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Reply with quote  #1 
Many of the posts on this board discuss the aftermath and changing family dynamics when one elderly parent dies and the surviving parent is left to decide how they want to go on. Although I realize many don't go on. A dear friend who lost her father last year just lost her mother on the one-year anniversary of his death. I've heard that it's not uncommon for elderly long-time married couples who had a good relationship to die within a short time of one another.

But for the elderly spouses who do go on, there seems to be a real disparity in how they go about that. Another friend's mother has really blossomed in widowhood. Her husband had been very difficult and domineering and, to be blunt, I think this is a new and happy kind of freedom for her. But then there are the elderly widows like my mother who do what I can only describe as melt down ... and expect another family member to step in and totally replace the deceased husband along with all kinds of other troublesome stuff.

We were talking about this on another thread, which was kind of getting hijacked with the topic so thought I would continue the discussion here. What interests me is that many widowed women do this, even women who were formerly independent, reasonable loving women. Now that is not my mother, she has always been high strung and self absorbed and wanted to control and possess me. I thought old age was just another excuse to do so. But maybe there's more going on than I realized. One of the board's long-time participants Mary E made the following observation: 

"Maybe it's human nature that when an older woman feels alone (by becoming widowed or divorced) that she clings on to a daughter, perhaps the daughter who steps forward. I mean, from reading here many of the women who are our elderly mothers, have had many different kinds of personalities when younger, many different life styles and financial situations, YET much of the behavior ends up the same.  It's as if an inner voice takes over and tells them that if they win over a daughter and make her be like them, they will not only be cared for until their death, they will, in a way, live on in that daughter."  

Since I don't have children of my own, perhaps it never occurred to me that a daughter would represent some kind of extended mortality to her mother. If so, that's very sad for my mother because I am not willing to be her mirror image. I don't like the way she lives, I don't like the way she treats people and, frankly, I find some of her viewpoints outright offensive. But I do hope that whatever good there is in her might be reflected in me, but that's as far as I think it should go, ever. I don't think there's an excuse for trying to subvert someone else's true self and co-opt their life.

Which brings us to the issue of Substitute Husband. I don't get this. Maybe I'm not sufficiently old and frightened, maybe I haven't been married long enough (just shy of 20 years). But I can't imagine losing my husband and dealing with that by deciding, basically, well someone else has to give up their life and take his place in mine, do everything he did and be my companion. Even if they really really don't want to. And they have to be just like me and agree with everything I say and do everything I want done just as it has always been done. Even if it makes them miserable. No, that doesn't make sense to me.

What freaked me out after my father's death, which was very traumatic and painful for me all by itself, was the unexpected burden that I was clearly expected to be his replacement. Not only did my mother want me back living in my childhood bedroom obeying her and waiting on her, she also wanted me to be her substitute husband/whipping boy/caretaker. It's like one minute I'm her idiot underage child and the next I'm supposed to be her protector and long suffering man servant. It has been very confusing. 

Reply with quote  #2 
hello, Proddy!  I think this is a very interesting question.  Forgive me if the following gets rambling; I'm just typing off the top of my head.

I have to imagine that it can be simply a lot scarier than we imagine to, after living for years with a spouse and sharing a life with them, where that person pretty much is part of everything you do or every decision you make, suddenly find yourself alone.  By that statement, I don't mean you do everything or spend every moment with your husband; however, because you share lives, they do play a role in everything you do, even if it's just a small way--for instance, if I have to stay at work late, I need to let my spouse know so that he doesn't worry that I've been a car accident when I don't come home.  In larger ways, of course, we divide up responsibilities with our spouses, so that sometimes we don't even know how to do what they do (perhaps more common with our moms than ourselves).  And when you have a life partner, even when you area apart, there's a knowledge that you aren't truly alone, that if you are alone right now because--although Spouse is away for a business trip, for instance--they ARE coming back, and your being alone is temporary.  And thus you are not truly alone.

