How Do I Restore The Relationships

Question: Dear Luise: Until my son and daughter were in college, we were extremely close.  In 1990 I discovered that my husband had “loaned” the money I had worked for and saved for their educations to his brother, which was never paid back. Also, my husband, a military officer, retired just before making full colonel and would not explain why.  After he retired in 1990, he went into a severe depression and refused to ever work again. He had been borrowing against our house (right outside D.C.) for the two previous years to pay our son’s tuition so that I wouldn’t find out that the money was gone.  When our daughter was ready to go to Cornell in 1990 is when he retired and I found out about the missing money and the money borrowed on the house, plus he was hsopitalized for severe depression. {The psychiatrist told me that my husband had the most severe case of passive aggressive personality disorder he had ever encountered.  He also tild me that my husband had “convinced” himself that he loved me but that he actually hated my guts because I had done the “ultimate” thing to him–had his children , so he had been “forced” to stay married.  That, plus a lot more.) When the children found out about the money, they told us that they had thought that they had the perfect, loving parents and that all their friends envied them, but that now they realized that their whole life had been a lie because they saw their Dad as a liar, and me as being such a dominant personality that I had “forced” him to actually be weak and lose their college money (to which their dad had never contributed a penney,) In a story too long to tell here, I worked four jobs, seven days a week for seven years to help them get through school, was able to buy another, smaller house four years after having ti declare bankruptcy (with my husband because everything was in our names jointly), had a stroke in 1997, had to retire, moved back with my husband to my hometown. I sold the house  and bought one in my hometown that my husband loved (I hated).  He was very happy there; I gave him a country club membership and he literally played golf seven days a week, went to all kinds of club meetings, etc.  Our relationship with our now adult children was never the same as it had been, but was OK.  We had come through Hell and were finally happy.  Then, in 2006, he found what his doctor thought was an infected lympth node.  He was dead less than four months later; the CANCER was in stage 4 by the time it was discovered. I honestly thought that after their dad’s death, my son (single excutive) and daughter (married) would grow closer because I was now completely alone.  Just the opposite has occured; they are extremely judgemental of everything I do, they seldom come to visit and when they do, I get physically sick because all they do is act and treat me like I’m an idiot and that I am nothing but an annoyance to them.  Everything I do is “wrong” and they dismiss anything I say whether in person or on the phone. I have progressive neurodegenerative brain disorder from a brain injury I sustained in an auto accident as a teenager. Because I had been very bright ( a secondary teacher and college professor) my children refuse to believe that I am slowly losing my mental faculties, that I get easily confused, have balance and coordintation problems, and seizures.  Instead, they accuse me of “not paying attention,” and fuss because my house is “so cluttered”, etc. My son told me to move to a smaller house in the small mountain town where my husband and I met, and that, so that I could buy the smaller house for cash, he would help me so I wouldn’t have to be in a rush to sell the six bedroom House I was in. When the actual purchase came, we used all the money I had, and only $50,000 of his, yet he referrs to this as his house.  He has come because he suddenly wants the big house sold immediately so I can “pay him back.” He was here (at the new house only six hours before leaving to “take care of” the bigger house 140 miles away.  While he was here, he made it clear that he did not kike the way I have decorated “his” house, and that this one “is almost as cluttered as the one HE got me out of.” That really hurt because all my new friends and neighbors love my cozy little cottage and have said how great I have in decorated.  When my son gets to the other house (about an hour from now), I know he will call and I’ll catch hell because it is still full of furniture and things I didn’t bring here,  I have discovered that I am as AFRAID of my son and daughter’s disapproval and anger as I was of my husband’s. My son was actually annoyed (and said so) that I “am not in as bad shape as I’d said on the phone.”  I fell seven weeks ago and have: broken right foot in a cast, broken right wrist that was set incorrectly and now I can’t use that hand, a torn rotator cuff, a broken shoulder (all on the right side) and a broken left ankle. Tomorrow I will find out (from my new orthopedist) whether I have to have immediate surgery on my feet and shoulder.  He will do surgery at a later date to try to restore the use of my right hand.  My son said I said I couldn’t walk: I’m not supposed to but what can I do? I live alone.  He said that I am always exaggerating my health situation and have complained about something his whole life.  He blamed me that HE is a failure, (although he makes $280,000 a year plus bonuses), because he is 40, has no wife, children, home, and has a job he hates, and now has had ro take time from his job to fly 3,000 miles to do what I should have done–clean out 38 years of “stuff” and have the big house ready to sell.  I moved to the smaller one at the end of February and have been in cast since mid-April. My daughter has changed just as dramatically toward me.  She says that I must be the reason for her inability tto have a baby even though the infertillity specialist has told her that the issue is with her husband’s sperm and has nothing to do with her reproductive ability. Both children have told me that all the financial trouble in 1990 that “ruined their lives” was MY fault because i “was always the stronger parent” and “should have known to prevent Dad from giving the money away.”  I have been psychologically destroyed by the two things I have loved the most on earth.  I did everything I ever did to try to help them with a free and loving heart.  I never complained about having to work seven days a week, losing the house I loved–nothing,  When I sold the second VA house and moved here, I gave each of them $28,000 because I wanted them to know how sad I was that their dad and I had hurt them so in 1990.  I (alone) paid almost$30,000 for my daughter’s wedding in 2002. I don’t understand what I’ve done wrong.  They seem to really dislike me now and have no real respect for me.  Yhey both treat me like I’m an acquaintance that they are angry at having to deal with now that their Dad is gone.  My sister thinks that they are both angry that I didn’t die instead of their father because he left no insurance money, but I have $800,000 life insurance made out to them, plus land of my mother’s that they will inherit.  I cannot believe taht the two loving, close children I HAD would feel that way.  Do you have any idea as to why they have changed SO dramatically toward me, and can you PLEASE tell me what to do to restore the relationships we once had to any degree? L.

Answer: Dear L.: “Why” isn’t the point. Knowing why isn’t going to fix any thing. There probably is no why. Adult children make choices that they are responsible for and some don’t like that. The easy way out is to blame their parents. I honestly don’t see restoration of your relationships as an option.

You have problems and issues, all real…none imagined, that they don’t want to know about or help you with. That’s not your fault, it’s theirs. You have done your best under incredibly difficult circumstances.

Figure out what you can do to separate yourself from both of them. When your house sells, pay your son back. You can make new friends, rekindle old friendships and have a life of your own. Parenting is something we do for a while and then it’s done and the rest is up to them. We don’t do it forever.

Your adult children aren’t going to be there for you. It’s horrible to face but you need to do that and move on. And I’d cancel those  life insurance policies and leave the land to my sister or the Humane Society. I’m serious. You deserve so much better.

I would suggest you move to a retirement center. That’s where I live and I have made many friends here. We have independent living, assisted care and nursing facilities all on one campus. You have a degenerative diagnosis that is going to cause you increased problems and asking your adult children for help and either not getting it or getting it at such a high price, emotionally, is not supportive.

In addition, I have a Web-forum that you might like to join so you can connect with a loving community. It is for women with issues with adult children and extended families: www.WiseWomenUnite.com. Come on over! Blessings, Luise

 

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