“My parents admitted they were $18,000 dollars in debt,” he humbled mumbled.
“$18,000?” She clarified.
“How,” she queried.
“I guess it’s from medical expenses not paid by insurance from dad’s two brain surgeries.”
“Well,” she replied. “We’re not helping your parents in any way.”
Writer Jeff Anderson noted that as elderly parents begin to rely on family for more support, the amount of conflict between adult children can increase. Dealing with a parent’s care can rekindle sibling rivalries that have lain dormant for years, and the discord can tear families apart. What Mr. Anderson did not know was that the husband in the story had quietly watched his parents fall frail to health concerns. His father had two major surgeries that netted him a long-term stay in ICU and then several months in rehabilitation.
The other side of the story was that he he quietly supported his wife by providing monthly financial support to his father-in-law and sister-in-law. But now, it’s as if she was said, “Not yours, only mine.” Her response comes from anger toward her own family life. It was a sense of helplessness.
Most often a sense of helplessness manifests into continuous critiquing, judging, anger, and sometimes even rage. When one person is completely unwilling to take full responsibility for their own life feelings, it is often because they are unwilling to experience life. That, as George Benard Shaw might say, is the difference between “being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”
The ‘shit’ response comes from people who tell everyone that we’re called by God and Buddha and not to allow ourselves to be consumed with anger. Yet, as a Buddhist, we must refuse to take behaviors personally. We need to be open to open another’s burden, to one another’s pain, irregardless of the pain which we endure. Yet, in many families, the relationship is one-sided and over time, one person boldly becomes the ‘asshole’ and often goes deep into personal resentment and anger. As a result, identities shift or are lost.
We must remember how we choose to act says nothing about those around us. Rather, how we choose says everything about us. Like a lot of relationships, we can blame everyone else for how we act, including parents, brother, sister, coworker, manager, etc. But ultimately, we all know that’s a bunch of bullshit. We must proactively remind ourselves that their behavior is theirs not ours, and it has nothing to do with us.
As for caring for aging parents, Brette Sember, author of “The Complete Legal Guide to Senior Care,” stated “shared responsibility” can mean different things to different families. She says the best way to avoid major family discord is to communicate; to meet and put all cards on the table.
“Acknowledge that everyone has different abilities, resources, and availability,” she says. “Try to break things up into zones if possible — medical, bill paying, cleaning, food, transportation, legal, assisted living search, laundry. Give everyone some kind of responsibility, even if it means writing a check or calling mom once a day to be her sounding board.“
Remember, little in life is actually about money. Money’s not everything. Each of you needs to look at what you have to offer.