Now remember when you have broken up with a boyfriend or even got a divorce as a young or middle-aged person:  there is a tremendous feeling of loss, of loneliness, of your life no longer being what it was, the future unpredictable.  In the best of circumstances, this can be a very difficult time.  If we are lucky, we have friends and family to help us through, the routine of a job to give us some sense of continuity. But that doesn't necessarily mean we have an easy time of rebuilding our lives under a new model.

Imagine now you are an older person--in your 70s, maybe, "young-old"--and you face the same situation.  On top of losing your beloved (or at least long-time accustomed ) spouse, you may have lost most of your friends and family, and those that remain are not looking so good (I've watched my mom go through these losses and it's painful).  Furthermore, you're not feeling so great yourself:  even if you don't have any scary diseases or conditions, you don't have the stamina or the eyesight or the hearing to do or enjoy what you used to, not to mention not having anyone to do it with.  And the world out there has become unfamiliar to you:  you'd like to listen to some music, but haven't figured out CDs yet, much less MP3 players.  Technology has gone so far beyond you, you fear you could never understand it and find that you can't take advantage of the toys and appliances that younger folk take for granted.  And suddenly you are responsible for EVERYTHING about your household: everything you've always done, plus whatever you spouse magically made happen while you weren't paying attention, some that you may not even be aware of.  Some that may depend on that technology that you never bothered to keep up on because you didn't need to.  Let's not even get into the issues of failing health--eek!

I think at this point, it makes sense that you will latch onto a fixed point, a familiar person, one who has supported you or at least has been supportive of you over the years (whether by choice or under duress).  And that is probably more often than not a daughter (although not always, let me quick to say). 

Like I said, I'm just typing stream of concsiousness here.  I'd be interested in what others think.
Reply with quote  #3 

Ooo, let me add (as if I hadn't already written a novel) that I wonder whether it's a conscious decision when Mom tried to "replace" Dad with one of her children, or whether it's an unconscious desire to fill the emptiness left by loss.  I suspect it varies depending on the relationship (with the N parent more likely to consciously think "time for Proddy to step up and meet all my desires now").

Reply with quote  #4 

I think both of you are absolutely correct and I really appreciate this thread.

Good Son's Wife
Reply with quote  #5 

I find this a very interesting topic because of my mother in law.

When my DH was a senior in high school, his father suffered a massive heart attack which left him permanently disabled. He continued to live for a number of years, but could no longer work, drive, or basically do any of the things he had previously done. In addition, he had nerve damage from the anesthesia used during his very long heart surgery that left him almost completely deaf, so he lost most of his ability to communicate (this is what I was told, I did not know DH yet back in those years). In the years that followed, FIL continued to have multiple heart attacks as well as several strokes. So MIL was not widowed at the time of the first incident, but for some purposes she did lose her husband at that time.

MIL has been a demanding person as long as I have known her, which is about 30 years now. When FIL got sick, she insisted that DH cancel his plans to go away to college, because she could not bear for him to leave her "alone" with FIL. (The in-laws were not going to be paying for DH's college - he had received a scholarship offer from a very good school that he had always dreamed of attending.) At that time, MIL had two married daughters who lived within walking distance from her and FIL, and another son who lived about 20 minutes away. DH ended up going to a local college and commuting there from MIL's house. He also worked full time while he was in college to put himself through school. MIL did not have a driver's license, but instead of learning to drive (which certainly would have been possible back then, and they already owned a car), she pressed DH into service as her chauffeur. DH did all the driving to his dad's doctor appointments, shopping for MIL, and anywhere else that she wanted to go. The in-laws still owned their own home at that time, and DH was responsible for all of the upkeep on the house, inside and out. Basically, anything that FIL used to do, MIL now required that DH would do. DH has three older siblings, and their rationale was that DH was young and single, so he had less responsibility than they did and should take on all of the responsibility for their parents. When FIL first became ill, MIL was 52 years old, the same age as I am now. I cannot imagine under any circumstances asking my son, who is a college student now, to give up his life to take care of me.

