My father in law (FIL) passed away this past week. It was a sad crossing for my family. He was the glue that kept very different groups of people together.
He was a WWII veteran and at the end of the war, he met and fell in love with my mother in law. They were married 69 years. She has Alzheimer and does not know what happened. He had been her sole caregiver for the past seven years since she began her decline. The descent into her private world was most apparent the last few years. She was not the nice type, but would berate him unmercifully. It took him going in to the hospital with kidney failure for the family to rally and do what needed to be done. They put Mom in a wonderful memory care place that practices the Eden Alternative http://www.edenalt.org/ which takes patient focused care for dementia to a new level.
Nothing brings out the skeletons in a family like a crisis does. His sister is a piece of work. Although each of them is as different as can be, they usually get along. But this brought out the nastiness and hurt from the past. I have not cared for her much, but tolerated her princess ways for my husband. But this last month made me decide that if I never have to deal with her again, it would be ok. When my FIL’s death was imminent and he was struggling with the fluids in his lungs, she ripped into my husband in the hallway. She did not understand hospice and accused her brothers of killing HER father.
My FIL was a frugal man. He was raised by Italian immigrants during the depression. He saved a lot of money and put it aside for his children. His mistake was he told them. His sister is the only one of the three of them who is not self-sufficient financially. I do not know her income, but as a bartender, I am sure there is not much in the way of a pension or retirement. Her father bailed her out all the time. She also had control of the finances for the estate. At one point, before my FIL got really sick, she wanted to move them to a smaller cheaper (crappy) apartment to save money. They would have to figure out how they would get meals as this place did not provide them. They were 94 and 90. It was always about the money for her.
Fortunately, my brother in law superseded her and took custody of my FIL. He moved him up to his house. My MIL was secure at her new place and life looked really good. However, life is unfair. My MIL fell and broke her pelvis. My FIL rallied for a week and then went steadily downhill. We think the release of having to take care of his wife allowed him to let go from everything. He passed peacefully surrounded by his family including out of state grandchildren who flew in. My MIL is recuperating and has been saying now for some time she is all alone. No one actually told her anything, but she is in such a state that she would not know who we were talking about.
We have always been an afterthought with his siblings. My husband harbors some unresolved angst about being always treated like crap by them. I have heard stories and they really did from early on treat him like garbage. He paid for the sins of his older brother who was a real hell-raiser. His sister was the princess and her parents doted on her. Joe was the forgotten child. He has never been able to get past all the hurt. He demonstrated this by not calling his parents or participating much in their lives. For 35 years, they lived in Florida and he was not able to visit or invited along when others were. When they moved back he did not reach out. When there was a crisis, as there had been many these past few years, his siblings expected him to come to their aide which he did reluctantly. The last time my FIL was in the hospital, my husband stayed with his mother for many days of pure hell. She needed 24 hour surveillance. She would nonstop repeat the same thing over and over and over… His sister refused to stay with her because she “could not handle it.”
The memorial service was in the city where my BIL lives there with his family. His father and the rest of the family live in another nearby city for all their lives. We were not told anything other than to show up. This was the final hurt for my husband. His brother’s friends were invited but we were told it was family only. The day before the service, we went to the funeral home for a viewing. It was all the same people who were in the room when he died. My poor FIL was laid out on a table with only a blanket covering him. It was awful. I have no idea what that was about but afterwards, my BIL and SIL and their children spent the day doing activities and had a big party. My poor husband and his family were not invited at all. We found out about it all the next day. To the bitter end, they had treated him like crap.
I personally like my BIL and his wife and his children. I get along with them all. I will miss not seeing them, but support my husband in distancing ourselves. It is sad to think that this is what happens. His parents spent 69 years together and then were separated before death. I am sure my MIL will not be around for too much longer. Everyone thought she would go first. We visited her yesterday and she would recognize us and then would not. According to her we have a nice home in Monaco. I wish! I think my SIL would prefer that her demise would hasten as she has hardly spent any time with her this summer.
My parents died at an early age. Although my father was 71, he was in and out of the hospital for many years after my mom died at 57. I was the “keeper” for both. Their deaths totally cracked an already splintered family. I am still very close to my oldest brother, but distanced myself from the other two brothers and sister. It was necessary for me to do this as they are really a bunch. It actually gave me peace. I think this is what will happen for my husband. I think not having to have them in his face will make things easier and maybe he can let go of some of his pain. He loved his father dearly and is dealing with his remorse, but it will fade.
His father had a wonderful long life. He would have been 95 in a month. My favorite comment by a man of few words was at a huge family event for a graduation. The back yard was filled with people and kids running around, playing games, sitting at tables in a tent and chaos ruled. We were sitting across from them. He looked around at the mass of people and said, “I caused this.” His eyes were filled with joy and love.