My Dad’s a Goldfish – Moving out/moving in

The step-monster left the Goldfish on 31st January 2014 and I moved in. It wasn’t nice. It was ugly and horrible.

During the days leading up to her departure, the Goldfish’s behavior changed and he became increasingly subdued and confused. The day before she left, he told the carer helping him to shower and dress that he knew she was leaving him. The poor girl (she’s only 20) didn’t know what to say and was quite upset about it.

Later the same day, the Goldfish went for his usual weekly outing the Man from Alzheimer. They have a drive in the countryside, sometimes visiting local stables so the Goldfish can pat the horses, and end with coffee and cake in a café before returning home. On this particular day I received a phone call from the Man saying the Goldfish was refusing to leave the café. He’d seemed miserable all afternoon; he barely touched his coffee then simply continued to sit in his chair and would not be persuaded to get back in the car.

I was about to set out for the café when the Man called again to say he had the Goldfish in the car and was on his way back. I went to meet them at the house. In the meantime, Wee-sis called to tell me the step-monster had had her bed taken away the night before. No wonder the Goldfish was distraught.

The step-monster was out with her sister somewhere so I waited in my car. She arrived back before the Goldfish. I’m not sure if this was a good thing or not – I wouldn’t have lost my temper with her in front of the Goldfish. I’m not proud of swearing at her but I was so incensed by what she was doing to the Goldfish, the emotional pain she was causing him and her absolute refusal to accept that she was hurting him. When I’d told her what had happened on his outing she said, with that infuriating little smirk she has: “I don’t see him behaving any differently.”

I asked if the Goldfish was going to die before her – remarking that that was not a given, which rather took her aback – what she wanted us to do. Were we to call her to come for a touching death-bed scene? Told you it was ugly. She said she thought this was not a nice thing to talk about. “Well, we need to know what you want us to do if your husband is about to die.”

Her sister chipped in to ask: “Why don’t you be like everyone else and put him in a home?”

The Man arrived back with the Goldfish before I hit either the step-monster or her sister and she clucked around him as if she was a devoted wife.

Feeling sick, I left. I felt even sicker the next morning when, not knowing what to expect, I went to give the Goldfish his breakfast. The step-monster was out, taking more things to her house, which has been painted and carpeted. The DH came to cut away the urine sodden carpet in the bedroom before the carpet fitters arrived later in the day. The Goldfish ate his breakfast and seemed all right. The step-monster returned, expecting the Goldfish to be going off to day centre but he sat in his chair and refused to budge. I realised that, like the day before, he could not articulate how he felt about what was going on and non-co-operation was the only way in which he could express his disquiet. “Don’t you want to go?” I asked.

“No.”

“Well, that’s all right,” I said. “You don’t have to go. I’ll call the Man and tell him.” I watched the step-monster, enjoying her discomfiture. I’d rather hoped she might show some shame or embarrassment at being the cause of the Goldfish’s distress – but no. The only problem for her was that she’d expected the Goldfish to go off to day centre and she would leave afterwards without having to say anything. She was slightly watery-eyed as she kissed him.

At the door, I told her I hoped she would be as unhappy as she deserved to be while she enjoyed the peaceful life to which she believes she is entitled. I did say it wasn’t nice.

The Goldfish had a nap. When he woke I asked if he’d like to go to the day centre for his lunch and he said he thought that sounded a good. I dropped him off, stopped off at my house to pick up a suitcase of clothes and books and moved back into the house I’d grown up in.

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15 thoughts on “My Dad’s a Goldfish – Moving out/moving in

  1. Actually although the saddest situation ever, I’m glad this moment has now happened. She clearly cannot be with him, cope with the situation, or stand being there a moment longer. And though we’re all probably inclined to take Dad’s side, I spare a thought too for people who entered a relationship for better or for worse many many years ago, to find way down the line that they didn’t have the reserves, the character, the inner resources, to handle things when that person changed through no fault of their own. I think it’s a step forward that she has now gone, even, sadly, for Dad who must, I feel sure, have been subject to her unconscious words and actions as well as those more explicitly heard and seen. But how striking are your Dad’s communications Mary. Sitting tight. Staying put. Not going anywhere. All in the face of this massive change in his life when he can least do with one. We really should never underestimate the power of non verbal communication as well as the verbal. It’s incredibly powerful, the way he sat there in his chair, or in the cafe. Life seems often to be cyclic. You back in your childhood home. Whatever happens now, I can’t help feeling something has been cleared away, leaving space for something better. However you manage your own life around this move, we’ll find out in due course. But for now, it’s nice to think that when Dad feels sad, when he’s grieving the end of his relationship as was, when he’s looking for her or wondering why things are different — you’ll be more around him to help him with it. Terribly heartrending, but the bottom line is that he needs, deserves, and must have, respect, his dignity, care, love, and all the space in the world to be as well and as content as he possibly can be for whatever time lies ahead. Beyond the grieving in whatever form, and beyond these changes, there is now a greatly increased chance of him getting that. Thanks for including us.