Fast forward to now. FIL passed away many years ago. MIL has been living in our house for the past 17 years. In the early years that she lived with us, MIL was healthy and strong, but has always demanded that our lives revolve around hers. We have had no privacy, but plenty of interference. Over the years, we gradually stopped having friends over to the house, because MIL would always be planted firmly in the middle of every conversation. MIL has her own separate apartment in our house, but the only time she spends there is when she is asleep. Her attitude has always been that what is ours is hers, whether it is material (our home and possessions) or intangible (our friends of course must be her friends as well).

Now MIL is 91 years old, has dementia and other pretty serious health problems, and now cannot do for herself the way she could have nearly 40 years ago when her own DH became ill. MIL still expects DH (and now me and our children) to do everything for her, and that her needs will supersede the needs of the rest of our family. (They usually do.) And the complacent siblings still do nothing, though their children are grown and married now and they have freedom that we do not. They have no feelings of guilt and in fact are quite resentful if we ask them for any help at all. Last month DH and I took a vacation with our children, and the SIL's took care of MIL while we were gone - but they have constantly reminded us since then of what a tremendous sacrifice they made, and that we should not expect it again.

The part that makes me the angriest is that DH is a wonderful person, a loving and caring person, and neither his mother nor any of his siblings appreciate that - they only take advantage of it.

I find it very ironic that MIL never had to provide the care for her parents (who died very young) or her own in-laws (who lived in Europe) that she has expected for herself all of these years. Perhaps if elder care had been demanded of her, she would have a different perspective on what she has asked of her son. She did take care of FIL in terms of cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc., but those were the things that she normally did before his illness as a homemaker. FIL did not have dementia, was not immobile, incontinent, or in any way similar to the way that MIL is now.

I guess all of this boils down to - some parents seem to raise a child, whether male or female, with the expectation that this particular child will sacrifice him or herself for the good of the parent. And that child seems to bend to the parent's wishes. I have read so many stories here of one sibling who does all of the work as far as the elderly parent is concerned, while the others sit back and watch. Why does one child have such a tremendously overdeveloped sense of duty, while the others, raised in the exact same family, have no sense of responsibility, and no sense of shame or remorse that they are not doing their fair share?

I can see already that one of my SILs will be following in her mother's footsteps. Her own husband is not well, and may not live long. SIL is another one who never learned to drive and if and when her DH can no longer drive, she will be completely dependent upon others. In many ways she is just like MIL, expecting to be taken care of instead of taking care of herself. She thinks that it would be a wonderful idea for her to move in with her daughter's family when the time comes. I feel sorry for DH's niece, she does not understand what is going to happen to her life in the next few years.

DH and I have already told both of our children that we will NOT be living with them under any circumstances. When we are old, if we are not capable of taking care of ourselves at home, we will go the assisted living/nursing home route. We have told our children that if in the future we cannot remember that those are our wishes, they should remember it for us. We want the cycle of one generation being sacrificed for the previous generation to end. We hope our children will still love us and will hopefully want to visit us, but we do not want their lives to revolve around our care.

Rachel B.
Reply with quote  #6 
Let me add that men of our fathers' generation likely NEVER cooked, did laundry, or cleaned a bathroom!  Daughters are often expected to become the household manager, even when they don't live in the house. 

In addition, my Dad was Mom's care giver for several years.  Although her passing was expected, he was nevertheless lost without her.  One afternoon he invited me over.  I figured we'd watch TV, maybe play cards, then I'd fix him some dinner.  No sooner had I come in than he said "I'll be in the garage."  I thought perhaps he'd made me something, or found something in storage he wanted to show me.  After 15 minutes I went to see what was going on, and found him doing a bit of painting, and said he'd be in in an hour or so.  

I finally figured out that he just missed having someone there.  A "too quiet" house, empty when he came in, etc.

