Monday, September 24, 2001

Family Reflections: The Agony and the Agony

I never planned on being a parent. Actually, I never thought about it at all, ever. Well that is not exactly the truth. Once I was coming out of anesthesia from an eye surgery and I thought about it then, but that doesn’t count. I was delirious at the time. Growing up with The Donna Reed Show and Leave It to Beaver, it never felt comfortable to me to come home from work and put on a smoking jacket and find my wife in pearls and an apron. Father Knows Best scared me. How could any father know all of the answers to life questions? I certainly did not anticipate having all of the answers when I had so many unanswered questions myself. Who would want that responsibility? Then to add to the confusion, I was growing up, like many of us, in a family that was as similar to these television families as chocolate is to vanilla. No, that was not what I wanted at all.
Life is so unpredictable regardless of how much you plan and think you have your course set. I now find myself parenting, albeit for a short term, a sampler, an appetizer of a piece of life that I never thought I would sample. To add to this hall of mirrors of my life, I am part of the sandwich generation. Sandwiched between two children ages 5 and 6 years old who are not even remotely related to my bloodline and my true flesh and blood, my 73-year-old father. How selfish I feel complaining about my fate when I see all of the families who wish they still had their family member to yell at them, to be angry with them. They did not anticipate their twist of fate that was dealt to them either. In my defense, I am facing the challenge with gritted teeth and sometimes a chuckle, but I am sticking it out a week longer than I had to and hope to make a miniscule impact.
When Ron and I arrived here at my father’s on September 6, 2001, the first thing we need the following morning was buy a 40 count box of garbage pail size trash bags. We filled four of them with old mail the first day. My father is competing for the Guinness Book of World Records for being on more charity and Please send us a donation lists. There were piles of stickers that start “Proud Sponsor of …” Others were still waiting for responses, but they dated back to last Easter by last count. We had to tranquilize my Dad while we tossed them, but he was accepting once the medication started working. Then it came time to start the separation process with the trinkets that have sat around collecting dust for years, complements of my mother. As I emptied shelves to dust, I asked him “What are you married to here, because the rest is going to charity.” I was able to fill two boxes and three more trash bags. When Ron and I drove them down to St. James Thrift Store, they were closed, hours 10:00 am to 1:00 pm only. Fearing that my father would regain his attachment disorder, we left them on the steps, despite the sign asking that donations not be left there. I thought that the worst that could happen is some needy folk could wander by and have an early Christmas by taking the discarded treasures.
With my father looking so haggard, it seemed like a necessary evil to start taking more responsibility with the children of his boarder. I am learning by the seat of my pants trying to balance verbal affection, not risking physical affection misinterpretations with solid directions.
No, you cannot have a snack a half hour before dinner is ready. (Yes, this had forced me to fix dinners too).
It is dinner time. You will turn off the Sega and come to the dinner table after you wash your hands.
Stay out of the street on that bicycle or you will not get to ride it for the rest of the afternoon.
Is that your jacket on the floor? Where does it belong? No, not on the floor hiding behind the sofa.
No, you cannot chase the squirrels around the yard.
You have 15 minutes before you have to go to bed and no, you may not watch television in the room until your mother gets home at 10:00 pm.
Did you do your homework?
Why aren’t you reading a book? It doesn’t matter that you can’t read there are pictures. I will read to you, but no, I am not going to jump up and down and act like I am fighting dragons like Super Mario does in the video game.
Yes, I include all of the rational reasons why this, that, and the other thing for each negatively interpreted statement that comes out of my mouth scaled down to their level of understanding. My years of elementary school teaching are coming in handy, however, I never had to cook and clean up for my students like I have to do for these kids. I am trying to make them responsible for their actions. I am trying to save my father from being worn down and out.
