My Dad’s a Goldfish – repercussions from the bombshell

Although the step-monster has not told the Goldfish she’s leaving him (or so she says), it is clear he suspects something is going on. His mood has become very low and the degree of confusion much more marked.

One cause of the increased confusion could be because he has been seriously constipated. It was dreadful to watch him. He would sit at the table for breakfast and decide he needed to go to the toilet. Once there, nothing happened and he’d totter back to the kitchen, sit down and thirty seconds later announce he had to move his bowels and we’d go through the whole performance again. The step-monster maintains she has been giving him his laxative but when I counted the sachets she obviously hadn’t.

We started him on the maximum dose and it finally worked – explosively and copiously. The step-monster was horrified. She had to clean him up. She also admitted that recently the Goldfish has been having accidents at night and peeing on the floor in the bedroom. As she takes sleeping pills at night she doesn’t hear him getting up so can’t do anything to help him find the commode or make his way to the bathroom. I suggest she puts the bathroom light on and leaves the door open. However, she puts the hall light on instead so he comes from the dark of the bedroom to the bright light in the hall – further disorientating him.

I call Alzheimer Scotland’s advice person. I know she’ll tell me the first thing is to take a urine sample for checking – which she does and which I do. However, she also says it doesn’t sound like this is part of the dementia process as it has come on too quickly and the Goldfish is not incontinent as he knows when he needs to go to the loo. She thinks it sounds much more likely to be caused by stress. The urine sample results come back clear. There’s no infection so it is most likely stress.

It is not surprising he is stressed. As the time for her departure draws closer (she is not going immediately because she is having her place decorated and made nice) she is removing things from the house. The milk jug vanished the other morning, as did the only decent-sized teaspoon! Wee-sis reports that the step-monster’s daughter is forever at the house and the two of them are sitting having secret little conversations.

One day I had gone to put petrol in the car and for some reason decided to drive past the Goldfish’s house. I have no idea what made me do it but I’m so glad I did. As I passed, I noticed the step-monster’s car wasn’t there and then I saw the Goldfish walking up the path towards the gate. I pulled up just as he was stepping out onto the pavement. He didn’t have any walking aids, wasn’t wearing a coat and, as I soon discovered, had locked both front and back doors. ‘Where are you heading for?’ I asked.

‘I was just looking to see if you were coming,’ he replied.

By the time I got him inside and settled I was seething with rage. I waited until the step-monster came back – half an hour later. God knows what might have happened in that half hour if I hadn’t decided to drive past. I wanted to slap her when she came in all smiling and jolly. I told her what had happened and said she’d never to leave the Goldfish on his own again. ‘If you need to go out call one of us and we’ll come up to stay with him.’

I am struggling to deal with my emotions right now. I want her gone so that I can take proper care of the Goldfish – but, I’m also terrified about what that means. I’m going to have to move out of my own home (thank goodness the DH is understanding and supportive, but will that last for the duration?). I suspect I’ll have to give up my work as a freelance journalist so will have no income. I’m worried about how the step-monster’s departure will affect the Goldfish – they’ve been married forty years, after all, so she’s pretty central to his life. Mostly, though, I can’t help but feel her leaving will be better for the Goldfish. But I don’t know.


13 thoughts on “My Dad’s a Goldfish – repercussions from the bombshell

  1. I would imagine at the offset he might miss the step monster, but as he so obviously relies on you for so much (he was outside looking for you) I really don’t think it will be long before he “forgets” that she isn’t there.
    He is obviously happier in your and your sisters care and don’t forget that there are plenty of people who are always willing to help and step in when needed. Sleepovers for one are great things, and you can leave the hallway and bathroom light on for your father as the carers don’t mind.
    I actually think this is going to be a good Christmas for him if she is out be then(hopefully) xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Forty years is such a long time to have someone in your life who suddenly disappears. I don’t think the step-monster thought for a single moment about whether or not he would miss her.
      I’m not sure he was outside looking for me – I think he was looking for her. When I turned up he just said he was waiting for me but he didn’t know I would turn up when I did. He was looking for her. He was so miserable all through the month she was making her house nice because he susected she was leaving him but couldn’t articulate his fear.
      Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Once again, Mary, you make me sad and angry and simply disappointed in humankind. What is it that makes one person so easily walk away from 40 years –happy or not — with no sense of responsibility, while another sees it through to the end and even then feels guilt over things she should/could have done. The sad thing is that he is accustomed to having her around, so he will probably continue to look for her.
    So much about your dad in this blog is the same here at my house — needing to leave a light on so he goes in the right direction at night, for example. We found a wonderful motion-sensor light that goes on as soon as he goes near the bathroom door. I always need to get up now to help him or the same things happen to the floor, etc. I change his pull-ups each time.
    The fact that you will move in with him is so hard, so hard. How your life must change, as well as DH. It’s unrelenting. Can you find a caregiver/caregivers to assist?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Nancy. I think she was quite happy in the marriage while the Goldfish was okay and looking after her. She spent not one penny of her own money; he paid for everything. I pointed out to her that if it were the other way round and she was the one with dementia my father would never have dreamt of leaving her. She knows this is true.
      We did find carers – more on that in later posts. But, it has been hard on all of us.
      I take comfort from the kindness of friends who don’t turn away – like the farmer who taook dad round the farm and who later came to visit him and foudn someone to cut down trees for us. There are good people around who make it bearable. Thank you for your support – it matters.


