We got to know Carla fairly quickly because, against all better judgement, Dad sold his house, his other property, his cars, and my mom’s cars, etc. and moved in with Carla at her house. Since then, he has put his own money into building a two-car garage onto her house, he helped with landscaping expenses, and they renovated the top of the house into an apartment. He told us he would in turn have one year to live at the property if she died first. They are not officially married that we know of due to a pension from her husband, but he tells everyone they are married. He made me feel very uncomfortable with the lie that they are married early on in the relationship. He never would have tolerated a lie like that from us. At any rate, they seem happy. They like to travel and go places and do things. For that, we have been very happy. However, Carla has three daughters in their 50s. Carla has been trying to make us meet them all along. I have met the two oldest daughters, but the third daughter lives out of town. Every time the third daughter comes to town Carla will call and want to get us together at the last minute. Since it is the last minute and we all lead very busy lives, it has not worked out for us to meet with the third daughter, nor do we really want to. We feel like the two of them live together and that’s fine, but please do not try and bring us together in some sort of Brady Bunch scenario. We are way too old to deal with that.
Most recently, we have had many issues with Dad and Carla. My husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary and went on a cruise in November. When we returned, I was sick and spent the weekend in bed reading a book Dad had given me a year prior. When I finished the book, I thought, “Gosh, I want to get him a book for Christmas and I’ll get Carla one as well.” I had no idea what kind of books they were into, so I texted Carla’s oldest daughter who is in and out of their house daily. She informed me that they did not exchange gifts and so she couldn’t help me. The next thing I knew Carla called to tell me that I had upset my father by wanting to buy gifts because they did not buy gifts and did not want us to give them anything and stress them out. She then proceeded to tell me that I could not continue to have a large Christmas with lots of gifts and food just because that’s what my mother had done. Needless to say, that did not sit well with me and she and I had words. I spoke to my father later that evening and told him how upset I was by her words and that it was not necessary for her to say those things to me. So then Carla called me a couple of weeks later and told me that she had had surgery, that she wasn’t able to do much, and that one of her daughters couldn’t be here for Christmas while the other one’s father-in-law was sick in Florida, so she wanted to do a drop-in on Christmas evening at their house. I told her I had not spoken with my brother yet, but that we normally do a big Christmas at either his house or my house, which she knows since she has been around for them the past few years. I spoke to my brother that night and found out that he had already planned on a big Christmas at his house, so I texted my dad, who then did not respond. My brother saw him the next day and told him about the plans for Christmas and that he expected him to be there.
I saw Dad and Carla the day after that, and the two of them blew up at me about Christmas. I explained to them that they need to try and accommodate everyone, not just her family. I explained that I expected them to show up for a couple of hours. They both acted like it was a real big deal, but they ended up coming and we had a wonderful time…or so I thought. I told Dad on Christmas day that I thought that he and my brother and I should get together at least once a month just for lunch so that we can talk and see each other. We made plans for the third Monday in January. I called and texted my dad with no response. Finally, he called the Saturday before our scheduled lunch date and said he would have to look at his calendar and let me know if he could make it. He never returned the call. So I called him on Tuesday, and he hurt my feelings telling me that he would have to think about going to lunch with me and my brother! After work, I drove to their house and had a long discussion with them and told him how much this hurt my feelings. Carla said it didn’t bother her that I didn’t want her there, but that my dad didn’t want to go without her and that they were like teenagers and they just wanted to be together all the time.
Dad reluctantly agreed to meet my brother and me for lunch later that week. We had a long discussion as my brother was late getting there, and I asked my dad for a copy of his medication list because I’d always had a copy in my purse in case something happened to him, which it did frequently. He argued with me about that when he had always insisted, before Carla came along, that I know all the information. Then I asked him about the healthcare POA and will and whether I was still executrix as I didn’t have a copy of the will and I didn’t have a key to their house in case something should happen and I had no way to get into his things. He said he would get me all of that but, of course, that has not happened. He told my brother and me that he did not feel comfortable leaving Carla out of our lunches. We explained to him that sometimes we would just like to talk to him and that we weren’t trying to exclude her from anything in particular and would still do family functions together, but that sometimes we just wanted to have lunch with him or hang out with him alone. He cannot understand that and refuses to accommodate us with that at all.
Since Covid hit, we haven’t seen Dad as he is now a recluse. Carla allows him to go nowhere…oh, except they did visit with her out-of-town daughter twice. We had to demand to see him on Father’s Day. I invited them to my house for a socially distant cookout as I have two large porches, but they demanded we go to Carla’s house and get together in the garage in 95-degree weather! We did go there, and it was so hot that she finally allowed us inside although she kept hollering for Dad to stay six feet from us. I drove over there last month to talk from the car briefly as we were told that is how her girls visit with them, only that isn’t true as they’ve been visiting inside according to my uncle. Then last week it was my birthday. Dad called to see if I got his card in the mail. I said I’d really prefer to see him but, apparently, he couldn’t deliver the card to the driveway even though he lives 10 minutes away.
That Saturday my 20-year-old son and I went to Carla’s and were allowed to come in. We tried to visit and my son wanted to bond with my dad over his stamp collection, but Carla was hot on Dad’s heels everywhere he went in the house. We went to his office and started looking through pictures, etc. I asked him to give me the updated passwords to his accounts since we were by the computer and since the list I had was old. Carla insisted we go back to the living room as we were less than six feet apart. So, we did and I continued to ask him about the healthcare POA which Carla very nastily said she had. When I asked about the will and access to it, she demanded that we leave her house!!! She said he has a new life now. He was trying to tell me I had the code to the lockbox, but I didn’t know what he meant. It was like some kind of code and she just kept getting angrier. He said nothing in the will had changed and I was like, “If that’s the case, then why am I being asked to leave?” In the past, Dad always made sure I had that kind of info. Obviously, Carla doesn’t want us to have access to her house, which is crazy when I run a 10 million dollar museum, lol.
