The Worst Daughter Ever
November 3, 2005 11:40 AM   Subscribe

If one of your parents said they wanted you to move to where they were, that they needed your help, would you do it? Even if you knew that it would lead to extreme hardship and unhappiness in your own life?

The situation is this: my grandfather, who is the only "father" I've ever known, is living in Nevada. His health isn't the best, and he wants me to move there. This isn't the first time he's asked me. In fact, he's brought it up every time we talk, for a couple years now. It started out with him claiming it'd be best for me and that there were great opportunities for me there, and has progressed to this. This whole situation has led to me avoiding calling him, just because I know the majority of the conversation will be about how I could do so much more with my life, if only I would do the right thing and move there. However, he truly *does* have health issues and I believe he needs someone to be there for him. He recently had a lung operation and now uses an oxogen tank. So it is not a case of him trying to guilt me into moving because he's lonely.

I simply don't know what to do. I'm in my mid-twenties; if I had a home where he could move in with me, I would have him here in a minute. However, I live the typical 20's lifestyle with a roommate. Even getting a new apartment with him would be difficult, as I don't have enough money to pay the majority of any rent, which is what I would have to do if I lived with him here. What happens if he agreed to move in with me (which he wouldn't, so it's rather a moot point. He thinks I am living in the wrong place and tells me constantly) and there's not enough money? Also, I've just started the first really good job I've ever had here; money-wise (somewhat), future experience-wise, and simple enjoyment-wise. To move (to a very, very, very small town, I should probably add. I'm an artist/designer, and this area would offer nothing in that way. Really, I don't know what type of job I could hope to get there at all, besides McDonalds.) would set me back horribly.

No one else really seems to care besides me. He has a daughter (my aunt) who refuses to help. He doesn't live alone, he lives with a niece, but according to him she has more health problems than he does and can't be of much help.

The guilt is killing me. This is my *father* for all intents and purposes, and I'm letting him down. He's always been there for me in whatever way he could be. There's a very large part of me that feels like the most ungrateful and selfish person ever to walk the face of this earth. And there's another part of me that *knows* that to move will destroy so much for me, and set me back in so many ways that I don't see how I could recover. Is even questioning if I should go point to that, yes, I deserve every bit of guilt I am feeling? He's 78 and in bad health.

I know this is something only I can decide. All I want to know, I guess, is if any of you have had to make a decision such as this and what you chose.
posted by Windigo to Human Relations (34 answers total)
Not your responsibility. Offer to let him move near you. That's all you can do. If you're guiltable, people will abuse it.
posted by letterneversent at 11:49 AM on November 3, 2005

If it was my father I'd do it. And that's the point. It's a very personal decision and you have to make it. It's obvious you don't want to make the move and if that's your decision then your grandfather should have the love and respect to understand. And if he doesn't then I guess you know you made the right call.
posted by brautigan at 11:54 AM on November 3, 2005

I've talked to my dad about moving to live near me. We both know there's no chance in hell I'm moving to Cincinnati. So far no specific plans have been necessary.
posted by matildaben at 12:01 PM on November 3, 2005

You've got one life, and control over your own mental state.'s up to you whether the ultimate finality of your one life will sum up as the guy (using the default masculine here) who lived his life for himself in positive ways or for others in negative ways.

But wait, there's more...if you live life for yourself in your current place, are you living it fully? Or are you putzing around accomplishing little more your own immediate self-satisfaction? Is your life 'full'?

If you can say yes, then this is no contest...stick it out where you are and be happy to give up the guilt. But if you can't acknowledge that then really you deserve it to yourself to look at your own behaviour and see if you're being selfish and petulant...regardless of your grandfather's wishes.
posted by Kickstart70 at 12:13 PM on November 3, 2005

Not even if he had six months to live and he had money to bequeath you. Not your responsibility. it is selfish of him to constantly hassle you about this and not only should you not feel guilty, I'm surprised that you're not angrier.

I didn't leave my hometown until my mid-30s mostly because my dad kept coming up with reasons why I should stay. In the end, the only reason he wanted me to stay was because he wanted me to stay. I should have left town fifteen years earlier and until the day I die I will blame him for squandering my opportunities because of his selfishness.
posted by solid-one-love at 12:14 PM on November 3, 2005

I wouldn't. It's just not fair for him to expect you to do that. You have a life of your own.
But offer to help him find a place closer to where you live. Visit often.
This thread may help.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 12:20 PM on November 3, 2005

I should have left town fifteen years earlier and until the day I die I will blame him for squandering my opportunities because of his selfishness.

I respectfully suggest that your opportunities were squandered by decisions you made.