Being the professional Social Worker and therapist, I have spoken to Michelle in every way possible to make her understand the gravity of the situation. This is yet another situation where I experience flashes from Dr. Seuss’ book Horton Hatches an Egg or some similar title. The book for those uninitiated is about an elephant that happens to be meandering down a lane when he comes across a mother bird that is dreadfully tired of sitting on her egg waiting for it to hatch. Horton, kindly, but hesitantly agrees to take a shift warming the egg to a proper temperature so that the mother bird can get some respite. Once the mother bird tastes the sweetness of freedom, she goes crazy with excitement and states that she may never return. Horton is the ever faithful caregiver and stays on the egg through the rain and snow and until the egg finally hatches. It is at this time that the mother bird decides to return, but only to find that her offspring resembles Horton much more then it does her. Michelle has found her Horton and now there are three. She swears that she found housing that is available on November 15th I am not waiting around to find out if this is the truth. I did persuade her to go to the county services and sign up for childcare. The packet came today, praise heaven! The sad part is that both Ron and I are enjoying the children, however, they are so bright, it saddens us that they do not have stable environments and direction to fulfill and challenge their mental capabilities. and she will be moving then.
Last night, Nadine called yet again. She is the genderless person with the shaved head and numerous facial piercings that has enough strength in one arm to beat me at arm wrestling while I use two hands and my face. She spoke to my father and the conversation was short, but I heard him tell her what time we were leaving for the evening with friends. I knew she was coming for yet more money that would never be repaid. It was not wise to confront him and tell him not to do it. We all know how rebellious youth and seniors can be when told not to do something. So, I lied instead. I said, “Dad, we are running late for dinner with Daphnee and Ellie and I forgot to go to the bank (no lie yet). Do you have any money I can borrow until tomorrow (The lie is here as I intended to use plastic anyway)?” He handed me $15.00 at which I balked and in disbelief asked if that is all he had. He assured me it was. I continued to lay it on thick by saying that would hardly be enough to do me any good, but he did not come forth with any more money. My strategy was to fleece him of all cash, so that when Nadine came over later that evening, he would be able to honestly say he was cashed out and had nothing to lend. More on this later .I called my sister-in-law and asked her to call St. Michael’s Church where St. Vincent de Paul is located. I wanted her to make an appointment with the priest that oversees the charity so that I could discuss my concerns regarding my Dad. When I called, all I was able to connect with was the infamous voice mail and could not leave a message with my father’s phone number.
This morning, Ron and I were sitting out on the balcony drinking coffee. It was early. I could tell my father was not in a good mood and limited my conversation until he had time to come to grips with another day of not yet paradise. My Dad came out to the balcony and bends down along side of me and asks in a pleading tone, “Where did you put my waffle iron?” My reaction was to ask where he kept it and the response was on the kitchen counter. I reminded him in my most patient parental tone that I had asked him to put it away the morning I scrubbed the kitchen and where did he put it? He could not remember and we both proceeded to conduct an intensive search of all of the kitchen cupboards, the walk-in pantry, the dining room closet, the dining room hutch, the back porch, the front porch, and even under the dining room table. No waffle iron. For a few heart stopping minutes, I had to review what I had taken to St. James Charity. No, I could not honestly say I saw a waffle iron in my clutches when I was grabbing things with glee to clean off shelves, cupboards and closets. But then again, I could not be sure this was not the case either. Poor Dad looked totally defeated at that point. I felt like a parent that just practiced a “tough love” lesson with their child…”If you put things where they belonged, you would know where they are when you want them again.” God, I hate parenting and no waffles for this morning’s breakfast. This did not add to his festive mood.
Michelle told me that Nadine did show up after we left and was able to extract $35.00 from my father that he conveniently did not have to lend to me. My intuition was correct. Ron and I took off for the day running errands and trying to relax with diversions. While we were out, we bought a waffle iron, waffle mix, and syrup. My father brightened at the sight of the gifts and his mood was upbeat for the rest of the day.
Later in the afternoon, he was working on a new case from St. Vincent de Paul. He was on the phone talking and I did not think a thing of it until he handed me the phone and said someone wants to talk with you. The woman on the other end was a classmate of mine from 9thth grades. She and I had Latin, French and Algebra together and she lived around the corner. She had chased me for the two years, until I had change schools. I am the only one I know to this day that received love notes in Latin. It was embarrassing having to have our Latin teacher interpret them for me. I only was in the class due to a brief desire to become a priest, but when that wore off I lost interest in the class. Mary took it seriously and even made me hand sown handkerchiefs with Latin sayings embroidered on them. She’s BAAAACCCCCKKKK!! and 10
This evening, my sister-in-law called. She secured an appointment with the head of St. Vincent de Paul for me for tomorrow evening, Thursday the 20th. Colleen, my sister-in-law said the woman was anxious to see me again. When I questioned why this woman would be interested in seeing me at all let alone again, it turned out that the head of the charity is Mary. Thirty-two years later, I will get to see the woman who chased me like a hunting dog chases a frightened fox at an English hunt. My brother is going with me.
