mild brain damage, but it sounds like massive depression to me.

I might stray away a little…

Approaching the end can be a wake up call for everyone, problem is there was so much life they had already took for granted, or not… Accepting death for yourself is hard but there is a time for everyone and is best not only for people to cherish their lives but to be ready mentally when the time comes. Knowing that could be anytime & anywhere, it’s best to be prepared as soon as possible. Those talks with kids (from someone they are attached to) are important yet most people don’t do them because they are unaware.

If you didn’t want any opinionated advice then ignore the next part…

Try to talk to him, see why he is depressed (even though you know), if no luck then go off on him with tears and a point, tell him he may be depressed but he is coming across as selfish and hurting others in the process. Tell him why and let it sink in. Hopefully he comes around and tells you why he is depressed (probably accepting death and/or regret) and then you can explain to him how acceptance and appreciation is important.

The situation isn’t too uncommon. Like I said before, it would be easier if you just let him read your post. You wouldn’t want any regret (not expressing yourself) when you get older.

My dad will be 90 this summer, and has Alzheimer’s. He lives in about a ten minute window, and can’t really process anything more complicated than a brief greeting (which will have to be repeated ten minutes later). He is, however, cheerful and pleasant, with a hint of his old sense of humor. So in that sense, I am significantly more blessed than the OP. Nonetheless, I miss him as he used to be, and I am kind of in the “I sure hope he gets well, or something” mode.

I’m so sorry to hear you’re going through this, Phouka.

Might I suggest that you make a follow-up appointment with his primary care physician, take him to the appointment and insist on going into the exam room with him to talk to his doctor. In the alternative, you could call his doctor (you’ll probably have to leave a message and ask for a return call when the doctor is doing his round of patient calls) and acknowledge that he can’t tell you anything, but you feel it’s important that you tell him some things about your father’s physical and mental condition that you’re convinced he hasn’t been honest with the doctor about. Tell him he refuses a hearing aid and ask the doctor to try to talk him into one. Tell him about his late-night anxiety and his sullen moods causing him to sit in darkened corners. Tell him about his level of agitation and anger. These are all symptoms his doctor can potentially treat if he were aware of them.

Wishing you all the best, hon.

I really feel for you. For the last 2 months of my dad’s life I was helping my mom provide hospice care for him and he was very … Challenging.

As tough as this is, it will be worse when your dad dies. Try to be patient with him, try to spend as much time with him as you can and try to look past the crusty old exterior to see your dad.

My dad died about two months ago and I would give anything to spend one more day with him - even his crusty, old, crabby self.

Every day you have with your dad is a gift - cherish them.

My heart goes out to you, both as his adoring daughter and his dedicated caregiver.

When he goes, your relief and happiness will guide you toward better days. There’s no shame in that.

But it is unlikely that he will. My own Dad is much as yours is–living in a ten-minute window, but still with his sense of humour and optimism. But when the ten-minute window is up, it hurts. He remembers me, but forgets what I do for a living, forgets I was married and that my wife left me a while ago, and forgets my age–he still asks me how I’m doing at high school. (In actuality, I have a law degree.)

Dad is legally blind, and has Alzheimer’s. He spends his days sitting in his living room, staring sightlessly through the window as the radio plays. When I visit (which is once or twice a year, owing to distance), I read him the newspaper, and he enjoys that. But it is difficult. My Dad is no longer there, really. I have many happy memories, though, of a wonderful father; who taught me how to fish, and to work with wood, and shoot a gun, and smoke a pipe, and drive a car. Still, it is hard to see the Dad who was my great pal for years, who enthusiastically took to being a grandfather to my sister’s kids, and who steered our family through the crisis of my mother’s death, reduced to somebody who wonders where his wife is and still thinks my sister and I are high school students.

Apologies, phouka; I should have addressed your OP. I feel for you; I have my problems with an elderly parent at a distance, but I cannot imagine what it would be like to move back home with your Dad as you describe. I have no real advice, but I hope you can hang in there, and stay strong.

The point of that phrase is that I recognize that he won’t get well, and kind of hope that the “or something” part happens sooner rather than later.

It’s an old Burt and I line (downeast Maine humor).

Thank you, all of you. It’s been a great relief to get this off of my chest. My close friends hear me rant about him, my mom has dried my eyes more than once, and my siblings just shrug it off, but he’s too damn important to me.

The idea that he has depression only crystallized two nights ago when I was talking to my mom. I realized as I listed the emotions of his I deal with on a daily basis that they were identical to the DSM for clinical depression, especially with men showing anger more than sadness, and especially with the susceptibility the elderly have for it.

The trouble is, I can’t go to my dad and say “I’m worried about you, and I think this might be a problem.” Not only will he completely deny it, but he will dig in and fight any further suggestion by anyone along those lines. It happened with his drinking. It happened with his hearing. It happened with his socializing.

The only way I can see getting this addressed is through my mom. Even then, half the time, he ignores what she has to say, because even though she’s a working registered nurse with over forty years experience, he was a Navy corpsman for five years shortly after World War II. His experience and knowledge trumps hers. It may be possible for her to contact one of his doctors - he has several - and get a workup, but it will be extremely difficult to get Dad to cooperate.

