Tag Archives: parents

My Parents, the Snow Birds

I never thought the day would come. Sure, all the other Jewish parents from the Tri-State area eventually buy a winter home in Florida, but my parents weren’t like that. They were just too east coast. They were too cultured. They were too… not that.

But, after a trip to Florida and dealing with the long cold winters, they’ve decided it’s time to take the plunge and purchase a winter home. Property in Florida is relatively cheap, so I don’t think it’s a terrible decision, but it’s just kind of unsettling to me that clearly it’s that time in life when this choice makes sense to them. I’m also perplexed by the amount of money they’re putting into fixing up the northeast house (and seem to be ignoring any set budgets) while now planning on spending half the year in a whole other state.

I’m not actually surprised by my mother’s interest in the half move – she loves her summers and long days by the beach and hates winters. She also grew up in Southern, California. But my father didn’t seem to be the type. I get that he has trouble getting around now so being in a place where snow and ice isn’t an issue also makes sense, even though his cancer doctors are in NY. This whole situation is rather surreal and yet another step in everyone getting older, myself included.

This also means that I will no longer be able to take a side trip to visit my parents on work trips, which most often occur during the winter months. It’s just the end of an era, and one that I wasn’t quite ready for, despite being over 30 and needing to get over this whole ironic nostalgia for my, in reality, quite unhappy childhood.

To Invest or Not to Invest?

Another surprise from left field – after offering to help front the money for my father’s credit card bill and have him pay me 50% of the interest they would charge, and him blatantly refusing such a preposterous suggestion, now he’s throwing around the idea that I should invest in their Florida condo. And he’s not joking.

The thing is, they have the money to pay for it outright, he just doesn’t want to pull his funds out of his 401k at the moment. And it wouldn’t hurt for me to have some investment in actual real estate. I haven’t run the numbers but logically it doesn’t seem to make any sense at all. Since I’d be investing in property owned by my parents, in the long run half of that property theoretically would be owned by me whether I invest in it or not. More importantly, though, is that if I were to purchase property in Florida for my parents to live in, the tax situation would get tricky. I’m not sure how it works – would I make them pay me rent? Pay me back for the loan with interest? Or would I just remain co-owner, or heck, buy the entire thing outright?

I’ve considered buying rental property before, but not property to rent to my parents. That just sounds overly complicated. And I’m not that interested in buying a condo in a 55+ community in Florida. The other piece of the puzzle is that while I haven’t been the best at saving liquid funds for a down payment of my own, if I put money into the property in Florida I don’t think I’ll ever be able to afford a house of my own. So it seems like a really bad idea, even though it would provide the opportunity to diversify my portfolio a bit.

In any case, I have to get used to this crazy new world of my parents as “Snowbirds.” I’m not sure I ever will, but they sounded happy calling from the state, happier than I’ve heard them sound before. So that’s a good thing.

Happy Birthday To Me… an Awkward Conversation with My Father

It’s past two a.m. on my 31st birthday morning. I’m already in this odd mood and exhausted, not in the mood for any sort of serious conversation. Unfortunately I started to doze off on the couch which meant at 2am I had to walk past my awake father in the kitchen who apparently had something he had to get off his chest. No, he didn’t want to wish me a “happy birthday.” What started as a somewhat kind “do you want to talk” inquiry launched into a tirade about how my father is upset that my boyfriend hasn’t proposed to me yet and that, at the same time, he hasn’t said hi or thank you to them in the time he has been at our house, which has now been a few days on and off.

I understand my father’s concern – and he’s expressed this many times before – but this time it was clearly more pressing for him. It made me quite uncomfortable. My response is always that I’m not sure I even want to get married and maybe I will, maybe I won’t. I have a good job. I can take care of myself. Etc, etc. My father, being of the traditional mindset (who refused to get a divorce despite it being obvious both him and my mother would be much better off apart from each other and who also pretty clearly hate each other and/or love themselves too much to ever love another person who doesn’t fuel their narcissistic supply) is freaking out that 1) I’ll never have children and 2) That I’ll have children out of wedlock and 3) That I won’t live the life he envisioned for me.