I was apprehensive about the meeting. It was my intent to walk in and make it clear that I was a professional Social Worker and they as an agency were not monitoring or protecting their volunteers sufficiently, then ask what they were going to do about it. However, Mary has known my parents for as many years as I have known her and it was uncomfortable for me to share such personal information with someone we knew. It would have been much easier spilling the story with a complete stranger such as a priest. As soon as Mary and I exchanged the usual pleasantries, she stated how glad she was to have us initiate the meeting. She said that she had come close to calling my brother a number of times to discuss her concerns with my father’s behavior, but had some trepidation about crossing the line. It took great strength to maintain the professional Social Worker stance as I now felt like a parent called into a parent-teacher conference.
Mary told us that Michelle has a long history of using anyone she possibly can and has abused every social system set up to help that exists. She explained that if Michelle had gone directly to a sheltering motel when she left her apartment, the housing authority would sanction Section 8 for low income housing almost immediately. Now that she is being sheltered, it is more difficult. Mary explained that they have discussed with my father how he has abused the rules of the agency, tried to reeducate him, and finally had to sanction him, by not referring any more clients to him. It is against the rules for a volunteer to give our their home phone number let alone their address. They are trained to press star 67 on their phones, which will block their numbers from caller ID. If they need to give out a phone number they are to us the number at St. Vincent’s office. We were assured that Mary knew about my father’s private donations to clients and had been lectured about it repeatedly. They even offered to have him make the donation through the agency so that he could get a tax deduction receipt.
Mary kept repeating that we needed to get Michelle out of the house and soon. I asked for suggestions, since I am caught between my father’s wishes and his welfare. To add to the confusion of the situation, I am only here until next Wednesday, which means my brother will have to be a much stronger force than he has been. It seems that even if my father wants to be a willing victim, the Adult Services agency will take some actions regarding financial abuse. Mary stated that the police would also come to tell Michelle she needs to leave. There seemed to be a silver lining to this dark cloud. St. Vincent’s will also pay for some therapy through the Catholic Charities for what is assumed to be unresolved grief from my mother’s passing away.
We left with the plan that my brother and I will confront my Dad tonight, Friday about our meeting last night. Tomorrow, we all have a family meeting with Mary to rehash this one more time to have him confronted with Michelle’s history with us as witnesses, then to devise a plan that either he can live with and contract to or one that we need to take further action.
It is amusing or if I let it be sad to say that I was gone for over an hour and he never realized that I was missing. The whole time I had mental gymnastics over what I was going to say about my whereabouts. Ron stayed home to fix dinner after we had gone grocery shopping earlier in the day. My father was perusing his coin collection when I returned and he never said a word and neither did I. Tonight my brother and I join forces over this situation for the first time. Since I am the elder by seven years and the more assertive by several lifetimes, I am the leader of this pack. For all of the times that I have had this role professionally, it is only a distant memory when having to perform the same tasks for my own.
4:30 am everyone is sound asleep. The phone rings and it is our room. It quickly incorporates into my dream and becomes easily ignored. Ron was not so lucky and answered it. That woke me enough to know that it was Nadine on the line. Hearing Ron’s responses I could guess what was being said on the other side of the conversation.
Ron: It is 4:30 in the morning. He is sleeping. Who is this?
Ron: What is it you need?
Ron: No, I do not think I will wake him up. What is it you need?
Ron: What kind of emergency is it?
Ron: Don’t you have family or friends you can call to help you out?
Ron: If this is an emergency why do I hear other people in the background laughing?
Ron: I don’t think you are his friend. Friends do thing both ways and he seems to give and you have not given anything back.
Ron: No, I am not waking him. Good-night! And the phone is hung up.
My hazy thoughts were waiting for the phone to ring again, but it did not happen. It is going to be a long day.