In addition, I've always lived alone.  When people pass away & the remaining half of the couple is living alone, often not by choice, they say to me, "I never realized!  HOW do you do it?"  It does take adjusting!  I accomplish the most when an outside appointment or friend provides a deadline - Shirley said she'd call this evening, let's see if I can get the kitchen cleaned up before then, etc.  And as has been mentioned, many people who find themselves living alone have also lost the company of co-workers, and other friends who have passed. 

I have many health problems, but don't care to discuss them - I can only imagine being on the other end of that conversation.    SO, I make it a point to make note of interesting things I see or hear about (PBS!), for future  discussions.  People chuckle when I bring out my small notebook while waiting for lunch to be served, but I notice that when I don't, we're sitting in silence.  I also notice people at nearby tables listening in!   

When you find yourself alone it is indeed natural to turn back to family.  But some thought needs to be given to whether it's for companionship, or housework and errands, or a combination of those things.  As with any relationship, it takes time to work out the roles, even when you have an extensive history with the person.       
Reply with quote  #7 
My father passed away 16 years ago. My father was a quiet man who learned early in his marriage to my mother that doing what she wanted him to do was the easiest route to having some peace - not much, but some. My mother was a domineering N person - she ruled his life and the life of her 2 daughters (my sister and I) with an iron fist. She was cruel to him and us.

When he started to have heart trouble, and the Dr. wanted him to have a bypass, my mother vetoed the idea. She did not want to deal with my father's hospitalization and recovery. 4 years later a massive heart attack took him quickly. 

My sister had gone no contact many years earlier, and had begun limited contact just before my father's death. That left me, the youngest to pick up the slack and take over my father's role of servant.

Growing up, I had been taught well - when my mother said jump, you didn't ask how high, you started jumping but knew it would not be high enough, long enough or good enough. I was devastated by my father's death. My mother, not so much. In fact, she just went on with her life as it always had been, using me to do what she could not do.

Mom was 75 when dad died, still driving and in pretty good health. She insisted on staying in the family homestead even though she no longer could maintain the large house and acre yard. That is what I was for. My mother didn't  have a melt down, she just assumed that I would take over and do what needed to be done, and take care of her. And trained monkey that I was, I did as I was expected.

Fast forward to the last 6 years, when her health began to fail, the falls became more frequent, as did the hospitalizations and rehabs, I began to see I would have no life at all, and I insisted she have aides during the day. She refused the assisted living route, and did allow aides in, all the while saying she did not need them. I stepped back, then in Feb of 2010 when I broke my ankle, I stepped back even more, allowing the aides to do the chores she had insisted I continue to do because I did it better than the aides.

Dementia and a major fall in July of 2010 put her in a nursing home. From there she tries to bully the aides and me to get her own way. I limit my contact to 2 hours a week, all I can take at this point.

My mother had choices. Yes, her long time (53 years) husband who did all the work in taking care of the yard and house was gone. But her stubborn insistence that she was staying in that house until 'they carry me  out' meant that someone had to take over what my father used to do. Moving to assisted living would mean she could not bully me into doing the chores for her. Bullying people was what she had done all her life to get her way, and she wasn't going to stop now. Friends of hers that lost their husbands wisely gave up their homes and moved into apartments or senior housing. My mother had nothing but scorn for them. She was not going to do that!

Mary E.
Reply with quote  #8 
Ah, I love this thread.  Thanks, Prodigal. I've spent so many years (and found my way to this board in the search for answers) - trying to figure out why my mother began to behave the way she did after my father had his strokes, which changed him from a partner to someone totally helpless. 

I could really identify with how pq explained it.  A long (happy or not) marriage is filled with unexplainable dynamics.  A wife (or husband) might not even comprehend how they are feeling in that relationship.  They know that if they don't come home some night, the spouse will realize it and set about searching for them.  If they fall while alone, there is someone to hear and either call the EMT's or help them up.  There is someone to talk about food with, someone to argue with about paltry things.  When that person dies or changes dramatically there is a VOID that one didn't even realize previously was NOT there.  I would imagine that something like a panic for survival sets in, because the safety net is gone.

