The Other Side of the Story

Both of my parents are gone now but they left a trail of destruction in their wake. The siblings are finally starting to speak to one another and here is my story as the "bad" sibling.

My father had cancer of the brain and did not think rationally for around 4-5 years. My mother had severe arthritis but could not get surgery due to a bad heart. So she became addicted to prescription pain pills and was almost never lucid.

Enter the siblings. My parents had enough money to stay at home and hire 24/7 care and they did. But not at first. At first a typical request from them of the siblings that lived close was to ask them to drive 1 hour round trip to buy them a toothbrush at the drugstore even though the drugstore delivered. Or to stop by and bring in their garbage cans when one sibling was on her way home from radiation for breast cancer when the neighbor boy said he would do it.

It was "in my father's words" to prove your loyalty and love by doing anything and everything that they requested. And my sisters were at the house several times a week, these requests could have waited. And my siblings complied.

So enter myself. I lived 1300 miles away from them but did visit them 3-4 times a year and called almost every day. I sent care packages, gift cards to the siblings that lived local, and did the best I could. Here is where I became the "bad" sibling". I got sick. Had to have surgery that forever means I can't lift more than 20 pounds at a time. So my Dad called me and asked me to drive to see them for a visit. I said I would (mind you it is 3 days in the car post surgery). But I told him I couldn't lift Mom out of bed or do stairs. But, I could do laundry, shop for them (small things not heavy
things), etc.

So, I show up and he had let the aide have some time off and as soon as I walked in the door he ordered me upstairs to help Mom out of bed. (Prove my love by physically harming myself). I did it because I had no choice but paid the price(won't go into details).

Then he tells me his blood sugar level is 400 but he wants to drive to the deli. I mention that I could drive because he could pass out. He screams that no woman was going to tell him what to do and storms out. But somehow one of my brothers talked him out of going out.

There are many examples of this but after a few of these types of visits I had enough. I told my siblings that if I continued to do everything Dad wanted I would be permanently disabled and cut way down on my visits. If Dad would let me help him in ways that I could I would increase my visits.

I suggested they talk to him about some of the requests he was making. They didn't. And Dad wrote my off as an unloving uncaring daughter that will live with guilt for the rest of her life.So now that they are gone one sister can barely walk due to hip damage, one sister is on anti-depressants probably for life and another sister's immune system was so stressed she got cancer. It could have been avoided...all of it if we were a united front in managing Mom and Dad's care.

Now I am doing somewhat better physically but my sisters are permanently damaged. I feel guilty but also sad.

They no longer think of me as the "bad" sibling, they wish they had broken away from Dad's control before it was too late for them. My parents had enough children around and enough money that they could have handled this a lot better but they didn't and now we all have to live with the aftermath.

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Thank you

Thank you so much to both of you for your kind comments. The support really helps.

Emotional Wreck
by: One who can relate

It's okay to remove yourself from the situation- it can become "toxic" and you have to take care of yourself.

I'm having to go to a therapist because none of my 5 siblings who do not live here with my parents want to hear that "I" need help too. My mother tries to do it all, with little outside help and wouldn't dare "impose" on my older siblings, because they have "lives."

Your family is not going to help, you have to do it yourself. I know its hard, but you've got to release that guilt, and the only way to do it is to get someone who has been through it, or professional help.

Family Dynamics
by: Anonymous

Family dynamics seem to get in our way to think sensibly about things. It took me having a nervous breakdown to realize I need to take care of myself also.

I was having other problems at the time, but my mother was also wanting me to do exactly what she said etc. Well, after the breakdown, I knew I needed to back down on some of the things I was doing for my mom, as I felt she was manipulating me into being what she wanted me to be for her.

She didn't like it one bit when I would tell her I can't do this or that, but I could get her the help she needed. No she could handle it. But would complain and put me down if I wasn't doing enough for her. She thinks I'm not taking responsibility for her if I arrange care for her.

I haven't backed down from taking care of myself and telling her as nicely as possible when she irritates me. I've let her take advantage of me so long and I can't let another person send me spiraling downward again. I have gotten my siblings involved and we are having a meeting together soon to see if they can take her on for a while and give me a rest.

It's Okay to Let go of the Guilt
by: granddaughter

Hi there,

When I read the title of the post "The other side of the story" I had thought that your message was going to be full of excuses about why you didn't help your elderly parents.

I guess I can see why you think it is. You did finally give up, and you did have to feel the slings of an angry parent - the result for many of us when we make our parents angry is to feel guilt. So, I understand why you think you have to tell 'the other side.' I see it differently, though.

I see in your story the tale of a person who did the best she could - and really who did quite a lot! Don't let anyone tell you that you didn't give it your all, because from what I am reading, you did.

You supported the people who were supporting your parents, and you called and visited as regularly as humanly possible. You even came when they called. Believe me when I tell you that that is a HECK of a lot more than many siblings/children do.

I think you are correct: if your sisters had have formed a united front then this situation could have come out differently. They didn't - and so you had to remove yourself from the unhealthy situation. I don't believe that there's anything wrong with that. You weren't captain of that ship, and you didn't have any obligation to go down with it.

These situations are unbelievably stressful - no one who hasn't lived through it could possibly imagine the emotional and physical (and oftentimes financial) toll they can take on the people involved. No one knows how they will act, no one knows what is right/wrong, no one really knows what to do for the best. it is hard, and one of the hardest parts is to try and accept everyone's individual strengths and limitations.

The guilt is part of the aftermath ... let's hope you will be kind enough to yourself that you can let go of it. Big hugs to you.

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