Family Reflections
Senagers – (seen-a-gers) The a is a long a like the word able. Definition: Any human being over the age of 60 years old, such as a senior, who void of mental illness, regresses to the rebellious stages of a chronological teenager. Example: The senager became defensive when questioned about his helping others who have the potential to abuse him.
Quoted from the Ryan James’ Book of Creative, but Unorthodox Words Needed to Deal With Life’s Unexpected Situations, 1st ed.
Friday afternoon was one of those days where the moisture hung in the air, but was too stubborn and sadistic to rain and provide relief. The air was warm and breezy, even if the sun was too shy to show it’s face. It was the type of day that zapped your energy just because. There was no reason needed, it just did. It was the type of day that the last thing in the world you wanted to do was confront your father about his activities. Life is not always a multiple-choice quiz, sometimes there are essays to be written or spoken whether you want to or not. This was one of those days that demanded an oration. I just needed to wait for my back-up buddy, my brother. He was planning on leaving work early, but I was secretly hoping he would not be able to make it. This is one of the few times, where I could justify and rationalize procrastination.
I need to pause here to make a confession. At some point in the morning, the phone rang. I ran for the upstairs phone thinking it may be Nadine yet again. It was serendipity that I picked up the receiver at the exact same time that my father picked up the downstairs phone. Neither the caller nor the called knew I was sharing the line with them. It was Fran, my Dad’s first private welfare recipient turned “girlfriend”. She asked him if Nadine had called and he said that she hadn’t only because we had not had the chance to tell him of the early morning wake up call. She went on to tell Dad that Nadine stole her car (the Buick that he gave her) and that she, Fran had called the police to report it stolen. Fran claimed the value of the car as $3,000 to make this a felony. There was a warrant out for Nadine’s arrest. Fran said that when she went to take her son Chris to school that morning, her car keys, the car, and Nadine were all suspiciously missing. The story went that Nadine had taken the 14-year-old neighbor boy along with her and was out drinking all night long. Nadine had not returned home yet. The worst part about eavesdropping is that there are so many questions that are left unasked. If Nadine had not come home yet, how did she know she was out all night, had the kid next door with her, and was out drinking? None of these questions did my father think to ask. I was left with missing pieces to this puzzle, but was still somewhat relived to think this may mean the end of Nadine in my fathers’ life. Fran continued with the admonition not to lend Nadine any more money. She asked if he had and he confessed to twice in the last week. Fran said that Nadine has been using drugs for the last few weeks. All of the time she was speaking, my father reactions were repetitions of the monosyllabic “Oh” in various intonations. Then he uttered, “But she went through rehabilitation once. I thought she was done with all of that stuff.” Fran assured him that once is not enough and had high hopes that Nadine would find herself in jail to help in her rehab process once again.
At first, I thought there may be some hope for Fran. She has not come around since we have been here, so I have never met her. Then she questioned whether or not “his son was around” and my suspicions were renewed. When he replied that I was upstairs, she continued with her saga of her telephone being on the verge of being disconnected. She said she worked out a payment schedule with the phone company and had to pay $120.00 by October 2nd. She did not come out and ask for the money, but she did stroke his ego by saying how he has provided for everything that Nadine needed and she treats him like this. The next chorus was “I never ask you for anything.” Hint, hint, I won’t ask you for the money for the phone, but if you should offer. My father’s response was to ask for a payment coupon that she was supposed to provide to him so that he could pay a bill. She claimed she had not found it yet, so he huffily reminded her that he needed it to make the payment. The unanswered question is is Fran the one who defaulted on the loan he co-signed for?
This was one of the few times my brother has ever been on time. He left work early and was sitting in the living room when I came down the stairs. I was curious as to what reason he gave our father for this unexpected visit, but did not have the opportunity to ask. Ron was prepared to fix dinner and to keep the children inside playing with their animated games while we had our conversation outside. Michelle was not home yet, though she went into work at 10:00 am. Kevin, Dad and I went out on the back porch and sat around the table. Dad still did not have a reaction to this masculine gathering.