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    • As always, Janette, your response is so well thought out. I wish I could muster some compassion for the step-monster but I can’t. She desrted the goldfish at a time when he really needed her. She’d been the central pivot in his life for so long and even if we can prvide something better for him, a huge part of his life had disappeared.
      I agree with what you say about the power of non-verbal communication, and it becoming ever more important to be able to interpret it as dad’s ability to communicate through speech diminishes.
      Thanks for reading and commenting.

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    • Thanks, Frangipani. You are right, my dad was always a gentle person – a kindly, gentle man. We are so very grateful that he has retained those characteristics. So often you hear of people with dementia become aggressive, which must be heart-breaking for family.

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  2. Mary, I so admire the way you have enabled your father to stay in his own home. I was unable to do this for my mother for many reasons, most of which were out of my control but, even coming up to two years after her death, I continue to regret her last eighteen months in a care home, however kind the staff were.

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    • Thank you for reading and commenting, Jayne. We are doing our best to ensure dad is able to stay in his own home. We all live in the same town, only minutes from dad, which makes it possible. There are times, though, when the ‘system’ (the same system which wants people to stay in their own homes) doesn’t make it easy and throws up obstacles all the time. That is what makes it exhausting.
      You should not have regrets about your mum being looked after in a care home, especially when you know the staff were kind.

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  3. i didn’t manage to read this last night because I was away, I am sitting here by the fire reading it now and I’m crying my heart out. Your dad is such a lovely man and does not deserve to be treated like this. I’m glad she didn’t get away scot free, I only wish it could have hurt her more for your dad to be there. She will get her just desserts, I just hope they come soon.
    On the upside, your dad is now safe, because you are there, but you have lost your freedom. I took my mum into our house when she became ill, but because of my strokes and my husbands odd working hours, I just couldn’t cope, even with the help of carers, and because none of my brothers wanted to help out we had no choice in the end and she went into care. It broke my heart, I wanted her to stay with me as I thought it my duty and would have done anything to keep her there.
    I only hope that you can still manage some time for yourself, as it will be much needed, believe me. In time your dad will adapt to you being there, but I’m sure he will be grieving for your step monster and that in itself will be very hard to cope with, but you will cope, you are a strong family unit.
    I find myself thinking of your dad often now and hating what’s happened, not just to him, but to you all, and in that, I look forward to reading your next blog.

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    • Thanks for your comments, Ruth. I hadn’t realised you had health problems of your own to cope with when you wanted your mum to live with you.
      Finding time for ourselves is a tough part of all this change in our lives.

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  4. Your story is breaking through now and it is riveting. I am so glad you did say your mind as step monster left that day. As much as I like to believe justice will be done to those who take advantage and hurt the ones we love, they get away with it. Those of us with the compassion are left behind and spend lots of time angry and thinking about the “evil” ones who left it all to us as they chase their bliss. I look forward to catching up to now as your blog continues and hearing how you cope with this new role with your dad. He must have been a very good teacher to you and your sis. You are soft and sassy, a good combination.

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    • Nancy, how right you are about the the angry time we waste thinking about the “evil” ones! It is exhausting and fruitless and drains our energy; energy better spent on other things. Yet, our thoughts still keep returning to the source of our anger and disappointment. “Soft and sassy” – I like that. Thank you.

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      • I agree, Mary. Those thoughts do return and just fuel our anger and ruin another day. I’m working on letting go more. We’ll see how that works in my next phase of caregiving for my mother-in-law with my husband.

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  5. A tough read Mary. Thank you for sharing this. My Mother in Law had dementia and her husband cared for her as long as he could, until she became violent towards him and we feared for his safety. He found a care home for her ten minutes walk from their house and went all day every day until she died. He put up shelves in her room just like the ones she had at home in her bedroom housing her precious bits and pieces, he laid out her dressing table just like at home. He went on to live in his own home for years until two weeks before he died, knowing he had looked after his love. I didn’t realise how lucky we were until reading your story.

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    • Thanks, Carolyn. If the Goldfish had been put in a home, as the step-monster wanted she would have visted a couple of times a week for ten minutes (ten minutes of him asking to come home would be enough for her) at a time and told everyone “he’s doing very well and is perfectly happy.”
      If it was the other way round and the step-monster had dementia, dad would never for a second consider leaving her. Takes all sorts, I suppose.

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    • You are right. She has absolutely no insight. She feels no guilt because she doesn’t see she has done anything wrong. She deserves a peaceful life so everyone else must ensure she gets it. Anyway, she’s gone now!

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