I propose that it might be a self survival instinct that sets off in the subconscious.  Maybe it's not even a rational thinking process, but the SELF rises to the occasion - much the way a young baby is programmed to scream really loundly when hungry or in pain or needing something.  If the person has children, they just turn to them and expect salvation and the help and compalnionship that they once had.  Kind of like a feeling of entitlement "I gave them/her/him life, now he owes me big time." 

My mother just turned to me without a pause. It began the moment a doctor or social worker at the rehab would suggest that my mother would need outside help if she took my father home. "I don't need help.  We have MY daughter right next door."  I would hear her say it and felt the web surrounding me, yet not really totally understanding what was happening.  She didn't want strangers invading her house, but what was really happening was that she didn't want me to have a reason to NOT be the one who would be their servant. 

This resisting of help went on for about a year.  She thought that we could take care of my father together - and totally overlooked the fact that I had a husband, three kids, a job (at home, which made it convenient for my mother to think I could be with her 24/7).  She would even encourage me to take my work to THEIR house and she would help me with it!  She felt that it was my role to help her with my father AND take care of her own medical needs (she had many doctor appointmens of her own) and take care of the house and grounds - AND DO IT WELL.  In addition, she would also expect that I take them places to socialize AND entertain their company as hostess (even my sister and her large family.)  How in the world does one expect this of a person? 

I think it was after about the first year that I was run ragged, resentful of my sister who ONLY came to visit (and be served food) that I decided to have it out with my mother and demand that she get some outside help.  She said, "well what is it that you do for me?"  She was CLUELESS about the sacrifice she was forcing me into.  In her mind she was the victim in the unfairness of having her formerly strong, capable husband taken away from her.  She felt totally BAD for herself and subconsciously expected me to fill in the gaps and be happy doing so.  I CONSTANTLY disappointed her, because I could not do everything she wished me to do.  When I would ask why her other two children were not helping, she would act surprised that I would expect them to - THEY were busy/too far away/etc.  She said that her sister (who had one child, a daughter would be taken care of in her old age by that daughter and "I" would take care of HER.  And that was that.  I think I was crying in consternation and frustration and she thought I must be having trouble in my marriage, or something - could not possibly see it was because of her and her selfish and entitled attitude.

I think I was exponentially hurt that a mother who purportedly loved her child could do this to her.

I have felt for a long time that many of us are ruled by instincts we do not even comprehend are guiding us. And I believe that many women when they find themselves alone - become N's and selfish and manipulative and are very good at controlling and button pushing to get one child (a daughter or a son) to step in and be the indentured servant.  I also believe that there is a family dynamic which decrees that one child - usually the one who steps in innocently - will be the "servant/slave" so that the others can go about their lives with little impact.

Think of the impact caregiving has on those of us who are "the designated caregivers".  We have to give up time and energy that we would normally give to our spouse or kids.  We have to give up time on our jobs, because if the caregivee needs help, we go to her/him before our job.  We have to use our energy on taking them in their wheelchairs to doctors - NOT an easy physical task.  Many caregivers hurt themselves doing this.  We also have to endure the stress of being the ONE IN CHARGE who stands between Mom/Dad and death. 

The other siblings "come when they can" or when it fits into their schedules.  And then they often resent the help and expect thanks from the sibling who is shouldering all the work MOST of the time.  They are basically free while we are trapped.  So I think, based on the number of times we see this - that this avoidance on the part of the other siblings is also an instinct.  Kind of like there is one human sacrifice so that the rest of the family group can go about a normal life. 

Those of us who have done this for years are usually the ones who will say that our children will never go through this.  I tell my daughter that her Dad and I will transition from home to home AS we are no longer able to live without help in each place.  She's glad because she's seen the impact my mother's care has had on us..  But the problem is that it's time for my husband and I to transition away from our big old house, but we CAN'T becasue my mother insists on staying in her house and we're taking care of that too.  Talk about unfair!! 

