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Elderly parents- visiting them and arrrgh!

(40 Posts)
Varigatedivy Sun 01-Dec-13 13:44:16

I just need to offload and ask if anyone can sympathise?

I've been to see my parents aged late 80s who are in relatively good health for their ages though not without some health issues. They live 300 miles away and because I still work p/t I only see them every 2-3 months and they are too old to travel to me.

I find the whole visit very stressful. My parents almost divorced 15 years ago because my mum was sick of my dad being chauvinistic and selfish, and above all, reclusive and anti social. He's got no better and although they live under the same small roof, they live separate lives. Mum has lots of friends , is often out with them and he spends the entire day in the garden or garden shed, then comes in to the house at 6pm and spends the rest of the evening in the kitchen where he reads, listens to the radio and makes his own dinner. They don't sleep together and haven't shared a bedroom or bed for over 20 years ( due to his snoring supposedly.)

When I stay, nothing changes. we don't have a family meal ever. Most days she has a snack and I have to cook for myself. We all end up eating at different times. He sits in one room and she sits in another watching TV or reading. I have to divide my time between each of them. If I sit with him , she paces up and down the hall trying to eavesdrop. If I don't sit with her she feels ignored. If I sit in the lounge he will never, ever come and join me. This is on the pretext of the TV always being on ( it isn't ) and him not 'doing TV' - he likes to make a big thing/ virtue out of never watching TV.

If they meet in the same room for chit-chat they start arguing within minutes- usually she is contradicting him over nothing important.

After 3 days I am left almost climbing the walls trying to flit between each of them in a tiny 1 storey house.

I'd love to spend longer with them but the strain of being under one roof when they are couple, not 'not a couple' IYSWIM is really testing.

I don't know why I'm posting other than to let off steam and wonder if there is anything I should do or say - but I suppose I feel it's their life and I'm just the visitor.

RandomMess Sun 01-Dec-13 13:51:04

Stay in a B&B and just meet one for lunch and one for dinner?

Sounds excrutiating!

Varigatedivy Sun 01-Dec-13 13:52:32

I had thought about staying in a hotel but they are expensive on the doorstep.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 01-Dec-13 14:09:54

You could be describing my parents LOL! I'm afraid I lost patience with mine in the end and started treating them as I would grumpy kids. 'Play nicely' to distill it down to the bare bones. 'I didn't drive 200 miles to listen to this...' etc.

Shellywelly1973 Sun 01-Dec-13 14:38:09

Sounds absolutely awful!

I think I would visit less & stay in a B& B.

You should tell your parents why. They are behaving really badly & showing you no consideration.

Pagwatch Sun 01-Dec-13 14:42:15

I would do the maths and find away to stay elsewhere.
It wouldn't need to be onthe doorstep. Find a premier in type place up to half an hours drive away. You can then drop in and leave when it gets too much.

MrsMiniver Sun 01-Dec-13 15:26:00

This sounds rather like my parents although they're very much a couple. But there's nearly always tension and arguments (you could have described my mum contradicting my dad, it's CONSTANT). And he just moans about how hard his life is. I'm lucky though in that they're only an hour away so I just go for the day once a week. Why don't you cook a family meal and insist that you eat together? Surely they can make that one small allowance for their daughter. And agree, maybe you could find somewhere cheaper to stay even if it's a bit further away.

Varigatedivy Sun 01-Dec-13 17:16:37

I'd like to cook us a meal and also my (single) brother lives nearby ( to them) so he ought to come over or at least be proactive and suggest we try to make it more of a family occasion. I think my dad is so selfish and although my mum has got used to it now, it hits me when I am there for a few days.

Optimist1 Sun 01-Dec-13 17:28:47

In fairness to your brother, if he's doing his bit on a week in/week out basis then he's probably quite happy to have a bit of respite from them when you come to visit! What tactics does he use to deal with the situation? Have you asked him if he would come for a meal cooked by you for the four of you?

PoshPenny Sun 01-Dec-13 17:35:28

Practically all of this could apply to my parents too... You are definitely not alone. I would second the "I haven't travelled all this way to listen to you two bickering" approach, but I would doubt it would make any difference - when they are that old, I think they are not capable of changing behaviour

Varigatedivy Sun 01-Dec-13 17:45:33

My brother does practical stuff but not exactly socialising. He doesn't eat with them except a sandwich maybe once at a weekend.
It's not so much the bickering- he's had a word with them about that and I think they have toned it down a little when I'm there- it's more to do with the way my dad refuses to sit in the lounge-and spends the entire time in their tiny kitchen or the shed. I have to divide my time between them. Yesterday he was half teasing when he asked if I watching TV 'again'- when in fact my mum had put it on, and I was sitting in the lounge with her! She has moaned for years that he won't sit in the same room as her- as if she's contaminated ( joke) and he maintains it's because he can't stand the TV. However she doesn't have it on all the time by any means. They often each sit and read- in separate rooms.

It's just deeply unpleasant to be in that atmosphere where he won't budge an inch ( literally.) He seems to think being old means he doesn't care what anyone thinks about him, which equates to being totally selfish.