I began the conversation (notice I did not use lecture) with the statement that Kevin and I felt like we were called to the Principal’s office for a Parent-Teacher Conference, because our kid has been bad. Dad sitting comfortably in a wide wooden chair, planted himself even more firmly in his seat, flung one arm over the back of the chair back and said, “Oh, yea!” I could tell from his posture that this was going to be a long discussion and despite the thousands of times that I have been in this situation, professionally, this was not going to be a professional experience. He had a smirk on his face that reminded me of a high ranking political figure and I had the same compulsion to smack it off of his face.
We told him St. Vincent de Paul was concerned since he was not blocking his phone number when making calls to their clients, was using their phone number for return calls and was giving out his home address. He refuted everything. We said they are aware of his giving private loans to people that they have refused. He could not deny this, but he defended his actions by saying he interviewed these people to make sure they had jobs and could pay him back. He set up payment plans with them and had them sign contracts for repayment. These were no interest loans. He claimed he only gave money to those who were good for it. I then offered the information that Michelle had told me. “I understand from Michelle that you co-signed for a loan with one of your ‘clients’ and she stiffed the company, so that now you are responsible for it.” His response was that Michelle had a big mouth.
He gave scenario after scenario and I tried to explain that if someone is short on their electric bill for the last month of summer due to a 10 month work contract, they need to learn to better budget their money over the time they worked. This is especially true if this is the fourth year it has happened. He was getting upset, defensive, and close to hostile in his defense of the “good work” he is doing. My brother was a passive observer during this debate. I used every professional Social Work example I had ever experienced to define the problem for him personally as well as St. Vincent as an agency. Most of the responses were “Yea!”. At some point, he said that I did not know what I was talking about and that he had an appointment at 6:30 that evening when one of his clients was going to pay him in full for his generous loan. Ten minutes later Ron came out apologizing for the interruption and said there was a woman on the phone that could not be persuaded to leave a message or call back. Dad went to get the phone and Kevin said to me, “Colleen said you wanted me to follow your lead, so I am being quiet.” I reacted with “I wanted you to follow my lead, but feel free to jump in any time.” When Dad returned, it turned out that was his evening appointment and the woman has some other hard luck story that prevented her from paying her debt for yet another week. He believed her in total without question.
The things that Kevin and I were incredulous about were the stories that people told him that he believes without asking further questions or verifying the facts.
My boss deducted $180.00 from my pay for some unknown reason.
Someone stole my rent money order from the apartment mailbox and I can’t find the
I need $35.00 to pay for a court fine and my paycheck was not ready yet.
The list of excuses are transparent enough to make a savvy 13 year old wonder, hesitate and deny similar requests, yet he finds them fully plausible.
My last bit of ammunition was to present my reasons in part, as to why my mother and I did not speak for the last four years of her life, thinking that family bonds could usurp strangers needs. I started to explain that my mother as he well knew was also an unofficial social worker needing to do good deeds for strangers. She did this to the point of putting her immediate family obligations on hold in order to make a stranger’s life more pleasant. Having had to deal with this most of my life, I had been to the point of no return when she did it the last time we were visiting at Christmas in 1994. I did not make it home for Christmas very often since moving to California, much to my mother’s chagrin. What was planned by all to be a family gathering of peace and joy to celebrate the season and the fact that Ron and I could be there to join in, turned into a shambles of a holiday due to my mother’s need to save face and do for others. She totally sabotaged all of the plans all of us made so that she could accommodate others and put the rest of us through the misery while she did it. That was the last time I had allowed her to disrupt my life, but let me include here for the reader that there were more issues between us then this, before moving forward.
With this expressed, I looked at him in the eye and said “Am I going to having some semblance of a family or not? Let me know now and I can move on with the rest of my life. I asked what really happened last year when you came out to my graduation? I felt like we had a wonderful two weeks together, we were able to bond again and we started to develop a closeness that we never had in the past. We e-mailed each other at least twice a week and had a sincere interest in each other’s life, but then it all stopped on your end. When I called, you told me you were too tire from St. Vincent work to check the computer. It was only until later that I found out it was Fran, then Michelle that were taking all of your time and not St. Vincent work. If you want to put strangers ahead of your children and let them wear you out physically, mentally, and emotionally, let me know now. You cannot even be available for Ron and I to take you out to dinner or a movie. Tears started to well and dribble down my cheeks. You have to run home to baby-sit for Michelle or fix the kid’s dinner. Who is more important, Michelle or I? You have not done anything with Kevin and the Boy Scouts for months. You were so active with your grandsons and their involvement in the Scouts and then one of these women shows up and you drop you grandsons instantly. Don’t you think they notice and wonder what is happening? We have been here over two weeks and you have not had one evening to spend with us alone, because some stranger’s children burden you. You are 73 years old and do not have the patience or stamina to maintain this type of schedule for very long.”