I think that maybe what my mother lacked in her personality was empathy.  She can't have realized what she did to me/us or she wouldn't have done it - I'm almost sure.  I think she was desperate and frightened and let herself go into denial mode and never comprehended that things were tough for us. I also think she went one step farther and decided we were lucky to have the honor of taking care of her!!  (Well, in a way it's been a blessing and a curse.  She is an interesting character, that's for sure.)
Reply with quote  #9 

"I have felt for a long time that many of us are ruled by instincts we do not even comprehend are guiding us. And I believe that many women when they find themselves alone - become N's and selfish and manipulative and are very good at controlling and button pushing to get one child (a daughter or a son) to step in and be the indentured servant.  I also believe that there is a family dynamic which decrees that one child - usually the one who steps in innocently - will be the "servant/slave" so that the others can go about their lives with little impact. --Mary E.
Mary E, you are so eloquent!  It's interesting to hear the perspective of someone who doesn't have a N for a parent, because that's all I really know.  It does sound like your mother did develop narcissistic tendencies, but she isn't likely a full-blown N, or NPD individual, since that develops in early childhood and is cemented in adolescence.  I have read, though, that dementia patients can develop a form of N.  I don't recall your saying your mom has dementia, or am I wrong?
Anyway, I want to comment on what I bolded in the quote from you above, strictly from the perspective of an ACON.  Those "guiding instincts" you refer to are, in my experience, not instincts, but the result of brainwashing by a NPD parent.
As the Scapegoat child of a NM and somewhat narcissistic EF, I was brainwashed to "fix" all the problems in my NM's life.  This brainwashing is not an easy thing to overcome.  One has to go through a sort of de-programming that takes awhile.  It does mask itself as an "instinct," however, because it's a reaction, albeit not one from the gut, one from a programmed brain, if that makes sense.
This needing to "fix" all the NP's problems carries over into adulthood.  When the N's health starts failing and they suddenly must depend on others, it's a real obstacle for the N, because Ns don't want to think they need anyone for anything.  They are God.  Even if they recognize on some level they have to have support or help, they will never come right out and ask for it.  I used to think that was pride.  Now I know its vanity.
As I'm sure you know from reading some of the N threads, narcissists have to have a constant "supply" of adoration and attention.  They look to others to prop up the pretend world they create and live in.  In this pretend world, they never make mistakes, and consequently they never say they are sorry or say thank-you, because that implies they are less than perfect.
I digress, but just wanted to give you a little background on N so it would be clearer what happens when their spouse dies, or leaves, or they get divorced.  Their spouse is their No. 1 source of "supply."  When the spouse dies, they must replace the source.  Their pretend world is very fragile and they do not have the capability to validate themselves.  So they look to others for this "supply," or validation that they are perfect.
Ns are also lazy.  They always take the easy road.  It's only natural, then, that they would look to one of their children to replace their spouse (on an emotional level.)  I expect they would love it if their chosen child, or Golden One, would take care of them.  I know my NM wants that (and now has that, since I am NC).  But in my case, my Golden sister, who is also a N, sniffed neediness on the wind and high-tailed it out of town when my parents health started to fail.  

So the task of helping my parents with their elder needs fell on moi.  I was "IT".  And after my EF died, my NM looked to me to fill the void.  Make no mistake.  There was NEVER any thought as to how it might impact me and my life.  And when my husband fell seriously ill and almost died, my NM was upset that I wasn't available to meet her needs for six months. 
I don't have the link, but there was a recent article (in the last year or so I think) in The NY Times that focused on favortisim, and those parents interviewed (these were "normal" not N parents), admitted to favoring one child, and said child was the one they wanted to care for them when they got old. So favortism goes on, even in healthy families.  I thought that was interesting. 


Reply with quote  #10 
The NY Times article is titled "Mom Always Liked You Best," and it was published in November 2009.  I may have seen the link here, I don't recall.  Anyway, here is the link:
Reply with quote  #11 
Their spouse is their No. 1 source of "supply."  When the spouse dies, they must replace the source.  Their pretend world is very fragile and they do not have the capability to validate themselves.  So they look to others for this "supply," or validation that they are perfect.