The problem is, like with many men his age, Dad has a John Wayne complex. Real men don’t get depression. Depression is just someone feeling sorry for themselves, and by God, they should snap out of it, pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get back to living.

As an example, last fall, he fell in the house, bruising his hip very badly. He didn’t call my mom for two hours. She was at work and couldn’t leave. She called me, and as it was the end of the school day, I was able to cancel a meeting and get home. I checked him. His hip was swollen, hot, tender, and the bruises were already showing up. I put an icepack on, consulted with Mom, and we decided to do a wait-and-see and leave a message with his internist. Then, I heard him groaning in pain in his bedroom, where he thought I couldn’t hear him. That was enough. I found half a Vicodin to give him for the pain, helped him get dressed, and took him to the ER.

Of course, once at the ER, the Vicodin had kicked in, and he was feeling no pain. I told the doctor I’d given him half of a 5/500 Vicodin and that it had taken effect. But, when the doctor asked my dad if he had any pain, my dad suavely insisted he was just fine. So we were sent out to wait for a bed over my objections as he was clearly not an emergent case.

It took four hours for him to get a bed. I spent the first two hours as the half a Vicodin wore off doing my best to make him comfortable. Pillows, blankets, and extra chair to prop his leg up. It was clear to me that he was in quite a bit of pain, but anytime a medical person checked on him, no, he was just fine. No hurry. My older sister showed up, thank God. She’s one of the few people who can boss him around. My mom showed up, thank God again, because even though I can use medical terminology, she has Nurse Power, and people Do Things for her.

So, finally, fifteen minutes after my mom got there, he has a bed, and he’s off to x-ray. They confirm there’s no break, just a lot of bruising, made especially bad by the blood thinners he’s on. He’s told to take it easy and given a prescription for . . . wait for it . . . Vicodin. I was more tempted than I could say to take a couple for the stress headache he’s given me.

So, getting him treated for depression is going to take some Machiavellian plotting and machinations. I have to talk to my mom, who is overworked, overstressed, under-rested, and also worn to a frazzle by the man my father has become. She will have to work the doctor angle, though I may end up being the one to take him to the appointment. I may also need to consult with the brother-in-law who received the sailboat. Wonderful man. I adore him, we have a lot in common, and miracle of miracles, my father will actually listen to him and take advice from him, even if it is worded exactly the same as what I’ve said and he’s ignored. Brother-in-law may get him to consider that he’s got depression and that he can get some treatment. I think talk therapy is probably a lost cause, but he might consider taking some pills. Don’t know. He’s really not big on pills.

The thing is, he still has good days, and we can talk and joke. It’s limited. I have to stick mostly to movie quotes he knows. He hasn’t read a new book in a decade. He hasn’t watched a new movie since Shakespeare in Love. But, some days . . . there’s a little bit of Dad there. He’s finally started showing affection to the dog - only took him a year - and he hasn’t blamed me to my face for the cat disappearing.

There is no doubt in my mind that he loves me. None at all. What kills me is that he doesn’t respect me, and most days, I don’t know that he even likes me very much.

Stubbornness is an evil thing in the elderly. My beloved baba became stubborn beyond reason. She, too, wouldn’t get a hearing aid. She’d constantly say, “HUH?!” multiple times, and when we finally yelled what we were saying so she could hear us, she told us we wouldn’t need to yell if we would stop mumbling. ::sigh::

My Father-in-law became stubborn beyond reason and it killed him. Literally. Wouldn’t see a doctor or quit smoking like a chimney and died within weeks of his lung cancer diagnosis. For 8 years I begged him. For longer than that, my mother-in-law begged him.

I see signs of male stubbornness in my husband occasionally. I told him if he becomes so stubborn in his old age that I simply cannot live with it, I’ll kill him. I’m only half kidding. Stubbornness has got to be one of the most frustrating things in the world to deal with when interacting with the elderly. I sincerely feel for you.

If you’re one of his primary care-givers, call his PCP yourself and outline his symptoms. If it were my father, I might actually resort to slipping his medication into his food or drink, but I’d certainly never recommend it as a solution to anyone else.

Can’t slip meds in, as he’s paranoid and questions me about every pill I give him.

“What’s this?” “It’s Metoprolol, Dad. It’s a beta blocker for your high blood pressure. It’s been approved for pharmaceutical use for more years than I’ve been alive, and I also take it for my arrhythmia.”

“What’s this?” “It’s your vitamin, Dad.” “I don’t need a vitamin!” “You’re absolutely right, Dad. You don’t need a vitamin. Do me a favor and take it anyways so I don’t have to explain to Mom why you didn’t take your vitamin.”

“Well, what’s this?” “That’s a chocolate chip from when I was baking last night. You can have it if you like, but it looks like it’s been on the floor.”

You misunderstand. I’d smash it up and put it in his coffee. But that’s just me. :wink:

Hmmm. I’ll have to consider this approach.

Seriously, though, I’ve talked to my mom about the possibility that Dad has clinical depression. She doesn’t want to spring it on him at the doctor’s, so she’s going to discuss it with him first.

Cross your fingers, folks. An SSRI might do him a world of good.