I live in a major city in the northeast; my father (my only living parent) lives far south in another country.
When there’s a major problem, such as his having a serious illness, I have to drop everything and get to him, fast. He’s 91.
I’m in a personal health-care industry. My income depends entirely on my seeing clients regularly each week for their needs.
When I travel to my father, I lose my income for those days and also pay for flights and other travel expenses. It’s a lot.
His latest call for help is unusual but very worrying. He wants to divorce my stepmother whom he’s lived with (peacefully) for 30 years!
If he does this, who will care for him when he needs help? Will I have to move him back to my small apartment?
I hope to talk him out of this plan but what if I can’t?
In a Mess!
Calm yourself and seek information about his relationship and state of mind/health.
Contact your stepmother, if possible, and ask how long he’s been talking about divorce, and what’s been happening between them.
Does she think he’s been showing signs of dementia? Are other health issues affecting him at this time?
Since you’ve rushed to his aid in the past, call his doctor and ask whether there’s been a physical or mental health change.
Once informed, you can set up several appointments (the doctor, possibly a geriatric specialist, and even a nursing home) over a two-to-three day visit, depending on what you learn.
He’s lucky to have a caring daughter who’d rush to him when needed.
Reader’s Commentary Regarding grandparents believing they have rights to see their grandchildren – the view from the parents’ side (Sept. 21):
“With grandparents thinking of taking their children to court for access to grandchildren, how is that going to build a relationship or trust that’s already severely lacking?
“If their adult children have a good, trusting relationship with their parents, they won’t block them.
“Obviously, this man whose parents wrote you isn’t interested in their presence in his life or their comments about his chosen partner.
“They should ask themselves why, before heading to a lawyer’s office. But they may be unwilling to hear, and/or acknowledge the answers.
“They blame “her” as she’s the “other,” but their son isn’t trying to include them and that speaks volumes.
“My relationship with my parents has been very rocky. I don’t trust them around my son for any length of time. I don’t trust that my mother can hold her temper.
“My relationship with my in-laws is nonexistent – they’re rude, snobbish and dismissive, negative about my choices, my clothes, parenting, cooking, cleaning, and more.
“It’s passive aggressive at best, and chauvinist. They blamed me for their son moving overseas, though it happened before he met me.
“Our relationship deteriorated under the pressure of his parents’ two-faced behaviour. He didn’t believe me.
“When I was pregnant, they started making demands, and my husband finally listened and protected the family he was building.
“I’m chilly with them because I don’t want to discuss anything personal around them.
“We haven’t blocked either set, but access is on our
“We fully agree about how the relationships are managed. Visits are short and sweet.
“If either set approached me with a lawyer, I’d spend the rest of my life and every penny we had blocking them from ever contacting my child.”
Reader #2 – “When my husband left me and our sons, they were 18 and 13, both desperately hurt. I didn’t tell them he had a girlfriend, younger than my older son.
“I didn’t want them to turn against their dad.
“His mother and sister threw me away like a disposable paper cup, but I didn’t say anything against them to my boys as I didn’t want to break the connection between them.
“They kept a good relationship with their grandmother which I felt was very important.
“Eventually they reunited with their dad and spent time with him before he died (in his mid-60s).
“There are many things he did that I’ve never told them.
“I want them to have good memories of him, not bad ones.
“I’m writing this because I hope that someone who’s coming between their child/children and their grandparents isn’t doing the wrong thing… unless, of course, those grandparents are being abusive.”
Tip of the day:
When an elderly parent behaves oddly, don’t panic or make assumptions. Seek information about his/her physical and mental health.