Wow FWU...that statement really hit home with me!  I always liked my MIL, but when FIL began the battle with Alzheimer's I began to see things in her I didn't like.  As he progressed, so did she, and after he died all H broke loose and she turned into a total N monster!  Now I see that as long as FIL was healthy and doting on MIL, she was OK and could appear normal to the rest of us, but as her supply began to run out, she started reaching out to her sons for the validations no longer coming from her husband.  Unable to hide her true nature any longer, she began alienating the very people she needed to use to fulfill her narcistic needs.  She can't live alone because that decapitates her ability to leech emotions from the family she "loves".

FWU to Daphne
Reply with quote  #12 
Quote from Daphne--
"She can't live alone because that decapitates her ability to leech emotions from the family she "loves".

Ns absolutely cannot stand to be alone.  I should have been a little more specific in my post as far as the aging N.  For a young or younger N, if their husband/wife dies or they get divorced, they will move at lightning speed to replace their husband/wife, often embarking on whirlwind romances, marrying in a matter of months from when their spouse died or they got divorced.  (My NS did this.)  But with the aging N, it gets hard (obviously) to find another mate.  Especially in the case of women, since they tend to live longer than men and so old men are in short supply, lol!  So the aging N looks to the adult child to be their emotional surrogate. 


Reply with quote  #13 
"I find it very ironic that MIL never had to provide the care for her parents (who died very young) or her own in-laws (who lived in Europe) that she has expected for herself all of these years." -from Good Son's Wife.

My P's were married only to each other. By the time they were in their early 40's their parents had died.  They were comfortable based on F's earnings, and in addition, had inherited from his P's. I can't remember either of them ever focusing much on any of their parents.  Certainly they never seemed to adjust or plan anything in their lives based on what their parents may have wanted or expected.
F died when M was in her mid seventies and she is not yet 80.  Her main focus was to protect her assets (including from me).  They had a main residence and a vacation condo in different states.  She wasted no time in selling those and then buying another home and condo both in different states from before.
She does well, is in good health and participates in her major interests; bridge and golf.  She has fairly recently become involved in what she calls politics which is mainly lunching and complaining about any tax which might adversely affect her.
I think of her as one of the lucky ones, mostly because of the combination of health and money.
Periods of time go by when I am pretty much left alone and then she can go into a rage, like what she did to me from her cruise during the holidays.  For her this is usually prompted by being in a situation where someone is talking about their rich and accomplished children and she feels increasingly angry and maybe powerless because she does not have such a child.
P's are/were both N's.  They often traded roles in both their relationship as far as I could tell and in parenting.  She, far more crafty, he, far more impulsive.
On one cruise, about a year ago, she began a relationship that did not last long.  The man, a widower, had several children.  They all ran with a banner of success and I think that because she could not claim this with me, it contributed to the relationship not lasting for very long.  I'm thinking back to Splotchy's thread about shame and to be honest, it is a strong factor for her just as it is for me.
Reply with quote  #14 
"I'm thinking back to Splotchy's thread about shame and to be honest, it is a strong factor for her just as it is for me."
By "her" I mean NM, not Splotchy!



Mary E.
Reply with quote  #15 
My mother didn't have to caregive, either, although she helped "when she could".  The major amount of caregiving was done by her sister who lived in the same two family home as my grandmother.  It was this sister who experienced for years, the stress of being on duty and being on call and in those days, every providing all the meals (before the days of Meals on Wheels). 

I know she used to try to tell my mother how it felt.  I remember one incident my mother told me about.  My aunt told her (in trying unsuccessfully to relay the feelings of guilt/resentment) that every time she'd leave in her car to go someplace she'd look up and see my grandmother leaning on the windowsill looking out, looking very lonely and abandoned.  My mother didn't comprehend my aunt's feelings..  In fact, I think she came to dislike my aunt and think she was whining all the time

So, when I began complaining and trying to make my mother see how hard being the only caregiver was - my mother projected her feelings about her sister onto me and could NOT see the impact taking care of her was having on me.

