Would You Do This?
June 12, 2018 9:13 PM   Subscribe

My Aunt who I barely know is dying of cancer. She has made no preparations for this and her affairs are not in order. My Dad is the only relative she has, and everything has fallen on him to straighten out. I want to help but... details inside.

I have spoken to my aunt once in my adult life, and only saw her three or four times when I was little. Our family has had multiple complex issues and as a result I am not particularly close with my dad either. He has never been there for me in any significant way. Never the less I wanted to help him with this if I could.

My Aunt lives on the east coast, my Dad and I live out west. My Aunt is in the hospital and from what I gather she has maybe a few weeks left, maybe less. My dad's wife who has visited my Aunt in the last two years, has described her as a hoarder and says her house is in chaos and is "unsanitary." My dad says my aunt has made no preparations at all for her death, so in addition to cleaning and packing up the house, (which my Aunt will not be returning to) my Dad will be trying to take care of all the legal stuff while he is there. His wife is going along to help him. Before I knew that his wife was going to go and help him, I said I would consider flying out to help him with the house, I also said that maybe the money I would spend on a plane ticket/hotel/rental car could be used to hire professional cleaners instead. My Dad indicated he would rather have me fly out, and said my aunt had money to get cleaners to come.

The truth is that when I said I would consider going out, I thought my Dad was having to do everything himself with absolutely no help, and no money to hire anyone to help him. Knowing the whole situation better, I find myself conflicted.

In addition to an expensive plane ticket, a car, and a hotel, I will need to find a pet sitter. The trip will run me well over $1000.00. I can afford this, but it will mean giving up my vacation this year. I will have to change and use tickets I bought for my planned vacation in August, as well as the money that was meant for my vacation.

Part of me feels selfish for wanting to keep my vacation. Part of me feels guilty for offering something and maybe not following through. Part of me feels like neither my Dad nor my Aunt has ever made any effort to be there for me throughout my life, and me doing this is just another example of me not taking care of myself. I know that my Dad would not do this for me. Before I knew the whole situation, I didn't care so much that he would never be reciprocating, I just knew I couldn't live with myself if I left him to handle everything alone. But he's not alone and there are more resources than I thought.

I don't know what to do. If you were me, Meta filter, what would you do?
posted by WalkerWestridge to Human Relations (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I can't say I know what I would do, but I hope I'd be able to say, "I made the offer when I thought you had to deal with this alone. But since you don't, I'd rather not." If your dad hasn't been there for you, and you're not pegging your hopes on any future improvement, I don't believe this requires further explanation.
posted by Superfrankenstein at 9:31 PM on June 12, 2018 [21 favorites]

if she's a hoarder and there's no additional family i'd just let him pay someone to empty the house out. it won't be cheap (likely in the thousands of dollars) but it'll be gone and there's so much other crap to deal with that it's just not worth the hassle.

i dealt with my father's estate a couple years ago and a long-vacant house full of crap no one wanted (not a hoarder situation) was still a huge pain in the ass. i paid $3,000 to have someone empty it out so it could be cleaned/fixed up for sale and don't regret it a bit.
posted by noloveforned at 9:34 PM on June 12, 2018 [7 favorites]

While your offer to help was generous and surely appreciated, the reality is now different so you can adjust your approach. I want you to keep your vacation time for you but would support you in whatever you choose. Here's one take: if your relationship with your dad is already strained, going and arguing and/or being resentful would probably only add even more stress and strain to the relationship. So that's one more argument for not going.

I'd speak to your dad and get his take. It'd probably be most ideal if you could speak to him and his wife at the same time, since they will be working together. It's very possible that they'd actually rather do this alone. It's possible that your dad understood your first offer as more good will than anything else; chances are if he knew how you're feeling now, how it'd be a hardship or at least a discomfort, he'd want you to stay home.

I'd tell him what you said here, more or less, and see what he says. I'd then ask: "Is there anything else I could do for you instead that would help?"You could set up appointments for a few cleaning estimates on the day of his choice, be available all weekend for phone chats if he needs a break or distraction while he sorts, etc. I can understand why you're seeing this as an all-or-nothing situation but I see it as one that can be updated to better fit everyone's needs. Best of luck to you!
posted by smorgasbord at 9:48 PM on June 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

I would ask him if the aunt's estate had enough money in it to cover the your costs to come help wrap things up. Let the Aunt's estate pay the $1,000. This has nothing to do with how many times you have seen your aunt or how close you were to her. This is between you and your father. Presumably, he will be the heir to the estate. This is about spending time with your father and maybe hearing some family stories and learning more about him and you. If he or the estate cannot or will not cover it, I would bail. Use any excuse. Cannot make it that week. Etc.
posted by AugustWest at 10:03 PM on June 12, 2018 [12 favorites]

Instead of going (maybe tell your father that you can't leave work on such short notice or whatever) and instead you can contribute by researching companies that do this kind of hoarder cleaning and junk removal. Do some legwork to identify who can come help. This is way beyond what your father and his wife can handle on their own and your help isn't enough to get them over the line. This will be a high stress situation and I doubt that it'll be an opportunity to build bridges with your father if that's something that you want to do. Assist with logistical support from afar and if you do want to change your relationship with your father, don't bundle it into this already chaotic situation.
posted by quince at 10:31 PM on June 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

Sometimes life is about showing up for people even when it’s not something you would necessarily really want to do. This is your father - likely going through a difficult time. I have found that throughout my life, some of my most memorable experiences involve people I love, with me, going through something difficult together.

