My mother was a major over-achiever. She was extremely successful with her career, and she was also very altruistic. She donated her time to help nearly anyone and everyone. She helped put my less fortunate cousins through college. She donated her time to friends’ problems and helped with charity. She was the matriarch and problem-solver of my extended family. You couldn’t go far in our hometown with out running into someone she had helped or worked with in some way. There were almost 300 people at her funeral and countless condolences from people that couldn’t make it. Everyone thought she was an absolute saint.
Growing up, my siblings and I knew that wasn’t necessarily the case. She was an absolute tyrant at home and ruled with an iron fist. She spread herself very thin, so she was very short with her immediate family. She could be abusive at times, but mostly it was just psychological/verbal stuff. Extremely high expectations coupled with a fear of public embarrassment were her most motivating factors. She could not allow her family to be seen in a bad light; that reflected on her and she wouldn’t have it. She was a tiny woman, but she had no issue getting physical with my siblings or my burly father; knowing that we wouldn’t retaliate. We all dealt with it, and for the most part, my siblings and I turned out fine.
I was the oldest and very head-strong, so we battled it out the most. She had the highest of expectations for me, so my privacy meant nothing to her and she tried to inject herself into my every decision and/or relationship. I survived well enough. I considered her too toxic to my health and went mostly no-contact after I moved out for school. We reconnected after I had my career together and had kids. We still didn’t see eye-to-eye on most anything, but we made it work. She was an awesome grandmother, and I was glad to have her back in my life.
My father retired at 65. He had been suffering from signs of early dementia for a year or more at that point. He had planned to work up until 70, but it seemed like the right time to get out and enjoy what he had worked for before any more memory declines. My mother was 64 and had retired the year before.
They had moved out to a country home, rather far away from the rest of the family. My father’s memory continued to decline some. He became a little more erratic and lost a little impulse control, mainly regarding food. He was always physically, very healthy but gained a lot of weight. He still worked out a few times a week, never smoke or drank. He was still his happy, go-lucky self, and was still able to physically do most any regular task; he just needed supervision and some guidance here and there.
About a year into his retirement, my dad suffered a rather major head wound. My mother found him on the floor in the kitchen early that morning, and wasn’t sure how long he had been there. An ambulance had been called and he had to undergo 2 surgeries over the next several days. It was rather amazing he survived his wounds. The doctor thought that he may have been laying on the floor for several hours, due to the damage he saw. They suspected a stroke or aneurysm caused a fall, but it was never really pinpointed. His brain was a total mess from the damage.
His mobility became extremely limited. He couldn’t communicate for several weeks, at all. His longer term memory is reasonably intact, but his short-term memory and critical thinking skills were completely shot. He rarely remembers anything for more than about 5-10 minutes at a time. It’s always just a total reset. He requires full-time care to this day.
My mom cared for him those next few years. She changed significantly after his injury. She seemed weaker, uncharacteristically non-confrontational, and generally defeated. My siblings and I rotated time there to help take care of their property and give my mother as many breaks as we could. We have a large extended family and they also helped a great deal. My parents had solid support and it seemed about as manageable as could be expected.
Then my mother got cancer. She hemmed and hawed over the limited treatment options, and it progressed very rapidly. Within another year, treatment had failed, and she was at home on hospice. An aunt and uncle were able to stay with them and help care for both of my parents in that last year. We made plans to send my father to a facility closer to the rest of the family for care. Support was everywhere, and again, it seemed that things were about as managed as could be expected.
My siblings and I rotated in and out with everyone to help as much as possible in her final few weeks. I was with her the entire week before she passed. She was in and out with the meds, but we talked more intimately than I ever had with my mother. We seemed to have crossed a bridge, and I think it comforted us both.
One of those final days, she refused the morphine and meds. She said she needed to be clear and was determined to speak with me alone that day. She was crying and told me that I had to make sure that dad was taken care of. I assured her that it would/was being handled and tried to console her. She told me that I didn’t understand; she was the reason my father was disabled.
I told her it wasn’t her fault; sh*t happens. She cut me off, and said “No, I did it.” Apparently, they got into some kind of argument (over food of all things). With the dementia, my father had kept raiding the fridge in the middle of the night. My mother said he wouldn’t listen or let her stop him…so she hit him with a f**king frying pan. I had seen her wield that pan in my youth, but I never actually saw her use it on anyone. She said she didn’t swing that hard or know she had hit him so solidly. He backed off and they both went back to bed. She woke up several hours later to him laying on the kitchen floor. She was in tears and trailed off into sobs.
I don’t remember any of the conversation after that was broken to me. Knowing myself, I almost certainly didn’t say nice things. I don’t really remember any of the rest of that day at all. I was shocked, heart-broken, and angry. I retreated from her, knowing that I couldn’t burden the rest of my family with that information. She passed two days later.
I handled it all after her passing. I set up the funeral and made sure it turned out amazing. I had already been asked by the family to do the eulogy, as everyone felt it most appropriate. I had already agreed, but I had to back out last minute. Everyone assumed it was me being struck with grief, but it was anger that prevented my words. I played the part and bit my tongue about my personal feelings. Funerals aren’t for the deceased; they are for everyone else.
This all happened several years ago. Instead of taking my father to a facility; I sold my business and took him into my home. My SO and family didn’t understand the sudden change in plans, but everyone was extremely helpful and understanding in the transition. He deserved so much more than this, but his health has improved a great deal in my care. He may have to go to a facility at some point, but I am determined to make him as happy and comfortable as I can.