This may be fairly typical of parents from that generation, and I understand that he’s also looking at not having many good years left due to suffering from terminal cancer, so I try to be sensitive to this, but at this point I don’t know what to say. I want to just scream at him – what do you want me to do? You think starting over now, even if that was the right thing to do (which it isn’t – my boyfriend and I are going to be together permanently and already have discussed this) – how would starting over help matters any? Do you really think I’d be able to find another guy in this world who is as compatible with me and obtain a marriage proposal and jump into having kids before I’m too old to even have kids? It just doesn’t make any sense. Logistically, love aside, I’m best sticking with my current option if the end goal is grandchildren.

That said, I understand that he is upset that my boyfriend hasn’t said hi or thank you. What can I say, my bf is an odd duck – but so am I. He’s shy and he grew up in a household where social norms were far from the norms. While I have social anxiety and struggle to act like a normal human being I have learned, I guess thanks to my parents, how to fake it. They’re so good at faking it that they can convince people who don’t know them well that they’re an actual sane, lovely couple reaching their senior years. It’s amazing how my father is so completely delusional about many things – caring so little about his own appearance or other’s emotions yet being so overly paranoid about how other’s chose to live their lives. I wanted to shout “fine, if you have an issue with him then we just won’t visit again.”

At this point marriage is on my mind too, though, and I know in some respects my father is right. While I’m not sure I actually want to get married due to the marriage penalty taxes and huge potential losses in annual income, I’d like to think that at the least my boyfriend would have proposed by now and we can discuss it. Tomorrow is our 8.5 year anniversary. I know he’s been waiting on me to learn how to keep my stuff organized in our house (which is a huge challenge due to ADHD) so I have to hold up my end of the bargain before he puts a ring on it and we can discuss whether we want to get “real married” or “legal alternative to marriage married.”

Regardless, it’s going to be an awkward week at my house, to be sure. I just hope no fireworks are set off.

Welcome Home: Tick Tock Tick Tock

One of the things I had in mind when I lost my job was spending a chunk of time with my family — the time that I rarely have to see them. I could, I thought, apply to jobs aggressively from my parent’s house and also look for a position on the east coast at the same time. My ideal goal was to have a job with a start date during my visit so I could focus just on quality family time – I mean, the most quality family time I can have with my little circus of a family.

The older I get and the more I visit my parents, the more I realize just how my psyche is completely off kilter because of their crazy, and process it a little better. It’s not always so easy though. Yesterday I was extremely depressed and found myself alone in my childhood house with tears pouring down my cheeks unable to handle both being sick, the anxiety from job negotiations, and the passing of time.

My grandfather is ill in the hospital and all of his six children have flown out to be with him and my grandmother. It sounds like this may be it. He fell, broke his shoulder, and his condition has quickly regressed. I’m an hour away from the hospital but I can’t visit because of this stupid cold that I’ve gotten myself due to all the stress and not sleeping. I’m getting better and I’m probably not contagious but the last thing I’d want to do is visit him in the hospital and for him to come down with a cold that may or may not have been my fault, only to become ever further ill and to get the blame for it. I also don’t want to miss out on the last opportunity I have to see him. I may go visit today but I’m not sure what to do.

And while I did manage to secure job offers before coming out to visit my family I did not finalize an agreement and start date, so I’m left wrecked with this horrid anxiety that’s pushing me into a deep depression. It hasn’t helped that I’ve been stuck in bed for two days trying to kick this cold. In the back of my mind I’m also freaking out about turning 31 in two months. I feel like maybe things are partially falling into place in my life and yet they aren’t quite locked in yet. I know from the outside things look hopeful but every day is a struggle with depression. Every day I have to remind myself that I should be happy to be alive and not the other way around. I wonder often if I have bipolar and try to remember my life’s ups and downs and try to pin where I am on the spectrum now, in 2014, this year, in the grand scheme of time. For the moment that would be down, quite down.

