Do What You Can

My Dad is still not in his new house.

Partly this is a result of the administrative red tape that is snarling his ability to hire the personal support workers he needs to be able to live at home. There are many hoops which need to be jumped and everything seems to be moving at a glacial pace.

The modifications that need to be made to the house to allow Dad to live there have not been done. I do not know if the delay here is also tied up with the funding issue or if it is because my stepmother is insisting on unpacking boxes (also at a glacial pace) instead of making phone calls and getting quotes.

I am trying to be charitable, but it is difficult. My stepmother has made it very clear over the last year and a half that she feels my sisters and I (and the rest of my father’s family) have no place in the decision-making process around their new life. Offers of assistance are deemed to be interference (especially if the information provided was discovered on our own initiative). Fundamentally I do not trust her to be able to manage this very difficult situation.

My friend who is an RT has her doubts about the direct funding system- she feels it is too new and the kinks have not yet been ironed out. She also feels that requiring the patient’s family to manage the staff required for the patient’s care is an unfair burden. She told me, point blank, that my stepmother will burn out very quickly if she continues to refuse to allow anyone else to help.

I am expecting, dreading really, that when my father eventually does move into the new house, it will be an unmitigated disaster (or, in Q’s words, an “effin’ gong show”). I am trying to prepare myself for this, to reconcile myself to the likelihood that the final phase of my father’s life (however long it may prove to be) will not be what we have wanted for him, what we would have fought for, what we could have arranged, if only we had been allowed.

It is affecting my relationship with my father, as much as I wish it didn’t. I have had to place some emotional distance between myself and the situation or I would not be able to function. If I wake up too much after nursing P. in the wee hours, I am likely to spend an hour or more lying awake in bed worrying about what is yet to come. I am so deeply angry at my stepmother, and I am disappointed that all through the aftermath of his accident my father has not been willing to fight her on this, to insist that other people be part of the process, that the tasks be delegated.

I should not have been surprised. When my father first got engaged to my stepmother, I wrote my father a long letter outlining all the reasons why I thought he shouldn’t marry her (and I believe to this day that they were valid). I asked him not to show her the letter.

He gave her the letter, which meant I then had to endure a letter from her expressing her disappointment and hurt. And this has been the pattern- there is nothing we say to our father that is “in confidence”, nothing that he won’t then go and tell her. He throws us under the bus where she’s concerned, as labmonkey likes to say.

We would move the moon, if he would let us.

But all we can do is watch from a distance and hope that we will be proven wrong.


My mother is quite possibly about to sell her house (she has an acceptable offer that is conditional on a house inspection which is taking place tomorrow).

I don’t think she believed this was going to happen. She’d resigned herself to another long, dark, cold winter there. That this might not happen, that she might need a new place to live early in the new year, has thrown her into a bit of a tizzy.

Finalizing the sale of her house has eaten up all of her emotional energy, which meant she’s become overwhelmed by the prospect of having to simultaneously start seriously looking for a new place to live. Understandable- it’s a huge change (from a big house on multiple acres in a rural, economically depressed region to a condo in a mid-size city in the most densely populated region in the province).

She doesn’t know what questions she needs to be asking herself.

She doesn’t yet know what her new life could look like (or what she wants it to look like).

It was all getting to be too much.

So she delegated the real estate search to me (making me very happy in the process, because looking at real estate is a guilty pleasure).

Yesterday I had a very productive thirty-minute phone conversation with Mum’s agent in the new city, which answered some of my questions and clarified some of the factors at play. Then, this morning, I had a forty-minute phone conversation with Mum where I asked her some hard questions about what she wanted (or thought she wanted).

Some of the questions she had firm answers for (a balcony is non-negotiable).

Some of the questions she was able to use to think about her new life more carefully (no, she doesn’t need two full bathrooms because most people who will be visiting her will now live close enough that they won’t need to stay with her overnight).

And some of them she genuinely couldn’t answer yet (will she feel comfortable walking alone on nature trails when she doesn’t feel she can walk alone on the isolated roads of her current area), so we will keep all options open as we move forward.

It is still very much going to be Mum’s decision about where she lives, and I’m sure she’ll take a larger role in the process once the sale is finalized and she can clear some mental space for thinking about the future.

But for now she needs me, and, let’s be honest, her need has come at a good time.

It’s good to feel useful.

If I can’t fix my father’s future life, maybe I’ll at least be able to help my mother build a good one.


Filed under Family, Grief, Loss

2 responses to “Do What You Can

  1. I am sorry for all the parent-related stress you are experiencing right now. I especially understand your frustration with your stepmother… dh’s mother passed away before I ever met her, and FIL remarried shortly after both dh & his brother got married (almost 30 years ago now). Neither dh nor BIL were very keen on the marriage & let’s just say their opinions haven’t improved over the years. We’ve managed to maintain cordial relations with stepMIL & her family, but it’s just an awkward situation all round, and we all wish that things could have been a whole lot different.

    Good luck to your mother on the house/condo hunt! I’ve always found that I know “the place” when I see it. 😉 I tried to keep an open mind when we were looking. Funnily enough, I discounted the building we are now in when we first started looking… it was a low-rise building, which we wanted, but it was all glass & concrete and on a major thoroughfare. But our unit faces the back, which is relatively quieter (or will be, once the townhouses they are building behind us are done…!), and those big glass windows let in a lot of light, which is really nice. 🙂 Two bathrooms was not on our “must” list, but I must admit, they have come in handy. 😉

  2. Heather

    So sorry about all the stress must be so much worse with your stepmother being so difficult.
    I do think you have the right attitude. Towards the end of his life I felt I was more there for my mom because my dad wasn’t really there in a way. So do what you feel valuable, that’s important too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s