I am not saying that you were fully-informed and capable of making the best decision at the time. But the fact remains that you chose to hang around, regardless the underlying cause of the decision you made.

Your first step in healing the anger is to accept personal responsibility for your role in the matter.

[/dr. phil mode]
posted by five fresh fish at 12:21 PM on November 3, 2005

If my parents genuinely needed my help and were asking for it because they genuinely needed it? I would certainly try to make it work.

But honestly, I don't think that's the situation here. He doesn't genuinely need your help. He, for some reason, doesn't like what you've chosen to do with your life, and now he's using his illness as a way of guilting you into coming back home. I don't like blackmail, and that's what this is. If he approved of your life choices and wanted you to succeed, he wouldn't be asking you to throw away your future at this point.

He may need some help, sure, but he probably doesn't need full time care (which you wouldn't be able to provide if you had to work, anyway), so he doesn't literally need you on site. Is there any way you can help out financially, by ensuring he's getting some sort of regular care. My landlady is ill but mobile, and having a home care worker come in 6-8 hours a week to help with some of the heavier tasks (laundry, bathing) as well as just keep an eye on whether she's on top of her meds and such has made a real difference in her ability to be independent.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:27 PM on November 3, 2005

Your grandfather has a solution in mind. that doesn't mean it's the only one or the right one.

You have problems in life, too. Call them challenges, if you prefer. You're an artist, and that imposes a lot of limitations on where you can live and the range of jobs you can enjoy/make a living at. You're in your twenties, and don't have any money. You're in the middle of a lot of changes, just because of your age. And you're prone to guilt...which can turn to resentment at any moment.

How about saying, "I'm not moving there. How else can I help you?"

Also, ask yourself what kind of help he actually needs. It's very possible that even if you lived with him, you wouldn't be able to provide it.

I'm not saying you shouldn't make any sacrifices to help him. Just make sure he'll actually benefit from what you do for him.
posted by wryly at 12:35 PM on November 3, 2005

I think you need to visit, access the situation, and make a decision after obtaining more information.
posted by LadyBonita at 12:41 PM on November 3, 2005

So it is not a case of him trying to guilt me into moving because he's lonely.

Instead he's trying to guilt you into moving because he misses you. Or because he needs some assistance which he can't or won't pay for. Or ... whyever. He's still trying to guilt you, which is kinda crummy. Don't let that impact your decision either way. It could be pointless manipulation or it could be he's desperate and this is the only way he can think of to get what he needs.

Only you really know how much he actually needs you, and by that I mean not what you COULD do for him but what nobody else can do for him that he MUST have. You need to make the call how serious it is but from your devotion plus resistance I glean that in fact he can manage okay without you. Jacquilynne makes good suggestions about having someone assist him.

Just don't feel guilty about considering your own needs and life along with his and don't hold back from telling him flat-out that what he's asking you to do will have a huge negative impact on your life. There's people in my life I'd walk away from everything to help but they also know it would have to be worth it. Your dad wouldn't want you to be unhappy either, is it possible you haven't communicated to him exactly how this is true and not just reluctance or fear on your part?
posted by phearlez at 12:48 PM on November 3, 2005

I respectfully suggest that your opportunities were squandered by decisions you made.

I respectfully suggest that when my decisions are misinformed due to years of dishonest behaviour on the part of an authority figure, that I am not responsible. Personal responsibility is mitigated or abrograted in my specific situation -- a situation that we are not talking about.

Windigo asked for advice, and I gave it. I didn't ask your advice, and you cannot make an informed comment about my life. So, respectfully, put a sock in it. You may disagree with my advice, but not my interpretation of my experience.
posted by solid-one-love at 1:00 PM on November 3, 2005

I agree 100% with jacquilynne's interpretation. Your grandfather is guilting you. To put this in perspective, what kind of care does he need, exactly? Errands? Every community has people who can be hired reasonably to do this stuff. Anything beyond that would require not just moving to his hometown, but being more-or-less a full-time caretaker. Which means NO job for you that isn't part time.

You are, quite simply, not equipped to deal with his needs. That's where the practical matter of this issue starts and ends, IMO.

That said, this must be very painful for you to have to deal with, and it will be with you for a long time. I suggest finding someone you can confide in on an ongoing basis, who can provide support and perspective. If you don't have a friend you can trust, consider seeing a counselor.
posted by mkultra at 1:13 PM on November 3, 2005

What type of artist/designer are you? I ask because some arts, such as photography, jewelry design or web-based graphic / internet design, might still be possible to pursue even in a small-town area. In fact, such areas might be looked at as a source of artistic inspiration -- something to draw on for the rest of a long career, even after you re-urbanize.