At breakfast my father asked my mother to pass the maple syrup. My mother, who hadn’t used the maple syrup in a good fifteen minutes, took it and poured it on her pancakes as soon as he asked her to pass the syrup. He, in typical my dad fashion, got extremely annoyed at her and started to fume. Her thought process is that she’d use the syrup first and then hand it to him so he could keep it on his side of the table, as if it would be as hard as climbing Mt. Everest to ask for it back should she need more. His thought process that she was doing this just to spite him, as he asked for the syrup so she was going out of her way to be rude to him. My mother is a lot of things but malicious in intent she is not. I was worried that he was about to make a giant scene as he often does, but luckily he wasn’t in the mood. My parents are just these two big children who never learned how to think about anyone but themselves. If I take it all in from an outsider’s view it’s quite entertaining. There they are, back and forth, every day of their lives, bickering about all the things that don’t matter because they can’t take a moment to think about the other person and their well being. I walked downstairs this morning and found a giant vat of ice cream upside down on the kitchen floor. My father says he asked my mother to put it away last night. She says she didn’t hear him. So it melted and someone knocked it over onto the floor. It’s always the other’s fault.

Last time I visited my mother accidentally left the laundry room sink running when she went upstairs to do something and it overflowed. She wanted to call the company that charged her $2000 last time to dry out the carpeting but I was there so I found a company that would do it for $500. My father came home and of course was angry at her but it was what it was. A few weeks ago, apparently, she flooded the sink again. Another $500. Another frustrated and angry dad. What a farce! Those two. And that is who taught me how to be a human being. It’s amazing that I have empathy and awareness at all.

A year into remodeling the bathrooms in the house it’s still the topic du jour. They don’t seem to enjoy discussing bathroom design as every bit of the conversation turns into a fight. “Tile to the ceiling?” “No, that’s a terrible idea!” “Do it yourself then.” “You won’t like what I come up with.” And on and on and on. You’d think that my father with his terminal cancer and who knows how long left to live would be doing something other than spending all of his remaining time remodeling a house, but I guess it keeps his mind off reality. It’s something to do. It’s his money and he can do with it what he wants, he just doesn’t seem to enjoy it much at all with how much stress it causes.

As I wandered around my – parents – house yesterday, I found little that I remembered. They’ve changed so much. The trees in the backyard separating our neighbor’s yards and ours – the ones I hid under as a child when I was sad and needed to get away from things – have been cut down – leaving a huge lawn but no privacy. The kitchen has been completely redone and walls knocked down with a huge modern living room that is home to a large TV, a new bathroom, laundry room, and garage made usable for cars but filled with junk and made unusable again. The living room  has new carpeting and the wallpaper has been replaced with a hideous blue paint that clashes with the sofa and curtains that remain from my childhood. Upstairs the only thing that remains is my bedroom, which I’ve selfishly fought to keep in the same arrangement it has been since I was seven years old. I know it’s terribly immature to want to keep things the way they are, but as everything changes and I’m forced into the rest of my adulthood, I feel somehow oddly comforted by returning to sameness even if it was a place where I experienced many years of depression and solitude.

I don’t really feel like I have a home anymore — I’ve been living in apartments for a good 12 years now — and without home comes a jolting sensation of constantly being off kilter. I’ve found a home in my boyfriend who I plan to spend the rest of my life with – in his arms where I can be quiet and at peace with stillness, and in his eyes where we can have a thousand hilarious conversations without a word. But I still feel the lack of a home, still look to my childhood house – where I lived until I was 17 from the day I was born – as something that is partially mine, even though it isn’t at all. If my parents wanted to they could redo my room and make it into the adult guest room it should be, not one decorated with early 1990s wallpaper covered in remnants of adolescent collage and sticky tack.

It’s this lack of stability and just growing older which is causing my current depression. It is life. Everyone goes through it and I’m no more or less special than the next person who confronts their own aging process and watching others around them grow older and pass, places change and become unrecognizable, the safety of home diminishing as adult life teaches us we are on our own and it’s up to us to make the life we want, no one else will be able to do it for us. It’s exciting to have the freedom to make the life that I want but terrifying to accept that it’s my responsibility and to let go from the safety net. I’m old now. I mean, not old, old. But 31 is an adult. It’s the age many women have children or are about to. It’s not this murky extended adolescence, it’s straight up adulthood, complete with an aching body which can no longer deal with a red eye flight and spring into action the next day or sitting on an uncomfortable chair for hours without straining her back. It is life.