My mother always loved us all - almost too much so. She was an awesome mother and I've often felt guilty at having these resentful feelings for all of these years.  If someone had told me before my father died that our relationship would drive me so nuts that I'd have to find a support board and write hundreds of words about it just to vent - I would have thought it was ridiculous.

I think that my father grounded her.  It wasn't that she was an N and that he enabled her as others have experienced here.  My father just wouldn't put up with her over-the-top anxiety and control.  He was normal and worried about what was real so when she would begin her spiraling anxiety he would shut her down either by explanation or real anger and reprimand.  When he was sure there was nothing to worry about, she could calm down - or was afraid not to for fear he would begin "the punishment" which was silence.  He wouldn't talk to her for days if she'd crossed the line! (I guess his version of NC without actually leaving.

I usually didn't have the courage to behave the way my father did.  She was my mother and I was used to obeying her and I also felt sorry that she had lost my father to Dementia.  But one time after he died she crossed the line and I did finally stop talking to her.  She was already incontinent and I was doing pretty much everything for her - the housework, the errands, doctors, etc.  A distant cousin from Europe wrote and said that she'd be coming to visit for 10 days.  My mother had never met this person - she was a distant relative to whom my father used to write.  All my mother could envision was the glory of having a "foreign visitor" come.  She pictured the drama and excitement of telling her friends that she was "hosting" this couple.  I begged her to tell them it was impossible.  I knew that the workload would fall on ME.  But she refused to tell them "no" and gave them the go-ahead to purchase plane tickets. 

Well, I was furious and let her know it and then refused to pick up the phone when she tried to call back and have me forgive and forget. (This was the regular pattern - do something selfish and have me get angry - but wrench an apology out of me for being angry.) Anyway, I went a whole day or two without speaking to her (yes, her biggest punishment established by my father.)  When I finally spoke to her again I asked her who would be chauffeuring these people from the airport, who would change the sheets, clean the house, get groceries in, cook, serve, entertain?  MEEEEE  and this was why I was angry.  She couldnt' see it - she said that this was a relative of my Dad's and it was an honor to him to have them come.   The tickets were bought so I couldn't prevent them from coming.  I did have to go to the airport and pick them up but was unavailable A LOT for all the other entertainment.  They had to eat Meals on Wheels.  I was just floored by their attitude that it was Ok to visit an invalid and expect hospitality.  They were fairly laid back and actually helped my mother that week.  My mother was most likely very disappointed by my attitude.  I was definitely NOT the daughter she wanted me to be. 
Soon after they left my mother had her stroke and my brother moved in so the next time this lady said she was going to come back I wrote and told her THERE WAS NO ROOM IN THE INN - that my brother had taken over the only guest room.  She still writes and loves my mother.  In the back of my mind is the feeling that I am the mean one.. This is what control by mother's does to one - even though we know we are justified in our feelings, the little voices persist. 

Thanks for letting me vent..  A lot of the control and button pushing is gone.  When my mother was hospitalized in the Adult Behavioral Unit after her hallucinations and Dementia began, lots of tests showed that there is atrophy in her brain..  I think she's lost a lot of the ability to be clever and manipulate and know just how to push my buttons. 

I just wish we could have had a pleasant 20 years with my being able to come and go as I wished and not have to battle all the time.  If she only would or could have been happy.. Must have been her Anxiety Problem.

So, when she lost him, she lost her grounding force and all of her anxiety and wanting to control people so she wouldn't have to worry was full blown.  She would INSIST that I be with her as much as possible.  If I had to go out, she wanted to go (or in the days my father had Dementia, she wanted both to go with me).  And it was so hard to drag both of them around just to do errands.  If I refused, she sulked.  If I refused, then I had to tell her exactly when I'd be home.  Control control.

I don't know why I'm getting into all this - just venting all the things I should have gone to a therapist about..  I blame her Anxiety disorder which resulted in her wanting to control others..   

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