His retort was that when Alexis starts school, he will have the morning free to do what he wants. My response was that this was not his family; he should have all the time in the world to do what he wants since he is retired. It is not his responsibility to take care of other’s children, especially when she qualifies for childcare through the county. We had talked ourselves out for over two hours and he agreed to the meeting with Mary at St. Vincent de Paul the following noon to discuss her concerns.
Kevin had a scout meeting and Ron had made dinner, so we went in to eat. Michelle had come home in the meantime and immediately went to the back porch once we had gone to the dinner table. My father was busy getting the kid’s plates prepared for them, when I said “They have a mother and she is here, let her do that.” He snapped back, “Well then you tell her.” I went out and told Michelle to come take care of her children. She came in briefly, arranged their plates and disappeared once more.
Saturday morning, calm airs were circulating and it seemed like there was hope in the future. Our meeting was at noon and Dad rode with Ron and I. The meeting was at the St. Vincent de Paul office and Mary started it immediately once Kevin and Colleen arrived. She confronted my father with the fact that they knew he was making private loans or donations. He gave her the same stories that he gave Kevin and I the night before. He defended his actions with all his might, but Mary was rigid with the rules of the agency and with the common sense that they may have more background information on these people that he may not have been privy to. She gave examples of the numerous times some of the clients have received aid. She explained the reasoning for why some are now refused. She listed a long list of Michelle’s offenses and stated that they had given her $200.00 for a security deposit and then the next day Mary saw her in the pet store with two purebred dogs and Michelle spent $200.00 on fancy dog supplies. She told him the list of people that Michelle had used prior to him and that if Michelle had gone into a motel when leaving her last apartment, she could have qualified for the Section 8 low income housing. She reminded him that Michelle did not do a thing for her children when she was around and she had a reputation of going out drinking with girlfriends. She included that Michelle did not do a thing to assist in the cleaning of his house and left it all to him. She had personal knowledge of this having been to his home.
Mary tried to explain the nature of co-dependent behavior and his trying to fill other needs with these actions. She suggested he get involved with their Stephen Ministry, where a trained paraprofessional would be a sounding board for him. I requested that this match be made prior to my leaving, so that I could be assured that it happened. He had agreed to it. Mary also insisted that Michelle had to leave and October 1st was not unreasonable. She told him that many did not like the motel that was used for the homeless, but due to this fact, they were able to organize their finances even faster and find apartments. She said that Michelle was a user and when she bled him dry, she would be off to someone else. Mary included that she does nothing for her children and probably should not have them, but at this point since my father is doing the caring, there is nothing to be done about it. I asked him in front of everyone, if he would agree to tell Michelle to leave by the first of October and if he wanted Kevin and I to assist him with this task. He said “Yes!”.
Once again, I shared the fact that it upset me and concerned me that the father I once had respect for who had incredible intellectual interests has turned into a domestic with no personal interests. I reminded him of how he used to love to read Dickens, Shakespeare, listen to classical music, and had visions of travel and use to speak about taking classes at night school for personal interest. Now, he doesn’t have the time or motivation for any of it. Then I asked him if he commit to take two weeks and visit us wherever we are in Europe? He said he would like that and again my eyes puddle up and betrayed my emotions. I asked him in front of witnesses where he would like to go and we would be there for him. He said he always wanted to go to Ireland. Ron and I agreed that although we had not had plans for Ireland, we would rearrange our travel to include it. Mary’s final words were that he was on restriction. He would not have ‘clients’ of his own, but could go out as a partner with another worker, he could dole out food on the appropriate Sunday, but other than that, he was restricted. He agreed.