That said, I don't mean to come across all Pollyanna on you when it sounds as though there are deeper and discomfiting relationship issues at work here. If you're genuinely facing a choice between guilt and resentment, only you will know what option is right for you.
posted by clever sheep at 1:13 PM on November 3, 2005

Windigo, we're facing this with my father's brother, who has late-stage Alzheimer's. Due to alcoholism and divorce, he squandered his relationship with his three kids, and they barely tolerate having him around since his second wife died -- so he imposed on his little brother, which impacted the family here in Wisconsin. Over the past year he's been in trouble with the law five times, including public drunkenness and other risky behavior, and none of us here has the time or resources to deal with him. Now he's gotten himself involuntarily chucked in a nursing home in a town halfway across the state from where he ever lived, and my dad is feeling guilted into "saving" him from this fate. (My dad already helped him get a clean driver's license against our better judgement, and this is what happened. We count it lucky there were no serious car accidents.)

It's bogus -- getting into assisted living is the best thing that could happen to him at this point. He needs 24/7 care and I don't think anyone but a spouse has a moral obligation to provide it (and it's iffy then, too).

OK, this isn't Alzheimer's, but the moral calculus is similar. Think about what kind of life your grandfather needs to have now and in the future. If it's assisted living, then what YOU can do if YOU want to help is find a way to get him into assisted living where YOU are.

Even as a loving granddaughter, this is NOT your responsibility. It MAY be a choice you want to make, but I think your grandfather is being unfair to make these selfish proposals. Just as my uncle has been selfish to play round-robin who-can-stand-me-this-month games with all his family. You can't let him selfishly limit your life, and you shouldn't. You can do things for him within the context of the life you already lead. Set that boundary responsibly, or you'll regret it down the road.
posted by dhartung at 1:20 PM on November 3, 2005

Why does he have to be "guilting" Windigo?

Maybe he's close to 80, in poor health, and freaking lonely.
Windigo all but said she is the only relative who cares one whit.
No "guilt trip" just an old man who probably realizes he doesn't have a whole lot of time left.

That said, if it were me, I'd follow LadyBonita's advice:
Go down there, see what the situation is really like, and really talk it over with your grandfather.
Maybe a week long visit will do the trick and he can die happy.
posted by madajb at 1:26 PM on November 3, 2005 [1 favorite]

You should ask, "What would it take to get you to move here?". If the answer is "nothing could induce me", then you know the score, and you can stay home. Otherwise, get to planning his move out.
posted by ewkpates at 1:27 PM on November 3, 2005

I just re-read and saw that your surrogate father doesn't live alone -- he lives with a niece. Frankly, the part about her having more health problems than he does rings a bit untrue. Even a person with health problems can provide companionship and be the one to pick up the phone and summon help if there's ever an issue.

That detail puts me in wryly's camp: the next time he brings up the subject, respond with some variant of, "I love you, but I'm not moving. How else can I help you?" and maybe write some fantastic letters and/or schedule a long visit.
posted by clever sheep at 1:29 PM on November 3, 2005

In fact, he's brought it up every time we talk, for a couple years now.

He recently had a lung operation and now uses an oxogen tank. So it is not a case of him trying to guilt me into moving because he's lonely.

If he only recently had the operation, and he's been asking you to move every time you've talked for the last couple of years, it's possible that he is trying to guilt you.

I know that doesn't make it any easier on you, though.
posted by amarynth at 1:46 PM on November 3, 2005

If he raised and supported you then I think you do have a responsibility to him. But, when it was his house it was his rules now it will be your house and your rules so you get to decide where the house is. If he doesn't like it you are absolved from responsibility as long as you keep the offer open.
posted by Mr T at 2:09 PM on November 3, 2005

personally (and again, this is a personal issue), i'd pick family over career every time. I realize the "math" on this may be different for folks that had a different sort of relationship with their parents, but my folks gave me eighteen plus years of their lives, so I wouldn't feel right not giving them some of my time. I am living in a city that I hadn't planned on living in as long as I have now in order to be close to my mother. suprisingly, it's offered more opportunities than I originally thought it would, but it's also possible I've just gotten lucky (also, it's podunk, but not bumfuck, so ymmv).

i would third LadyBonita's advice: go out there for a visit and see how things are. I'd be inclined to say that if he's doing alright by himself now, he probably doesn't *need* your help, although he'd clearly like it. Whether or not you choose to make a large sacrafice in order to please him is really not a decision anyone else can make for you.
posted by fishfucker at 2:18 PM on November 3, 2005

OK, windigo, you asked for advice...

