They may have been monsters when we were growing up. But now they’re old, frail and not long for this world. Is it best to care for them — or ourselves?
Nat, a 34-year-old non-binary New Zealander, describes their father as a “world-class shitty dad.”
However, now that their father is aging, Nat struggles with a sense of responsibility. “He’s elderly, with suspected early stages of alcohol and drug-induced dementia,” Nat explains, adding that, while they still don’t want to have any personal relationship with their dad, they are considering whether to support him financially in his old age. “I’m the sibling with the most financial resources,” Nat continues. “I’m considering it partly because I don’t want that to fall to my brothers, and partly because no one should have to live in poverty.”
Complicating matters is a sense of obligation not only to shitty fathers but to siblings, mothers and even society at large. Last year, Nat’s father was arrested and discharged for sexually abusing a child, which they say caused a strong reckoning within them.
At first, my mother, the poet Anne Atik, had seemed just ordinarily confused. Then, very gradually, the confusion took on a pathological aspect. She...