We left the meeting in a sense of peace and accomplishment. Ron and I offered to go grocery shopping and get the food for dinner if Kevin would cook and we could have a family dinner together. Later at my Dad’s house, he told him how much trouble he had with women and that he had such bad luck with them. I did not tell him that I have heard from multiple sources that had asked three different ones to marry him. Later, we went for dinner and it was like being part of a family.
On the way home from Kevin’s house, I told my father that I had wanted to go to the Quaker service on Sunday morning. Ron had agreed to go and asked if he would like to attend also. He said he would. The service was scheduled for 10:30. We did not get home until 2:00 am.
Sunday morning, I overslept and jumped in the shower. Michelle and the kids were still in their room, which I found unusual. The kids are usually downstairs watching television by 7:30. By the time I was ready to go, I had to rush Ron to shower and my father was still sleeping soundly. Rather than wake him, I left him a note explaining I did not want to wake him to rush to get ready and we would see him after the service.
When we returned home, the house was empty and the car was gone. Michelle had talked about taking the kids to the Philadelphia zoo, which would mean using my father’s car for the day. I made pancakes for Ron and I not knowing when my father would return, but he did after we had finished eating, the dishes washed and put away. He had walked to church, which is a considerable distance from his house. He fixed his breakfast refusing my offer to cook something for him. He was quiet and Ron and I both knew something was wrong, but decided it best not to question it.
An hour later, the phone rang. It was Fran inviting my father for lunch. It was three o’clock, but he decided to go anyway. As I was at the sink doing his dishes, I asked him if he spoke to Michelle about her hours for Monday or Tuesday, so that he, Kevin and I could speak with her. It was not until then that I found his source of discontent.
His response was “I don’t know what her hours are yet, but Michelle has decided that she doesn’t want anymore meetings.”
I could not contain my anger and frustration with these bizarre events. I shot back with “I don’t care what Michelle wants. It is what we want. She has no business making any decisions in this matter. I will tell her if you don’t want to.”
With more hostility than I have ever seen my father muster, he shouted back, “She reminded me of our agreement that she could stay here for two months or until she has the money to get back on her feet and I am abiding by that agreement.”
With more anger, less professionalism and years of hurt I yelled in response, “You heard what Mary had said about Michelle yesterday. How naïve can you be? If you are going to meet us in Ireland, there is no way she can be living here alone.”
He snapped “She is staying here according to our agreement and that is all there is to it.”
The fearful child in me retorted with “ I will make sure that Kevin calls Child Protective Services twice a week and if he doesn’t, I know Daphnee will. She is an unfit parent and someone needs to protect those children.”
At this point, he walked out, put his bicycle helmet on and rode his bike to Fran’s house. I called Ron in from outside, told him what had happened and told him to start packing. I was not going to allow myself to witness my father’s destruction by some stranger who has more control over him then the bonds of his children. I e-mailed Mary at St. Vincent and gave her an update of the morning’s events. I asked for her to check into the possibility of getting Adult Protective Services involved for financial abuse and to further restrict his involvement in St. Vincent’s until he could show more sound judgment. I called my brother at work and told him what happened. He was as incredulous as I, but invited us to stay with him. We packed up our things and left while he was lunching with his other girlfriend.
Before going to Kevin’s, we stopped at my friend Daphnee’s home. She is a Social Worker also and once worked for the State of New Jersey. She agrees with me that due to my father’s ability to function independently, even with his poor judgment and lack of common sense, there is no recourse for a financial conservator or guardianship. There is a lawyer on the Board of Directors at St. Vincent de Paul, so I will e-mail Mary and ask for her to check on it also.
I have cleansed myself of my father. He is now my brother’s responsibility if he chooses the task. If he doesn’t, my father is on his own to learn the lessons we tried to bring to light, but which he refuses to learn. I have said many times, that family does not always have to be related by blood. I was blessed to experience family when I lived with strangers in Michigan Now I have Ron’s family to be a part of. Family is sometimes where you find it and adopt those who are welcoming and nurturing of you. and those memories have sustained me for years.
For all of you who have my father’s address as a way of contacting us via postal mail, we have now changed all of that to Daphnee’s address:
Wednesday cannot come soon enough and then we will be flying from Newark to Charlotte to London. Flight information to follow.
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