In the last year, I've done what you are apparently being asked to do now. But my circumstances are different than yours, in a couple of respects. First, I'm in my mid-fifties, not my mid-twenties. Second, my parents had been independent all their lives, always wanted me and my siblings to be the same, and were comfortable in their retirement. Third, I have a mentally ill and permanently disabled brother, who lived most his adult life with my parents [by their choice], and I've always understood that, as the oldest brother, I'd be responsible for his care at some point in my life. Fourth, about 14 years ago, I moved to within a 5 hour drive of my parent's retirement town, and visited with them several times a year ever since, so I knew their situation first hand, and kept it in mind. At several points, when one or the other of my parents was seriously ill, I was able to go to them, and help them deal with hospitalizations and other problems.

That all said, a little more than a year ago, my mother's health took a sharp turn for the worse. She was hospitalized in a city 35 miles from her home, and my dad was making an hour and a half trip each way on a community shuttle van, everyday, and trying to still look after my brother, and keep his house going. It became pretty obvious that he wasn't going to be able to keep all the balls in the air, and that mother was going downhill. In my own life, I'd been laid off from a good job some months before, with a generous severance package, and I had plenty of savings. I was finally finishing up a college degree I'd always promised myself I would, but as that came to an end, I knew it was time. So, I moved down in December 2004, to a city I knew little about.

My mother went into renal failure in January, and her condition continued to worsen steadily, and she died on March 17. But she knew before she died that I was here, and would help my dad and brother. And we had some time, including many "clear" days, when I could visit with her in the hospital, and know that she knew and understood that I would see that things were taken care of, when she no longer could.

The week after mother's funereal, my dad developed a hacking cough. We all thought he was just run down, and that he'd got a touch of bronchitis. But when his cough didn't improve after a couple days of antibiotics, we took him back to the doctor, they put him in the hospital, and we discovered that he had an advanced stage of lung cancer. He died May 1, after a short but courageous fight, and with more grace and simple dignity than I could ever have imagined anyone in such circumstances doing. He rose in those last weeks, with a quiet heroism and a confidence in his beliefs to which I can only hope to aspire when my own time comes, and again, I know that my being here was a help to him in preparing to die.

And now, I am my brother's keeper, and executor of my parent's estates. I've spent the summer sorting through their papers, and giving away their clothes, and preparing their home for sale, while helping my sister deal with the loss, and raise her last two kids as a single mother. We've all had some sad days, and a lot of work, because my parents affairs were not in the best order. Unlike you, I haven't had the financial pressure you describe, nor the sense that by coming here, I was leaving big opportunities. And as I say, unlike you, I knew and accepted that it was time before I came...

But what I haven't been prepared for, has been that it hasn't turned out to be the obligation I dreaded for so long. I don't think anyone can "do the right thing" so to speak, purely out of a sense of obligation. You may feel (and you do say as much in your post), as I did before I came here, that there is nothing for you in moving closer. And truth be told, my job prospects here are nil, and if it weren't for the need to complete the probate process here as a resident of this state, I suppose I might have left as soon after my dad's funeral as I could have. And yet, sad as this summer has been, and difficult as all this could have been, it hasn't turned out that way.

My brother has come through all this as well as I could have hoped, and better by far than I expected. I've lost a little weight, and going through my parent's things, I've learned more about them, and about myself than I ever would have otherwise known. I've had some time to think about my own life, and my choices, and I've come to value my brother as a person more than I ever thought would be possible. As I say, it hasn't, to my slow surprise, turned out to be an obligation...

I suspect that if you do choose to go to your grandfather, it won't be the obligation you think it will, once you get there. The mere act of choosing to do it subtly changes the outcome, and the outcome changes you. Your grandfather will be grateful, and you will find ways to help, and if you let it, the little town you find yourself in may show you something more than you give it credit, at your current remove.

Whether you go or stay, you will have to give yourself permission to live the choice you make, and not look back with regret. But, speaking only from my own life, there is something about being a member of a family, and coming through for them when you can, that is powerful. Only you can say whether your opportunity cost is too great to go be with your grandfather, but in the end, he is the most important family you have, and you know, if something does happen, you won't be able to buy back this chance, no matter what the return you get from any job or economic opportunity.

