I need to clarify that I do not believe that Dad was ever unfaithful to Mom, nor was he inattentive during the last few years when her illness was so very difficult. It’s not easy caring for a spouse with dementia and we had to make him get some daily help with housekeeping and care for Mom. We told him he couldn’t do it alone. Heck, he was 84 at the time.
And maybe I overreacted a bit when I said Dad was being terribly selfish.
Backing up 20 years….
My parents went on several vacations with a couple named Jack and Marilyn, including one to Ireland. They had a pretty good time but Mom got a little tired of Marilyn. She said Jack was nice and Marilyn was silly. She told me about buying a small garden tool while they were on a trip and Marilyn making a fuss that Mom had put it in the pocket on the back of the driver’s seat, with the tines facing the front of the car. “Oh, if we have an accident that could go right through my husband’s heart,” as she reached over and turned the tines to face Mom.
Fast Forward fifteen years and Mom really hated Marilyn, irrationally I think, and far beyond any minor annoyance and dislike that she deserved. I think Alzheimers magnified certain minor irritations for Mom. There were several incidents along the way, like the time that Marilyn dropped off a Christmas present just for Dad, the phone calls to Dad when he was sick, etc. but nothing important.
And then Mom was gone, and Marilyn was newly divorced and there was some sort of restriction on the settlement with her ex so that she couldn’t touch the capital and would lose the income altogether if she remarried. She has a house but I don’t know if it’s paid off.
Not long after the funeral Dad decided to sell his house and move to a retirement center. He’s a bit bored, everyone there is old and he’s only 88, and he’s a bit depressed by everyone around him dying… which is what you get in this type of place.
About a year after Mom died, Dad announced that he was seeing Marilyn and he was very excited. I told him that I love him, I know he’s lonely and I want him to be happy, and if it’s with Marilyn, that’s fine. I also told him that I hoped she was good for him, that I didn’t want his heart to be broken, and I was worried that she would do that.
and then she dumped him. He said he’d never talk to her again.
A couple of months later he made an excuse to see her, they made up, he was ecstatic….
and then she dumped him.
Lather, Rinse Repeat.
It sounded like high school to me, or worse, like a cat who wants to be petted but then seems to say, “No, you want it too much.”
After the 4th breakup he said he was finally through with her. This was 6 months ago.
Marilyn called him a couple of weeks ago, said she missed him, and again he was over the moon, they were going to take a trip together in the Fall, they were talking about getting married, he wants to buy a motor home, build a house….. ok, he’s 88, a little frail, definitely crazy, but he’s in pretty good health.
I told him the trip sounded good, as long as they were splitting the costs. “Oh sure. No problem. Of course we are.” My wicked self giggled at the thought of Marilyn pushing his wheelchair, having to wait for him to finish a nap, and worrying about food. We have taken Dad on two vacations and even though we enjoyed it, it was a lot of work and took a lot of adjustments, and the food disagreed with him almost everywhere we ate, except McDonald’s.
A few days later he announced that they were going to open a joint checking account for this trip, each put $5000 into it and then they’d both be able to draw from it… uh, What? No, Dad, there’s no reason to do this.
So he’s all excited about Marilyn and he wants me to like her, wants me to acknowledge how *nice* she is, wants me to get to know her, wants me to invite her over……
Here is the reason I said Dad was being selfish:
My husband had surgery on Wednesday, and maybe I was overreacting. I told my family I’d let them know when I knew something, that I would call them. Simple? Apparently not. My cell phone rang while I sat in the waiting room, and it was Dad. I sent it to voicemail and waited until the surgeon came to talk to me before calling him back.
The first thing Dad said to me was, “Want some company? Marilyn says she’ll drive me over to visit you tomorrow. Isn’t that nice?”
“No, Dad, I’m probably spending all day at the hospital, tomorrow and Friday. I really don’t want any company for about a week.”
“But isn’t that nice of her? She says she’ll bring me over whenever you want. Isn’t she nice? Can she bring me on Friday, then?”
I gritted my teeth. He was so lost in his little dream world, wanted us to accept her so much that he’d totally lost sight of what was really happening. I mean, not to make too big a deal out of it, but this is cancer surgery we’re dealing with.
I told him not yet, give us a week.
I take comfort in the thought that soon I will sit down with Marilyn and explain that even though Dad is 88 and she is only 72, he will most likely outlive her. Right now there is every reason to believe that he will live to be 95 …………..or more.