Do what you have to do to protect yourself but don’t underestimate what it might mean to your father to have you there - to know that someday you might be the one to step in and handle his affairs as he departs the earth.
posted by shew at 10:56 PM on June 12, 2018 [19 favorites]

This is your father - likely going through a difficult time. I have found that throughout my life, some of my most memorable experiences involve people I love, with me, going through something difficult together.

This would be valid if the father in question was what we think of as a reasonably decent father - one who would come and help his daughter if possible when she was in need herself. That's not the case here and I don't think you owe him or your aunt anything. If I were you I would say that something has come up at work and you won't be able to get away. However I would offer to do some research and put together a list of resources for him - cleaning service, funeral home, etc. I think you deserve your vacation and have every right to take care of yourself first as that's apparently what your father has always done.
posted by hazyjane at 12:29 AM on June 13, 2018 [9 favorites]

+1 to seeing if the estate has the money to pay for your trip and pet sitting, and have you father (who I assume is the executor) front the costs as you just flat out don’t have the available funds for this at the moment.
posted by DoubleLune at 4:25 AM on June 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'm of two minds.

1) Nip it in the bud now. If your aunt is truley a hoarder (vs someone with just a lot of stuff), this is a slippery slope which will then create the need for additional trips. Unless your father chooses to just pay someone to haul it all away, you'll never get the house addressed in one trip (ask me how I know)... but if he does go the hauler route, he doesn't need your help anyway.

2) This is a chance for bonding with your father, if you want that, and future you will feel better for having stepped up during a difficult time. If he's at all sentimental, he'll start going through her stuff the moment he sees a single thing from their shared childhood that tugs at his heartstrings (which will grind progress to a halt). If you want the bonding that comes from hearing those stories, maybe consider it. Similarly, it's a chance to get closer to your stepmother too, which may pay dividends at some point in the future when the going gets rough as your father ages.
posted by carmicha at 4:41 AM on June 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

You initially made the offer on behalf of your conscience, not being willing to leave your dad totally alone in this. Now that you know he's not alone, that's not a factor. At this point, it sounds like it's just guilt over retracting an offer that you sorta-made (you said you "might" be able to come out) when you thought circumstances were different than they actually are.

The offer was of a pretty huge favor—thousands' of dollars' worth of outlay in terms of travel expenses and labor time, plus a massive chunk of emotional labor. It sounds like it was also never a firm offer in the first place. Given that the person you'd be doing the favor for is someone you're not particularly close to, someone who has wronged you throughout your life with their absence, someone who you know would never reciprocate if the tables were turned, I think you are absolutely in the clear to retract your offer and you should absolve yourself from any guilt over it.

Just tell him that you've been looking at your situation more closely and you won't be able to come out after all.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:44 AM on June 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

All of this is likely to take time - I don't know how long it will take for probate to clear in your aunt's state but they probably can't sell the house like, next week.

I would save your money, save your time, and tell your dad that since he has his wife's help, you will not come this time but you might "later." You don't actually have to later. But that way, if you do end up feeling really bad, this is a decision you actually can undo if say, fares go really low or you get a bonus or there's estate money to fly you out. If YOU want.

Also, given this: I know that my Dad would not do this for me you have no obligation.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:46 AM on June 13, 2018 [6 favorites]

Try doing this- think that you are going to go ahead and go- how do you feel? What are the things that come up for you as you consider going? Then, spend some time thinking about not going- how do you feel? What are the things that come up as you consider not going?

I have cleaned two relatives houses out after they died with my family, and in for the most part the experiences were relationship building, and they also allowed me to get to know those relatives in a way I didn't when they were alive. One, my mother's brother, helped me to better understand my mother and how she grew up. I didn't incur any big expenses, but both times I received money for helping to do the work. It is entirely acceptable to have the estate pay for your fews.

In terms of the legal issues- for the most part little can be done at the end of life due to the fact that the dying person not being of sound mind. My uncle left no will, but besides an extended period of time, the two remaining relatives were able to inherit all of his estate.
posted by momochan at 7:12 AM on June 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would bail. Tell or email the wife if you dont want to talk to dad.

Money can fix this issue. You can offer to front $1000 if they need it for the junk hauler. The aunt is not returning to the home. Its just a clean out to preserve some estate value. All in all this is not something you need to do.
posted by charlielxxv at 8:01 AM on June 13, 2018

Apologies,I misread that you've already allocated $1000 for your vacation.

I agree with warriorqueen's advice. Be kind to yourself.
posted by charlielxxv at 1:16 PM on June 13, 2018

Did he actually ask you to come out to help? Or did you just volunteer? If you just volunteered, I'd retract it, no question. Eventually there will come a time when your dad is sick and actually does need you. Or, you can use that money to visit him in happier times (even if it's just to have dinner one night on your way to somewhere else). But unless he asked for your help, I see no obligation to offer it here.
posted by yarly at 1:41 PM on June 13, 2018

When this situated is packed away and your Aunt is dead and gone in five years, when you look back, what will you wish you’d have done? If you’ll feel regret at spending the money and helping an ungrateful distant father, don’t go. If you’ll feel like you gave generously of yourself and your time and maybe mended a bridge, go.

Alternatively you can tell your father that it seems like he has the situation under control and your money is better spent going towards cleaning/hauling services than airfare for you physically being there and you’d like to put a percentage towards assisting him that way.
posted by Jubey at 4:37 PM on June 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

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