What I want now, more than anything at all, is to find peace with cutting this string to my past, to stop only finding contentment in being the center of attention, that childhood fancy which drove me to where I am today. I just want to be the type of person to give and care and love. I want a home to make my own and a family and friends and enough money where I can invite them over for dinner and cook amazing healthy meals and entertain and travel and see the world.

…I want to somehow truly make peace with my parent’s crazy, to be thankful that somehow I’m nearly 31 and both of my parents are still alive despite ration saying that one of them would have likely killed the other by now. I am the product of narcissists and so is my sister and we’re both dealing with it in our own ways, both depressed, both fighting for a chance at a good and happy life. I have gotten so far and yet so often I fall back and I look ahead at all the challenges in front of me and I gasp for air, panicked, trying to comprehend how I can handle all that is the future, never mind the present. This is my depression. This is my life. I am ready to change but I’m still trapped in this quicksand. It tugs me down into the earth and I can’t move. I know I just need to lift my damn leg up and take a step but all of the sudden I just forget how to walk. I need to relearn all over again.

Floating with The Fault in Our Unemployed Stars

Despite purchasing a Kindle last year for my trip to Thailand, I hadn’t gotten around to using it for much beyond travel guides until this recent period of unemployment. Between then and now I’ve downloaded a library of inconsistently-themed books on a whim, since books are much cheaper to impulse buy and excuse oneself for at the sake of becoming literate and literary.

Given I tend to shop to offset the feelings surrounding negative occurrences in my life, I downloaded a few more books at Amazon’s suggestion hoping that I’d get through all of them and be able to say I had accomplished reading more in a few weeks than I had in the last 30 years. Instead, for the most part, these books are just collecting pixel dust on virtual bookshelves.

In two weeks of unemployment I’ve forced myself through 50% of the historical fiction tale The Daughters of Mars which, in all of its historical accuracy about being an Australian army nurse in World War I, hasn’t quite aroused my speed reading chip. Another book I downloaded on a whim — The Fault in Our Stars — seemed like a wise trade in honor of the accomplishment of getting half way through the other book – a quick-read, tragic young adult novel where the main character — a 16 year old girl from Indiana — has stage IV lung cancer and spends the book living and dying simultaneously while being as normal a teenager one can be while living and dying respectively simultaneously. I figured I’d read the book before one day soon watching the movie on an airplane.

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A Weekend in the Country of Westchester with My Parents and Knives

Visiting my parents is always entertaining, if you want to spin it up positively. If they could go 30 seconds without screaming at each other, I’d gladly hand them a reward. They are both just overgrown kids who throw frequent temper tantrums. No wonder I have issues.

My favorite part of the visit is always the standard ask your opinion and then yell at you for giving it conversation. Take, for example, the remodeled upstairs bathroom, where the tiling has been done extremely poorly and my parents are trying to figure out what to do about it. It would be great if when they ask me for my opinion they actually wanted it, or even if they knew what sort of opinion they’d like in return so I could just play their silly little game. However, there’s never a right answer.

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Remodeling & My Parents

I grew up in a household that wasn’t financially efficient, so it shouldn’t surprise me that my parents, like many Americans, continue to throw money into their homes when the actual home value will never be worth a lot more.

They claim they are making the updates for their own quality of life, and I believe it, but the actual amount of money they are putting into my childhood home is outrageous if you look at it from a financial perspective. Continue reading

A Brief Call with my Dad

Five years ago, my father, now 61, was told he had less than two years to live. Diagnosed with late-stage prostate cancer, the doctor’s said that the rapid growth of his type of cancer would wreck havoc on his body and treatments could only help postpone the inevitable. Five years later, and dad is – not exactly healthy – but still alive and looking forward to the future.

