Dear Mrs. Bluth,
There is never a good time for illness or death to visit, so to say that this was the worst possible time to have to deal with what has befallen my husband, is an understatement. You see, I am dealing with my own medical situation and am running between radiologists, oncologists and surgeon. In order to fully understand what I’m dealing with, pretty much on my own, would take quite a few sheets of paper, not to mention the tears and the heartache it brings to the forefront. So I will be as brief as I give you a solid picture of my matzav.
I am a seventy-year-old woman, married to the same man for the last fifty years. It was never a good marriage, but it produced seven wonderful, talented, respectful children, some of whom are themselves grandparents. Five of these adult children and their families live either out of state or out of the country and two sons and their families live in other sections, but still close enough to come every so often. As it is hard for any of them to visit with their families, some of the children still being quite young, I felt it was easier for myself and my husband (when he felt like it) to visit them for Shabbosim and Yomim Tovim.
My husband was never the best father (according to my kids this would be a grave understatement), he never had a kind word or ever really took an interest in our children when they were growing up. He has little or no connection or interest in his grandchildren and, in fact, I am the dominant nurturing and dependable figure in their lives. So it came as no surprise that when I was diagnosed every one of them found a way to come and stay awhile and help out during my recuperation. I don’t think there was a mother on earth who felt more loved or blessed (even with what I was going through) than I.
Over the last two years, I began to notice my husband occasionally behaving strangely. On infrequent occasions he would say things that made little sense and, because he was not a pleasant person to begin with, things that were terribly hurtful and nasty. I chalked it up to his getting older (he’s fourteen years older than I) and put my feelings aside hoping he would settle gracefully into old age. However, as the months went by, things got progressively worse, graduating from cursing to accusations that I was stealing or hiding things from him as well as seeing people who weren’t there, day and night. It was during this progression that I became ill and made my children aware of his condition, which they got to see up close for themselves when they were here. What concerned them most was my safety, but I told them that he had never raised a hand to me in all our married life, nor to them. He could exercise his mean qualities by denying us some creature comforts when he knew it meant so much to any one of us, or deny them money for trips or events they so desperately wanted to attend, but he was never physically abusive. So that fear was not a concern for me.
This changed about six months ago, just two months after my surgery and during my radiation period. My energy level was 10 below zero, and all I could do was lie on the sofa most days. I gave him little tasks to do, like put washed glasses and dishes in the cabinet (there was just the two of us at this time), but apparently this was too much to ask, because he started breaking the glasses and plates and putting the broken pieces in the oven or the refrigerator. He also began accusing me of being “the enemy” and telling me that if I would touch his things he would kill me. Because I didn’t trust him not to start a fire or hurt himself, I began taking him with me on all my doctor’s visits, asking the office help to keep an eye on him while I was being seen or given treatment. Three days ago, he wandered out of the office. Security finally found him in the basement of the building playing with the knobs on pipes and pushing buttons on a wall control. I was asked never to bring him again. At this writing, I have missed two doctor’s appointments because I didn’t have anyone to look after him. The neighbor who helped me out up to now, doesn’t think she wants to do it anymore and suggested I call my children to help. I know it is what I should do, but I don’t want to burden them with a father who never showed them an ounce of care and concern.
I can truly understand your plight, your pain and your burden, more so because you are involved with caring for your own health while monitoring the well being and safety of your husband. You are right that there is never a right time for ill health or death; it is something no one really plans for or wants to entertain. But life happens to everyone at one time or another and when it does, we reach out and grasp the hands that should, could and would be of help if only we asked for it.
So your husband is not “Mr. Niceguy” and probably wouldn’t make “Father of the Year” ever. But he’s still a father and for this alone he deserves the respect and the attention of his children. And so do you. As you said, you are in no condition to look after him when you are so involved with your own care and recuperation. Please allow your children to be mekayem the mitzvah of kibbud Av! By not telling them where things stand, because you want to protect them or not burden them with the needs of the father who wasn’t the best father, you are denying them the privilege of making that choice for themselves. Because they are fathers and mothers and grandparents, they might understand that it would be a privilege, rather then the tircha you see it as.
Looking at your situation from a practical standpoint, your husband has now graduated into that group that portends to be a danger to himself and to others, due to no fault of his own. His mind and clear-thinking rational has now almost completely left him and he is no longer responsible for his actions. here are two solutions left to you, either hire a live-in home health care aide, or institutionalize him. It is a necessity that you call a family intervention and make these decisions immediately for everyone’s sake, please don’t miss anymore appointments that disrupt your treatments.
I wish a refuah shelaima for you and your husband and, because I know my response may sound a bit heartless and clinical, I really care and want you to do what’s best for you, your husband and your entire family.