General Question

trailsillustrated's avatar

If you have a terrible childhood, when your parents are old and decrepit, should you help them?

Asked by trailsillustrated (16789points) March 5th, 2012

My father abandoned us as children. However, we have memories of his mother, old and needing help, and how angry and abusive he was to her. When she came over and we were small children we still remember his yelling at her, his anger about having to drive her around for shopping, about having to help her at all. He is old now and my sister and I visit him, have taken care of his estate, and bring him goodies all the time. My sister’s husband, who treated his own mother in this way before her death, thinks we should do nothing and let him die alone with no one. I think that’s wrong. What do you think?

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20 Answers

Aethelflaed's avatar

I think if you want to take care of your father in his old age, and that feels right to you, then you should do that. But, I don’t think you should expect (actually or morally) your sister to help out in that, and what your BIL does is between your sister and her husband.

gailcalled's avatar

Only you can answer this question. It appears as though you are comfortable with the care and affection you are giving your father. Anyone else’s opinion is irrelevant.

trailsillustrated's avatar

@Aethelflaed she really disagreed with her husband’s treatment of his mother and my dad
s treatment of our grandmother. She feels as I do.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@trailsillustrated So, then tell him, he dealt with his mother as he saw fit, you deal with your parents as you see fit. He really doesn’t get a say on this, now does he?

CaptainHarley's avatar

It is to your credit that, if you know the right thing to do, you go and do it.

wundayatta's avatar

I’ve recently figured out the impact of my father’s behavior on me and how it made me feel pretty worthless for many years. The real impact came when I got mentally ill. It wasn’t a problem before, though.

Well, I worked through the illness and the psychological issues and came to a better place and had to decide what to do with my bitterness towards my father. It came to a head recently when my mother asked me to organize a big party for his 80th birthday.

I decided to do it, and I decided to try to do a good job. I wanted my kids to have as good an experience of my father as they could. And while I didn’t think of this at the time, this question makes me think it is a good idea to model a willingness to help your parents. One day, it will be their turn to choose to help out or not. There’s no guaranteeing what they will choose, but they will probably remember how I treated my Dad.

He’s a person, and he did the best he knew how, I believe. I don’t think he would have deliberately put this burden on me if he knew how not to. He still suffers from the same ideology that led him to treat me the way he did. It isolates him, but that’s what he believes in.

But that doesn’t matter. What matters to me is being the good son for the father I may not have had. I am being a good son for me, not for him. Maybe he deserves it and maybe he doesn’t. In my mind, deserving has nothing to do with it. What is important is how I feel about what I do, and that’s what I want to do. I want to give him a good experience if I can. Just because.

That doesn’t mean other people should do the same thing. All circumstances are unique. You do what you feel you want to do, not what you think you should do. That’s my advice. If it feels right to you, then do it, regardless of how he responds. He may love it or hate it. It doesn’t matter that much. You do what you are willing to do; no more and no less.

Nullo's avatar

It would be nice of you.

stratman37's avatar

I did she is and I do

FutureMemory's avatar

I think you should do what feels right to you.

King_Pariah's avatar

^ Bingo.

This is really a matter of opinion, some people are going to say you should, others will say you shouldn’t. But it really just boils down to what @FutureMemory said, does it feel right to you?

Me? I intend to get as far away as possible from my parents and never look back. Would I advise that to you? Not really, there are so many factors to take into consideration that any suggestion I make saying yay or nay would really not matter. (For example, I could say you shouldn’t, but maybe your dad turned into a better guy or you are more forgiving, which would then probably make my answer/suggestion the “wrong” answer/suggestion).

jazmina88's avatar

do unto others, as you wish them to do unto you

Jeruba's avatar

I think your treatment of your parents is an important message to your children.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
choreplay's avatar

Do you want to be your father, or do you want to be yourself. Do what you think is right not for him but for yourself. You decide what is right for you. You might want to read the book called “The Dance of Anger” It addresses situations regarding care giving to older parents.

SuperMouse's avatar

In the end I would have no choice but to step up and help my parent. I would just feel as though it is the right thing to do and would have to do it. In the end the old man did the best he could with the tools he had, hopefully I learned something from him and either way he will always be my father. I do think that I would either do it outwardly cheerful or not do it a all. The idea of doing it and bitching about it the whole time just doesn’t sit right with me.

SpatzieLover's avatar

In the end, I did what I felt was best for myself and my family. To me, death is an important journey. I was there for a person I at one time felt was a monster. In the end, he needed me. We were able to express ourselves freely. In the end, there was love.

Edit:
My sister’s husband, who treated his own mother in this way before her death, thinks we should do nothing and let him die alone with no one. I think that’s wrong.

Do not let your BIL’s feelings muddle your own. It is clear from the last few questions you’ve asked that this is weighing heavily on you. One you’ve made your decision, let your BIL know that you are choosing what path to take because it feels right to you.

lonelydragon's avatar

Agree with @Aethelflaed. If you are able to care for him with genuine goodwill, and you want to continue, then do so. But that’s an individual decision, and not everyone is able to care for an abusive elderly parent.

Jeruba's avatar

My husband was in this situation. His father was, at heart, a mean old SOB, although he had his moments. He was never affectionate or even very tolerant toward my husband, the smart one; he always openly favored the other, the jock. My husband had to overcome a world of painful memories from early childhood onward to become a father himself, and a much better one.

Dad’s last three years with Alzheimer’s and cancer truly brought out his worst, a rabid disposition and a foul mouth, and he heaped it on his sons, who devoted nearly all their time outside of work to him, especially in the last year. Correction: he heaped abuse on one son, my husband. Somehow through the dense fog he still remembered to perpetuate his entrenched favoritism (which extended to wives and grandchildren). Yet my h. still spent several nights a week with him and every other weekend, cared for him, bathed him, shopped for him, cooked for him, kept him company, and listened to a constant stream of angry invective and nasty, shouting accusation.

He now has nothing to regret. He did it for himself as much as for his father, for his own peace of mind, and he also knew he was making a powerful statement to his own sons.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)

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