I’m not very close with my father. He’s extremely narcissistic and judgmental  Every conversation I have with him tends to be the same. Today, I called home expecting my mother to pick up, but instead my dad did.

“Hello?” he said.

“Hi, Dad,” I said.

He recognized my voice and said my name in a sort of overly-dramatic surprised tone.

“How are things with Derek,” he asks, pausing – “I don’t know how to say this but, the biological clock is ticking, and I’d like to be a grandparent…”

He continues later in the conversation “My PSA is at 0 – but I won’t live forever, and your sister isn’t getting married anytime soon. What is Derek doing?”

“He’s looking for a job,” I mumble, because telling the truth about my boyfriend of seven years being extremely depressed and not having sent out one resume yet just would lead to more judgement. Continue reading

When Parents are Dying: Coping & Planning

Death is never a pleasant experience. As I watch my father slip slowly away, I try to come to terms with reality, but since no one in my family has ever learned how to cope with the cruel nature of life, so goes our lack of outward empathy in death. I’ve never had anyone close to me die, and all that’s going to change — whether in a year or five years, I don’t know, but my father’s cancer is back with a vengeance, and regardless of how much I avoid acknowledging reality, the day will come when I won’t see him alive again.

In the meantime, there are arrangements to be made. Uncomfortable arrangements. Who wants to discuss plans for after they part with the world? My mother and I had a brief conversation today about what her plans are in retirement — selfish as she is, with everything always about her, her sadness only formed in confusion over next steps in her life without the normal next steps for a husband and wife approaching retirement.

The question of what happens to her after he’s gone is one I’ve avoided getting deeply involved in. I told her that I don’t want to be the person to help her decide what to do with her finances because I would not feel comfortable telling her to spend or save money that may have some effect on a one-day inheritance for myself or my sister. I’d rather she discuss this with my father, and make her own decisions, or at least with the help of a trustworthy financial adviser.

Meanwhile, at lunch today, she managed to make me feel terrible, though not on purpose, about previously asking whether she’d be willing to contribute some future financial support for the various fertility treatments I’ll likely have to go through one day in order to have children. As my mother has made numerous comments about wanting grandchildren, I don’t expect her to help me financially with treatments, but if she could help when the time comes, it would be appreciated. But today, in front of company, she made some comment about how I said that she “has to help me” with affording having children, which was a very uncomfortable moment, that took its time to set in before later making me extremely upset. She claims she didn’t mean it that way at all, but it was her friend that responded that she really didn’t seem like she wanted to help me in this situation.

But anyway, I digress. The point here is that these things that will come up in the future are my own costs; but it is up to my mother if she wants to help out ever. I don’t want to be the person to ask her or tell her what to do. I apparently shouldn’t even mention these things, as just vaguely mentioning that I’d appreciate her help if it turns out I’ll need costly fertility treatments turns into a huge deal where she clearly doesn’t want to help, she just feels like she has to. I don’t want her help unless she wants to give it. And she never will.

And, at the same time, I deep down do want to “help” my father at this point — even though he’s often cruel to me — and I can’t. It’s always walking on eggshells around him. His reactions are never something you can guess, and with his illness he’s become, justifiably, even more moody. But I question my own motives for wanting to help — perhaps my motives are inherently flawed and narcissistic, after all I’m still just a little girl seeking her father’s approval. Wanting him to feel comfortable confiding in her about his feelings, without actually being emotionally prepared or strong enough to survive what that actually means. For better or worse, he doesn’t want to talk about it. He wants to mope and be depressed on his own, then get angry over little things that don’t matter, to criticize his family, to avoid his own complete lack of control, his life slowly slipping from his hands as his health manages to fail for all his many medical problems unrelated to the cancer, leaving his last years of life filled with discomfort up to pain. I’m a sick person for at some level wanting him to suffer — but not to die, not to suffer and then learn a lesson in taking your depression and issues out on everyone else — and then to go on with life a new person, a nicer person, one who has learned how to care about other people in a way that doesn’t involve control and manipulation. That’s a story that will never play out. The reality is his suffering only going to get worse. I may be here to see it, I may be home on the other coast, hearing detailed stories from a woman who will complain about having to waste her days helping him, feeling guilty for not being here, feeling guilty for not feeling guilty for not being here, and so on.