When Dad first got with Carla, he told us that nothing would change. Now everything has changed. We feel like we have lost our mother and our father, too. Every conversation I’ve had with him over the past 10 months has been one in which he argues over everything. I’m at the point where I don’t even really want to see him. I’m so hurt by his behavior and how he accepts her terrible behavior. I spoke with my uncle who lives nearby as well. This is my dad’s brother, and he feels exactly the same way and says that he feels awkward going to lunch with the two of them as he and my dad used to play golf and do other things together while they no longer do any of those things. I need some advice before this whole family rips apart. I want to take my brother over to Carla’s and talk to them about all of this, but he says it’s futile. My brother is hurt and angry as well, but he really doesn’t care if he sees Dad or not. Thank you so much! — Depressed Daughter
Your father is an adult, and although he’s in his early 80s, you don’t mention any reason to believe he is of unsound mind or incapable of making decisions for himself. That you have repeatedly made demands of him and his time, judged how he spends his own money, disrespected his physical space during a pandemic, told him you “expect him to be at” family functions as if he has no agency, and seemingly harassed him about his will and other legal documents nearly every time you’ve seen him or spoken to him recently suggests to me that whatever fault lines have been created or disrupted between you since he met Carla are not entirely Carla’s fault. In fact, of the things you’ve said about Carla, the only thing that sounds remotely questionable is the weird way she reacted to the idea of exchanging Christmas gifts. The other things you mention about her – that she wants you to meet all her daughters, would prefer having a few people drop by her house on Christmas as she recovers from surgery rather than going to a big family get-together elsewhere, and has created boundaries around visits with each other during a pandemic sound reasonable to me.
Most of Carla’s behavior that you’re characterizing as problematic seems more protective of her and your dad’s safety than anything else. Even inviting you to her 95-degree garage versus going to your house suggests she preferred staying in an environment where she had more control over social distance. This would seem especially prudent if you are someone who doesn’t follow social distance as strictly as Carla and your dad do. (And based on your letter above, I think that’s a fair assumption. Your characterization of your 82-year-old dad as a “recluse,” a term with arguably negative connotations, because he’s spending most of his time at home during a pandemic is an example of what I mean.) Maybe, if she and your dad have had more interactions with her daughters, it’s because they believe her daughters are generally being more cautious in their lives and so D and your dad feel better about opening their quarantine bubble to include them. Maybe they have reason to suspect you are exposed to more people and places than D’s daughters and so they want to keep you at a bigger distance (like, at least six feet).
As far as your dad avoiding lunches with you that Carla is excluded from, and Carla being “hot on the heels” of your dad the one time you were over to their house, might they both be trying to avoid the relentless confrontations you keep making about your dad’s will, passwords to things, and other legal documents? Do you ever have just shoot-the-shit conversations with him that don’t revolve around this agenda of securing a foothold in his estate? Reading between the lines, it’s obvious your dad has a bit of money. And it’s obvious that you’re afraid you’re going to lose a share of it. If it’s this obvious to ME, someone who doesn’t know you or anything about you beyond what you’ve shared in your 1800-word manifesto above, then I would have to think it’s very obvious to your father who has known you all your life.
If you want to save your family, quit harassing your dad. Be grateful that he’s safe and healthy and, as you said yourself, very happy with Carla. He has a roof over his head, a companion during these isolating months, is healthy, and by all accounts seems content with his current life. Can’t that be enough for you? Can’t you just be happy he has someone to share his final years with? I could understand your being upset if he we were with a woman who was using him for his money, showed no interest in his life or family, and was aggressively trying to push you out of your father’s life. But by your account, it doesn’t really read like that. And, in fact, YOU sound more intent on ruining your relationship with your father than Carla does. Even your insistence that her desire for you to meet her daughters was pushing a Brady Bunch scenario sounds a little bonkers. You’re all middle-aged! This would never be a Brady Bunch scenario. She just wanted the offspring of her and her partner to meet each other. That’s not abnormal; it raises no red flags.
You sound so resistant to Carla being an extended part of your family, to the point that you are actively sabotaging your own relationship with your dad, and I don’t think you see that at all. But I do. And I suspect that others reading this, who have no bias and no dog in the fight, see it as well. You don’t sound like a loving and supportive daughter looking out for her dad’s best interest. At best, you are being very awkward about maintaining some degree of control over your dad’s assets and health proxy. Wanting a degree of control over an elderly parent’s health proxy and assets is understandable, but when it’s the sole intent of nearly every interaction, it brings into question your actual agenda. Are you trying to protect your dad… or yourself? It sounds an awful lot like it’s the latter. If you truly want to save your relationship with your dad – for the sake of your actual relationship and not for the sake of your stake in his estate that you think you’re entitled to, quit harassing him and respect his agency to make decisions for himself, including where he celebrates Christmas, how he spends Father’s Day, whether he brings his partner with him to lunch dates, and, my God, how much physical distance he maintains when there’s a pandemic raging through the world that is particularly threatening to people in his age bracket! Start acting like you give a damn about HIM – him as a person, and not just someone attached to legal documents and passwords you’re desperate to get your hands on.