About two months ago, I got a panicked call from my father’s partner in Florida. A cough he’d had for a few months finally forced him to go to the doctor, where tests revealed a large mass in his lung. Cancer. He’ll be 83 this August.
Back at home in North Carolina, further testing put him at a borderline Stage 3A/3B, which means it’s treatable, but just barely, and the long term prognosis is generally not good at all.
A month and a half into his treatments, they had to go in and remove fluid from his lungs and this revealed pleural effusion, which is untreatable. They’ve given him 4-6 months.
It’s a hard thing going from an expectation of having a couple of years, to just a few months. No one is prepared for it. Not him, not me. We’re all sort of lost right now.
Being 3.5 hours away makes it difficult to say the least. You want to be with them, even if you know it’s going to be awkward as hell just sitting around staring at each other. He’s very weak already, so “doing” anything is mostly out of the question. And you want to constantly check on them, but when you hardly ever talked to begin with, calling now is just awkward.
His partner is old herself and frankly, not coping well mentally. Over the past 10 years they’ve been together, her “northern ways” have alienated pretty much everyone in the family. I have done my best to ignore her antics, and the fact that, because he’s taking care of her every need, he’s only come to my house once. Once–in the last 10 years.
Since his terminal diagnosis, I’ve been up to her house a couple of times. Neither times has been pleasant, as I’d already evoked, “You’re not his wife” on the phone once in frustration, and been subsequently hung up on.
Despite being his only real kin from a “nuclear family” standpoint, she has insisted on being his sole caregiver, even (in my opinion) having the audacity to insist she be listed first on his Advanced Directive.
But, in the spirit of “it’s about him” and “not about us,” I let that too pass.
I was visiting my father a couple of months ago, going over his “vast holdings” (and I say that sarcastically). It came up that, he owned a pad in an RV park in Florida. It is right next to the one she owns, upon which her $250K RV sits all year. During the conversation, it came up that my father was going to sell her his lot. Great. I had no issue with that. And then she said, “Well, I think he should give it to me. All these years I’ve paid for the house he lives in, and the vacations and I’ve never asked him for nothing.”
I probably should have taken a breath before speaking, but I’m me, so instead, I said, “Wait, you got upset at me for saying you weren’t his wife, but now you want to treat him like someone you just met on the street and say that he owes you for him living with you and literally driving you everywhere, and taking care of everything for the last ten years? If you were married, you wouldn’t be saying this. So which is it?”
I left; time passed.
I got a call from the manager at the RV park, saying he’d gotten an email from my father’s “girlfriend” that said he was “giving” her the property. I immediately called my father who said that was untrue.
Now, to clarify, at one point, she was worth several million dollars. I doubt even she knows her net worth at this point, but it’s at least north of $2M and probably more. So why she was insisting my father give her anything, riled me.
At any rate, I went back up again a few weeks back because, SURPRISE!, my father didn’t have a Will. He apparently thought that he could just tell someone what he wanted and it would magically happen. And despite repeated attempts, he would NOT do anything legally himself. So, I went up with a prepared Will, and had a Notary coming by the house. It was all planned out.
It took about 30 minutes for the fit to hit the shan. Long story short, I completely shattered “her” world and told her what I thought of her.
I’ve since been asked not to come back, as has the only other member of the family who might help them.
I’m not looking for sympathy here. In fact, if there’s anything I hope people take from stories like this, it is this: Don’t wait. Don’t wait until you are sick to do all the legal things you should do to make your passing easy on those who love you. If you wait, anything they do to help you prepare, is going to be viewed by you (the dying one) as materialistic and greedy. As a parent, you should already have your loved ones’ best at heart. They shouldn’t have to make sure you have a Will, and make sure you have an Advanced Directive. Be an adult and do these things BEFORE you’re too sick to care.
I won’t be going back to her house unless it’s to clean out his things, either while he’s still alive, or after he passes. And if it’s the latter, I suspect I’ll have to get the Sheriff involved, but that’s fine.
When your parents get old (and you do too) you realize they are just people. They aren’t perfect; they have problems just like everyone else. And they have made, and will continue to make, bad decisions. Some, more damaging than others.
I love my dad. Really, he’s the only “original family” I have left that I care about. Nothing that happens between now and 4-6 months from now will change that. It’s just a shame we can’t spend time together.