  3. Although sad in so many ways, I’m glad to read that this separation is happening as it is obviously far too difficult for her to cope, and I guess she probably feels this is not the person she knew all these years. And she simply can’t handle the situation and is having to get away from it. Although terribly sad for both of them that things should end this way, I have a feeling it’s actually better for your Dad Mary. After all, the lack of care is already evident and who knows how much worse it would get consciously or unconsciously. However, this is terribly sad for him and who knows what he makes of it, where she’s gone, and why. So here he is on top of everything else having to go through a mourning process. She’s been handy in many ways—someone to blame for things – legitimately so often, but what happens to that now? Sounds as if 24/7 care is needed and so what happens about that? So many people now facing these same dilemmas. I remember a year and a half ago (not to mention countless times before that) trying to work out how I could give up my job, convert my house, build a downstairs bathroom, live with no income, etc etc etc to save my mother having to go into residential care. It’s such a heart-wrench, the whole issue, and no easy way. And as you say, it affects massively not only your own life but that of husbands, partners, and wider family. Most of all I think, it’s terribly sad. One can talk of what’s good, bad, right, wrong, and one can judge and blame till the cows come home, but isn’t it just so sad that this sort of situation happens at all. Life. Not easy. By any means.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Janette, thank you for your thoughful, considered response. Sad is, indeed, the right word for all that has happened and is happening. It is a situation more and more people are facing and the entire care service needs a major overhaul if it is to cope with the needs of people with dementia, and their families in the coming years. We live in the same town, there are three of us, two of whom are self-employed and have a degree of felxibility over working hours. Many, probably most, people are not in this position and have to make different decisions – not easy for anyone.
      I do worry about the future – not for dad for whom any changes in the system of care are too late – but for the next generation.


  4. Some people are too selfish to handle dealing with dementia. Even after forty years. I hope she loved him (hope she still loves him), but she sounds like a spoiled brat. But Mary, how can you give up everything? Would he want you to do that if he were able to think like your real Dad? (I say real because, as I see with my Mom, the person talking to me now is the Alzheimer’s Mom, not MY Mom). She used to tell us, as soon as she wasn’t able to be independent, put her in a home. I say the same to my kids. I don’t want them to go through this. Now she says if we put her in a home she’d rather we just shoot her. Well, shit. I can’t quit my job (I am divorced). I can’t be there every minute of the day when I’m not at work, I have a family, I have my writing. And I’d go freaking insane. My brother doesn’t live in our city, my sister continues to battle cancer and can only help in the sense of visiting and occasionally getting groceries. The rest is on me. I don’t want to shove her in a home, but there comes a time when that just has to happen. I truly believe that my real mom would want it that way. She has an assessment tomorrow because I think there’s more going on here (hallucinations). At a minimum, time for some home care.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Julie, I think perhaps she did love him in the beginning. She certainly loved being taken on holidays and out for meals and life was good and easy when all was well. You ask some searching questions. I suppose dad (the real, non-demented dad) would say he didn’t want me to give up everything to look after him but neither my sister nor I want to see him in a care home. What is available here is not good and we know he wouldn’t get the care he needs. It can take an hour and a half now for him to eat breakfast because he falls asleep between mouthfulls – no care assistant is going to have that amount of time to feed one resident. Also, we’ve seen how terribly upset and confused he becomes when in hospital. As I said to Janette, above, not every family is in the position we’re in. It’s so much tougher for you when you are the one who has to carry the full responsibility. I hope you get some good answers at your mum’s assessment and that home care can be made available – and that she accepts it. I think it is easier for a man to accept someone coming in to provide help than it is for a woman.
      It’s a horrible, horrible illness and it’s so unfair so many families are having to go through all these horrors.
      I hope your sister is doing all right after her last op.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I read your blog on tenterhooks each time! When I first read of step-monster, I assumed she was a late in life addition to the family and wanted out as soon as the going got tough, but to behave this way out of 40 years…….!??!? She must have an empathy chip missing – I just can’t get my head around that level of callousness. And I am hardly the model of an angel of mercy myself…

    Still, if husband got hit by a bus tomorrow, I wouldn’t even treat mum-in-law like that (not saying I’d take on full-time care for her, but I certainly wouldn’t just leave her in the lurch – I would take all necessary steps to make sure she was looked after in a care home and even visit still etc etc), and we have far less to bind us than Goldfish and Step-Monster….

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The empathy chip is definitely missing. I’m not sure if it was ever there or if she is on the dementia journey herself and lost it as part of the process. What amazes me is that she hasn’t told people she left him and if someone asks how the Golfish is, she says ‘he’s doing very well.’ People have told me this and been totally taken aback and shocked when I explain the situation.


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