But only you can know, and only you can answer the question "Is it time?" I can only close by saying, that in my case it was, and I'm glad (and somewhat surprised to be so) that I could do this.
posted by paulsc at 2:19 PM on November 3, 2005 [2 favorites]

SoL: Fair enough.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:22 PM on November 3, 2005

I don't know what I can say after paulsc's outpouring. I think if this man was important to you, you owe it to both him and yourself to reach out to him with assistance. What form that takes the two of you will need to work out. If you look deeply enough into your heart you will see what to do for you and for him.
posted by caddis at 3:48 PM on November 3, 2005

It's possible your grandfather is trying to get you to move to Nevada because he disapproves of your current life. It's possible he wants the company and is guilt-tripping you. It's also possible he really does need assistance with day-to-day stuff but can't bring himself to admit that he isn't as independent as he'd like to be.

Have a hard talk with him and ask him about these things. You may not get a straight answer out of him, but you certainly won't if you don't ask.
posted by adamrice at 4:24 PM on November 3, 2005

have a bong and think about it properly (substitute bong with whatever gives you 'down time')

the decision totally rests on you tallying up that which is good for you.
posted by Frasermoo at 4:42 PM on November 3, 2005

I hope this post's title ("Worst Daughter Ever") isn't referring to you, Windigo. You shouldn't feel so guilty; he is asking a lot of you. I'm sure if he needed you there (instead of just wanting you there), you would be. Good luck.
posted by Sibrax at 4:47 PM on November 3, 2005

do or do not. there is no try. /Yoda
posted by Frasermoo at 4:57 PM on November 3, 2005

I may be totally missing the point here, but it seems that part of your frustration is that your grandpa doesn't (want to) get your side of things. How about writing him a letter (crib from your post here, if necessary) laying out exactly how you feel? Then ask him to call you to discuss things, or call him once he's had a chance to read it.

If you get to share your side, you may feel better, and he may get a bit more perspective on what he's asking. Then maybe a real conversation, and possibly a workable compromise, can ensue.
posted by rob511 at 5:01 PM on November 3, 2005

what kind of care does he need, exactly? Errands?

As someone pointed out, it may not be so much a matter of logistics as of emotions. He misses you.

On the other hand, I can understand how his demands - and their potential effect on your life - might make you feel trapped.

What about the niece? Can you talk to her, get another angle on the situation, a sense of what really has to be done?
posted by zadcat at 6:06 PM on November 3, 2005

I've never seen anyone so unhappy as daughters who have been guilted into taking care of their older relatives. A more miserable life has never existed.

You know the truth. You know he's trying to steer your life in a direction that he wants, and you know it's not the best for you. A very, very, very small town? You'd be in abject misery. Better to take up a heroin habit than to to move in with grandpa in a very, very, very small town. You'll waste the best years of your life and you'll curse yourself for the rest of your years. Read solid-one-love's post above. You will feel like that. Is that how you want to remember your grandfather, as the man who destroyed your life because you gave in to his demands?

You're old enough to leave the nest now. It is natural and expected that the people you're leaving have a certain desire for you not to do so; you must overcome that. (Frankly though, your grandfather sounds like he's well into fucked up guilt-tripping, which is bullshit.) Bullshit! It's bullshit! Adults know that they have to accept their offspring going their own way. Call it what it is - bullshit. You don't deserve the guilt-tripping. You aren't a bad daughter. You don't owe this man the sacrifice of your entire life to gratify his impossible demands. You *don't*.
posted by jellicle at 6:27 PM on November 3, 2005

What jellicle said, though I'd probably have said it with a couple less bullshits. You owe the guy love and gratitude, not the sacrifice of your life. Do what you need to do and try to reconcile him to it. Hopefully he's not spiralling down into some sort of bitter black hole, but if he is, your being there wouldn't change things, it would just suck you in.
posted by languagehat at 7:45 AM on November 4, 2005

hm. If it were me, and I was young, single, and otherwise unattached, I would move to a large city near him. A decent population means you'd probably be able to meet some new people, have plenty to do, and be able to find a job.

This only works if you can find something, say, within a 3 hour drive or less from his place. You'd have your own space, but be able to visit him and/or help him out more frequently.
posted by whatnot at 8:48 AM on November 4, 2005

Parents parent children. Children do not parent parents. Children do need to handle end-of-life issues. But giving up your life in order to give it to him is way too much like taking on the parenting role. Adults are resonsible for themselves. That's one of the things about growing up. Your grandfather is supposed to be grown-up too.

Having said that, you can choose to go care for him if you want to. And if you do that, your current state of mind indicates that you will resent him and you will be angry at yourself for the decision.

Guilt is not at all useful in making this decision. So drop the guilt and drop it ruthlessly. Make the decision because it is good for you first. He has to make decisions that are good for him.
posted by tamills at 7:44 AM on November 29, 2005

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