The practical questions of what will happen to my mother after my father passes away are ones I haven’t been able to ask, for I can’t bring myself to talking to my father about death. I’m even angry at him because had he gone to the doctor regularly they could have probably caught his cancer early, and with prostate cancer it’s usually curable if caught early. But he didn’t want to go to the doctor because of his weight, which also likely increased his risk of getting the cancer.

Here I am at 27, having finally almost come to accept my own future death, but I am not prepared to watch either of my parents go. Not even my father, who was destined to die early with his morbid obesity, diabetes, and other health issues, even before the cancer.

Life is so short, and it’s passing by so quickly. I was miserable throughout my childhood, yet I’m nostalgic for the few moments of happiness, or even boredom, wasting away lazy summer days, with all the time in the world, all the life in the world. And now, it slips, with ends looming behind every corner.

 

 

 

My Parents Spent $300k to Add On to a $400k House

After I left home 10 years ago, my parents decided to build a add-on to our house, and redo the entire kitchen. The add on was not decided on to add to the value of the house — it was purely because my parents wanted more space. They wanted a family room which would be open to the kitchen, making the entire area more open and inviting.

Today my dad told me that during the years he was making the most money, was also the years he lost the most wealth. Why? The $150k add on for the house ended up costing somewhere around $300k (he isn’t really sure how much it cost) and then spending elsewhere also added up. He was making $200k + per year, but losing even more than that.

He constantly talks about how he wants to re-do the other rooms in the house. He has grand plans for remaking the master bedroom to have a walk-in closet that would reduce the space in the room, and breaking down the walls of two bathrooms to make one master bath. I asked him if he thinks that would add to the value of the house and he doesn’t care. He just wants to make it look the way he wants. Even though, with only about a million left in the bank, the value of the house should play into some consideration when making changes.

Not that he cares, or should care — as I’ve mentioned before, he’s sick with terminal cancer, and all he wants to do is spend money on the house — on expensive constructive changes, and less expensive decorative costs that still add up. Meanwhile, my mother, who has no concept of the value of money, is likely going to run out of money some point down the line.

I asked my dad — why didn’t you just move to a larger house, if you were going to spend $300k on the addition? You could have sold this house and moved to a $700k house, which in this area gets you a fairly large house. And it would have been probably worth more later because it would have been a newer construction. Not that I’d want them to sell my childhood home, but still, financially that might have made more sense.

That sort of logic doesn’t matter to them, though. It’s not really any of my business, except for worrying about my mother running out of money later in life, and given that my sister is going into a lower-paying field than I am, I’ll likely be footing that bill. I would, of course, help her out if she needs it — but I’d rather help her make smart financial decisions NOW so it doesn’t have to come to that. It’s too bad neither her or my father would ever take any of my advice on these matters.

Living in the Shadow of my Narcissistic Parents – Part 2

I’m not sure how many people actually read my blog these days, but if you’ve been following along you likely read my long rant yesterday about the dinner I had with my father, and how his narcissistic personality disorder tendencies gnaw at me every time I see him, or talk to him.

One commenter posed the question “are you sure he is the one who is a narcissist?” and I wanted to respond to that. Clearly, my post yesterday — and many of my posts — sound self absorbed and ungrateful. Shouldn’t I just be so thankful that my father (and mother) gave me lots of “stuff” in my life — clothes, nice furniture, a college education — beyond stuff, what does a girl really need?

How about love? I’d never argue that I had or have a hard life. I’m way more fortunate than a large percentage of people who live in this world. But I grew up in a love-less house. No one knew how to love themselves let alone anyone else. And, yes, I became a narcissist because it’s the only way to survive when both of your parents are narcissists. It’s a never-ending cycle. The only value I had to my parents was how my existence benefited them. And, as any kid, a big part of me wanted to make my parents happy. It was pretty clear that I couldn’t – that I’d never be the perfect kid they wanted – and I hated myself for it more and more as the years went by.

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