While sharing my conversation with a friend, his take was that my father was losing his mental grasp.
But I dont think he suffers from dementia, despite his memory seeming to mix up events.
He also takes his old approach with me, where he always has an excuse for something, while just using poor memory as his defense.
The Latest Conversation
"Have you heard from your sister in the last two years?" my father asked.
"What? No, why?"
"Why are you bringing this up now? You just talked to her recently. Remember you called her."
"I know, but I thought she would call us back to ask about how your mother was doing."
"Well I guess she didn't."
"Do you want to talk to her?" I asked
"No, I don't want to have anything to do with her."
"Because she didn't call about Mom?"
"Yes, and she didn't treat us very well."
"It wasn't comfortable living with her. Her husband never spoke to us."
"Would you like to talk to her children, your grandchildren?"
"Huh? Well yes, of course."
"Maybe you could just ask her for her daughter's phone numbers and then just talk to them."
"The only thing I remember is that she said 'you will never see your grandchildren again.'"
"When did she say that?"
"When we were moving to the independent living that's when she said that."
"Uh, no you weren't," I pointed out, "you were living with her, then in your house. Only after she was kicked out of your house by Adult Protective Services did you suggest to move to an independent living facility."
"Ok, well, I don't know, my memory isn't so good."
"So did you see Mom?"
"Not since last week, there was no bus on Labor Day to go to the Home."
"Did you call her?"
"There is no way to reach her. She has no phone."
"Maybe when you go to the Home you can ask for how to call."
"Uh, call Mom."
"Oh, yeah sure her."
"Maybe you can ask Home if they have an address for sending stuff."
"You know, pictures and letters."
"To send to who?"
"Uh, um, to Mom."
"Oh, ok, yeah."
"Have you been in touch with other relatives?"
"No, why have you?"
"Yes, after you called those cousins that sent me emails that they were concerned."
"Well I haven't been in touch with anybody else."
My Perspective on the Conversation
I think from an outside perspective this may be a cause for concern. However from my perspective I see this as part of a long and consistent approach to difficult issues - in other words he becomes frustratingly evasive.
I would highlight two things about this conversation
He seems to readily provide many internal contradictions in his narrative.
- he implicates my sister for threatening to withhold contact with his grandchildren but doesn't want to make any effort to have contact with his grandchildren (any of them neither her kids nor my kids)
- he resents how my sister seems to shrug off our mother's state of health yet doesn't want to help me be in closer contact with our mother
- he asserts that his mental faculties are in a far better state than most people he has come across in the senior centers yet when I ask him some seemingly simple questions about a phone number and address for my mother he puts on the appearance of dementia
This all funnels into observations about evasiveness. As a proven and long time hoarder, ignoring the 'elephant in the room' is a trait that he has perfected to a skill. My mother could lash out in diatribes of fury and he would talk to me about the weather. For other more serious issues, like my sister initially leaving home and getting pregnant - he just never brought those things up - as if my sister didn't exist for 5 years.
Even the most recent relationship and child, even though he had visited her in 2012 (before moving to live with her) he didn't bring up to me, in recounting his visit, that my sister had a new husband and new kid.
My Conclusion: The Hoarding Connection
I see this same evasiveness now in regards to my mother. He would happily talk to me about the weather and politics in our calls and not mention my mother at all. Even when I asked him outright for a phone number, he didn't know what to say but to seemingly play dumb.
My personal feeling is that his answer is instinctual. As I stated, being a hoarder, he has honed this trait of ignoring big issues.