Friday, July 27, 2012

Life with an elderly teeager

My father, to whom you have been previously introduced, is not an easy or particularly nice person.  The face he shows to the world is a completely different person than the one that can emerge when he doesn't get his way or is angry.  He is always self-centered and self-involved, failing to see anything from someone elses perspective.  To keep him happy I walk on eggshells using my best "dealing with teenagers" strategies, knowing that I can't MAKE him do the right thing but hoping that I can get him to want to do the right thing on his own. I usually fail.

Usually I am just exasperated with him but today I am ashamed of him.  The story is so selfish that I cannot believe I am related to him.  It all started when he made the decision that he should no longer drive. It was the right decision and he made that decision himself a few months ago.  Since then I have been at his beck and call and have unfailing been available to him or to run his errands for him.  The only thing he has suffered due to loss of driving is his pride.

 It is now time to get rid of one of his two cars.  Although it only has 67,000 miles, it is over 25 years old and  it needs a muffler and  it needs to get its annual inspection.  A car in this condition is impossible to sell and the best you can hope is that you can donate it to a worthy cause.     Henry, the African-American clerk at our local gas station, where my dad has purchased gas and had his car repaired for many, many years, told him if he wanted to sell the car that he would like to buy it.  Why the detail that he is African-American is important to me is not easily understood but he is old of undeterminate age, he has lived his whole life in the south and I'm certain has been exposed to unthinkable things in his lifetime, and he is extremely nice to our whole family providing rides to and from the station when our cars are being repaired, he is unfailing polite, and he is trying very hard to provide for his wife and children on a minimum wage job.  So it seems like a very easy transaction, right?  We establish a bare minimum price for the car so he doesn't lose his pride at being able to purchase it for his daughter, and we get rid of a car that we don't need and will cost us money to maintain.  This seemed like a clear win-win to me.  Not so fast....

My father wanted $500 dollars, which is about double its probable value.  (I actually put the value at $0 as I just wanted to get rid of it easily.)  So my husband told Henry that my dad had decided to sell the car and asked if he was still interested.  He was as he needed a car for his teenage daughter.  They were negotiating a price when the mechanic at the shop mentioned that it was going to need $500 - $800 worth of work to bring it up to standard.  That meant that we would need to establish a much lower price for the car.  Remember, the goal is to just get rid of it and get it to Henry.  The price my dad was willing to accept was about $50 more than I was willing to ask Henry to pay.  My father exploded and ranted and raved at my husband and said "$50 doesn't mean anything to me" to which we responded "But it means a whole lot to Henry."

So the deal went down today.  I hadn't wanted to get involved but I had to do the final transaction.  I cried a little and talked to my best friend about how horrible I felt about what my father was doing and I was terrified of what my father would say to me.  I felt like I was 8 years old all over again,  waiting for the wrath of my father and letting it fall all around me while I could do nothing to defend myself.

My husband made the deal with Henry over the phone and gave him the lower price.  When no one was looking I slipped an extra $50 into the envelope Henry had given me  before I gave it to my father.   They both finished the transaction feeling like winners. I just felt relief.


Marianne said...

Oh I know, I know, I know. My mom's doctor is working with her with pharmaceutics and things have gotten so much better. Her neurologist explained a frontal lobe degeneration in the elderly that made so much sense. Since her new meds things have gotten a million times better. Not perfect, mind you, but so much better. And even though she fought me tooth and nail (and was her meanest EVER) she is now much happier in her assisted living facility. She has friends, and fun, and outings, and events to choose from every single day. She even asked me to take her clothes shopping because "everyone dresses up for meals here"!

If ever you want to email directly and we can chat about the challenges and hopes of caring for our elders, please feel free! xoxo

And God Bless your kind, added-fifty-dollar heart!

Hattie said...

You must maintain your sense of humor! I know this from dealing with my MIL. She was a different kind of tough proposition from your father, and we had help, but still it was not easy.