Saturday, April 1, 2017

I am Not an Asshole

I feel like when it comes to my parents, some people might think that I am an asshole. I live in another country from my parents. The last time I visited to see them was in August of 2014. However I do try to what I think is reasonable and call them once a week. My mother has been diagnosed with Lewey Body Dementia and is living in a Seniors Home. My father is continuing to live in a Independent Living apartment.

I was inspired to title this post by the thread on Reddit, Why children of hoarders sometimes come across as assholes,  which captures the feeling I carry. In the post, the Reddit writer tries to responds to the outside voices that seem to show very little understanding, but a lot of judgment. They say things like "You need to show more compassion towards the parent who is suffering too"

The writer responds with "No, as a matter of fact. The child is a victim. Perhaps not as bad as growing up with an alcoholic or violent parent, but this child has lived with shame, isolation, low self-worth and quite probably a distorted world-view in which the hoarding parent is justified in everything. In fact, children are often a captive audience for the parent to air all their little justifications which will make the feeling of guilt go away for a little while."

This is a response that is fitting for Reddit and will not be heard by the concerned family member.

Recent Developments
I have noticed for a long time that my father does not talk to me for very long. He is living alone in a 2 room apartment in a Independent Living facility. I watch the clock as we talk, seeing that at 3 minutes he says, "Ok I got to go." Where do you have to go? What is so urgent? He is always quick to tell me things like "I went shopping, but I didn't get very much. I don't need very much." I didn't ask him what he was buying, he was volunteering this information.

Here is what one of the shortest calls with my father in a long time looked like:
He got on, said he had visited my mom, and then said he had a call.
"Gotta go."
That was it.
Don't know what's going on.

Last year, after my mother was moved to a senior center to get better attention for her condition, he told me that he would downsize, and ask for a smaller apartment in his facility. I thought that would be a good step, made sense, and might help with his growing expenses.

I had said: "Are you planning to downsize?"
"Are you still in the same 2 room apartment?"
"Yes, I am on the wait list for a smaller place. But they are fully booked here."

But who are we fooling?

I didn't believe that the word 'downsize' was in his vocabulary.

Then a week ago, I brought up the issue again.
"What about moving to a smaller apartment?" I asked
"What about moving to a smaller apartment, didn't you put in a request?"
"I have to go now, exercise is starting soon."
"Wait, wait a second. What about moving to the smaller apartment."
"No I never made a request. Maybe later."

I criticized myself for even trying to pursue the issue in a deeper conversation.

Concerned Cousin
Recently an out of state cousin, came to my father's town. She was looking to hook up with him. But didn't get very far.

She wrote me saying:
I have been trying to call your Dad for 10 days and cannot reach him. I am worried.
I told him that we would be in town  for a week. We wanted to see him while we are here but he doesn't answer nor does he return messages on his land and cell phones. What is happening?

I just told her that he was a tough guy to pin down. I felt like she might think like I was an asshole, because she was writing with a sense of urgency, while I responded nonchalantly. I simply told her to try calling very early in the morning, that was when I usually had the most success at reaching him.

She doesn't know about my parents hoarding or what their home looked like. She has only seen our family from afar - seeing me living in another country, my sister not talking to my parents, and perceiving my father as slumping into an occasional depression.

I wasn't going to try to build my case and tell her my life's experience, but simply remind myself that - I am not an asshole.

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