My mum has chosen to stay with him ( for money reasons) but I'm his DD not his DW!

Floralnomad Sun 01-Dec-13 17:51:59

Would it be possible to stay at your brothers? If not then TBH I think I'd just stick to phone calls and visit less ,it sounds like a total nightmare . It is sad though that people stay together and live under those conditions ,when they could have probably had a better life separately - some things are more important than money .

FunkyBoldRibena Sun 01-Dec-13 17:53:19

Stay with your brother and invite each one over separately to his house.

Varigatedivy Sun 01-Dec-13 18:00:07

Can't stay with brother for various reasons.
Can't visit less- only make one trip every 3-4 months which is far less than I'd like to see them considering their ages and their - being blunt- life expectancy. I love them both- and each- but they have a crap marriage.

Its not your fault their marriage has got to such a low point; they have both contributed to its overall demise. These two still get on some level what they want out of it, they are perhaps both as bad as one another.

Do you feel angry with both of them?.

Do you think they are both selfish and wrapped up in their own selves?.

I would say nothing to them because they won't thank you for doing so and could easily turn verbally nasty towards you. I also would not visit them as often now because you do not seem to get anything positive from you seeing them.

Nanny0gg Sun 01-Dec-13 19:05:59

I don't see why they should change to be honest, it's the only way they can co-exist. And in reality, they won't.

They've found a way that works for them, however horrible it is for everyone else. As long as they do tone down the bickering I think you're going to have to put up with visiting 'separately'.

And your father isn't the only selfish one if your mother has chosen to stay with him purely for the money.

I have to say, I know of more than one marriage like this, though I think your parents' is one of the worst (sorry).

drudgetrudy Sun 01-Dec-13 19:35:54

Attilla, These people are in their late 80s. Their daughter isn't visiting in order to "get something out of it", she isn't completely selfish!

AndTheBandPlayedOn Sun 01-Dec-13 19:40:26

You have my sympathy.

My inlaws live separately under the same roof too. Fil will go to sil's house early, before school starts, to help with her two dc ever since she was divorced seventeen years 44ago hmm. He will return home in the evening after chaufer duty, to have his shower and go to bed by 9. Mil stays up all night and then sleeps in the recliner chair in the living room all morning. They probably see each other ten min a day, for xyz argument.

Thankfully, blush, we live 500 miles away and see them only once a year.

I don't think you can get/force them to change. Talking with them separately is the right thing to do. Your mom will just have to understand that you are there to visit your dad too, and she should get over herself about that.

ferretyfeet Sun 01-Dec-13 20:06:48

Well at their age they are not going to change,it's probably what keeps them going. I bet when one of them passes on the other one won't be far behind. To be honestsit must be hard work but 2/3 times a year isn't much surely. I would put up and shut up.

pippop1 Sun 01-Dec-13 20:14:13

Can you take them both out to eat somewhere during your visit?

Meerka Sun 01-Dec-13 20:25:45

I'm afraid it sounds like something you'll have to endure. I'd say keep visits to 1 or 2 nights max but when you live 300 miles away it's not easy to travel that far for so short a time. Sorry but I can't see a reasonable way around it, if B and B's are expensive there :/

But rant away, let off steam! smile

Optimist1 Sun 01-Dec-13 20:28:10

I agree with Ferretyfeet that the first to "go" will be swiftly followed by the other. It's probably their mutual antagonism that keeps them going!

drudgetrudy Sun 01-Dec-13 20:30:24

agree with both Andtheband and Ferrety Both parents will have to accept that you are going to spend time with each of them, and they won't change now so you may need to put up and shut up, but arrange a treat for yourself after the visit

Varigatedivy Sun 01-Dec-13 20:30:54

Thanks for the comments.
My dad won't go out to eat- he's not really well enough and doesn't enjoy eating out- he's almost 88 and had a slight stroke 3 years back.

In the past both my brother and I have suggested family meals out and they've never wanted to.

I think it's a bit unkind to suggest my mum is/was in it for the money- they have a tiny house which they've lived in for over 55 years ( their first and only home they ever bought)- selling up would have only bought her a tiny flat in a poor ( possibly unsafe ) area. This was not something she felt she'd cope with age mid 70s. They are far from wealthy and she'd have been left with very little.

I think some of you don't understand that I actually want to see them- they are my parents and i care about them and I've lived away from them for almost 40 years. I just end up sad when I am there.

drudgetrudy Sun 01-Dec-13 22:47:23

I think I understand this OP. I have similar feelings towards dps. I don't think trying to force them to do things together will work now, they have got into a pattern that suits them. All you can do is make it clear that you care for both of them and chat to them each separately. If your Dad refuses to join you and Mum in the lounge that's really his own choice( if you make it clear he's not being excluded), also if Mum would like to go out with you for a couple of hours and he wants to stay at home, well fine, as long as he knows you are also there to visit him too. You can't be responsible for their happiness but I'm sure they appreciate your visits

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