Friday, March 23, 2012


In recovery, it's often said that FEAR stands for "False Expectations Appearing Real".  I have to remind myself of this often.

I expect the worst to happen everyday. It's a survival mechanism for me that keeps me focused on what needs to be done in order to protect others from themselves. My father volunteers to give his money to every internet scam "opportunity" out there, on an almost daily basis. If I didn't expect the worst to come of his actions, things could get much, much uglier. 

However, living in FEAR isn't healthy. The reality is that the worst doesn't happen everyday. I have been dealing with Dad's decaying judgement for a while now-and the worst hasn't happened. It's frustrating and is scary-but the expectation of impending disaster is different from the current reality. 

The reality is that Dad has been taken advantage of by scammers-and has lost thousands of dollars already. The reality is that there are not enough safeguards in place in our society to protect our more vulnerable citizens: seniors and those with mental handicaps. The reality is that I can only do so much on my own to protect him. 

I don't have a lot of support from my family, unfortunately. It seems that the sadness of what is happening to Dad is too much for my brothers to handle. My husband makes effort to do things like watch him at work, screen his email etc- but having the real conversations with Dad falls on me and me alone. This in itself is problematic, as it makes it easy for Dad to write off my concerns as "female hysterics" or to decide that my motivations lie in a desire to control him.  Neither of these are true. 

It's an exercise in living in the moment really. I can't control Dad's actions. I can choose not to spend each day with a knot in my stomach, wondering what trouble he has gotten into now. Ultimately, I can also choose when the time to act to restrict his activities has come. My goal is that this decision, which is quickly approaching, will be driven by love and not FEAR.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


I'll be the first to admit that the expectations I had of what life with Dad would be like were wrong.  Really wrong. I blame TV.

When you think about it-there aren't that many role models for multi-generational families on TV.  I can only think of two off the top of my head: Raising Hope and The King of Queens.

If you haven't seen Raising Hope- you should. It's hilarious, with Cloris Leachman as the adorable but senile Maw Maw "leading" a household composed of four generations.  The King of Queens was cancelled long ago, but lives on in perpetuity through syndication.  Jerry Stiller, a comedic master, played an aged father who lives with his married daughter.  Both of these shows are comedies, so they are focused on the lighter side of  inter-generational living. Neither of these shows is very realistic.

Don't get me wrong-there are many moments that could be manipulated by some comedic genius to create a sitcom all our own.  While I can't say that Dad has ever flashed school aged children while on a field trip (a la Maw Maw), I have caught him wandering around the kitchen in his underwear late at night looking for a snack. Laughing beats crying, so that's what we try to do. That's what I try to do, as much as possible. Fortunately, kids seem to naturally consider ALL adults somewhat absurd, so they cope with Papa accordingly.

The reality of living with a Senior can include way too much time spent at the local hospital to deal with frequent medical emergencies.  For us, it includes balancing his standards with our own- house keeping, time spent together, disciplining and setting boundaries for the kids are just a few of the things that we redefine daily.  I do appreciate that comedies like Raising Hope and The King of Queens exist as a reminder that things aren't always as bad as they seem and that perspective is everything.

I have to ask though- given that the number of multi-generational families world wide is trending upward (due to the recession, baby boomers, single parents, etc), would it kill the networks to include an extended household in just one family drama?  I know, I know-family dramas seem to be a relic of the past right now. Crime and all that is much trendier.  I am guessing though that I am not alone in my desire to see families make a comeback.

Monday, March 5, 2012


I confess that I never did get around to reading the book mentioned in the last post. I probably will, but I haven't yet. I found something else-something that I have found to be very valuable.

Several years ago, I bought a book that I completely forgot about. When I was organizing and sorting through books to donate (this process of sorting and donating in hopes of creating order out of the chaos of two combined homes STILL takes up many hours a week) I came across this book again. It is a book of meditations on elderly parents.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I am a recovering alcoholic.This will probably come up periodically here, but hopefully not often. There are things that I have learned through work I have put into my recovery so far, things that help me stay sober and to deal with life. In my past life, I drank to deal with my emotions. Anger, disappointment in myself and others, frustration and resentment mostly. I also drank to deal with happy feelings-but those were the good days, the days when the drinking led to laughing and not the throwing of household objects. I needed help- so I got help. Anyone who has been through a good rehab program will tell you that the power of meditation and prayer are incredibly important to their recovery. While I still struggle with prayer and defining a higher power, I do meditate daily.

Meditation is one of those nebulous things that seems to look and be different for everyone. I am a beginner, so I stand in awe of those who are able to discipline themselves to successful meditation. For me, one good meditation can be followed by a seemingly endless string of days that feel like meditative failure-an inability to keep my mind focused, with my thoughts wandering from garbage day to mundane events that took place two decades ago. I keep trying though, because in those days that I am able to focus my thoughts- I find tremendous solace.  It's totally worth waiting for.

Using guided meditation to contemplate  my position as a caregiver has helped me deal with my father's aging with a much better attitude, and for that I am grateful. I would take that further even and say that I am grateful for BEING grateful, for I know that when I move from an attitude of resentment to gratefulness, I am moving out of my own head and into the world again at a healthy level. In these times I can breathe a sigh of relief and know that for that moment I am where I need to be.