We all knew that early retirement was going to affect Dad, but we didn’t know how much it would change him and the impact it would have on all our lives.
We lived in Qatar, had the most comfortable life, and although we saw others being forced out of their jobs and leaving the country, we didn’t once think that that would be us. We felt secure.
My dad had four years before he was expected to retire, but one dreaded afternoon, he came back home earlier than usual and with a heavy heart told my mom that we would have to leave the country.
Of course we were all shaken by the news, but found it within ourselves to not mourn long over leaving the place we had called home all our lives. Over the course of the nine months that followed, we sold our belongings and said goodbye to faces and places we’d grown up seeing.
Tears were shed on the plane back to our new home in George Town in the Cayman Islands. Qatar and the Cayman Islands are very different. There was peace in Qatar, the type you’ll never find in the hustle and bustle of Caymanian streets. But while the rest of us put our energy into focusing on what the future might hold for us, a darkness came over my dad. It was subtle at first, he was just quiet, and we thought we’d give him some time.
A week went by, and then another week.
Before we knew it, a month had gone by and he seemed lost. He was withdrawn; he couldn’t hold conversations with us or any guests that came to visit. During gatherings he’d be with us until dinner and then he would return to his room.
At the beginning we would try to involve him in things we were doing as a family around the house. We asked him to come along when we would go out.
Nothing worked. Our attempts angered him, and he repeatedly told us to leave him alone.
“There’s nothing in life for me now!” he would shout.
My once supportive, caring dad who’d been a role model to his kids and a loving husband to his wife was now a constantly irritated, verbally abusive, extremely angry, and depressed man.
It wasn’t surprising that his untimely retirement led to him descending into depression. However, we didn’t think that his depression would make him so difficult to live with. For months at a time, my mom was left alone with him while I continued to work abroad and my siblings were in college.
I remember the calls I would get from Mom. She’d always been the stronger of the two, but my dad’s behavior was breaking her. One horrid night, she confessed that she feared she would separate from my dad if he didn’t stop mistreating her.
Although he was never physically abusive, my dad was mentally torturing my mom by continuously belittling her and criticizing her every move.
We all are aware of the signs of depression, and of course my dad’s depression was understandable. We thought that if we left him alone, he would get better with time.
We soon realized that the only way we were going to help him through his depression was to confront him. We were no longer going to let him hide behind his anger.
This is how we went about it:
Dad had been oblivious to what he was doing and how different he had become post-retirement. He had no idea of the magnitude of some of the things he would say and how it was affecting us.
It was time for an intervention. We sat him down and straight up told him, blatantly and honestly, about how cringe-worthy some his actions had become. We told him we loved him and had looked up to him all our lives, but that we were now seeing a side of him that we wished we’d never seen. His kids were losing respect for him.
My dad had never accepted what happened. He never got past the moment he was told to resign. He relived it day and night.
His job had been his pride and joy for the longest time, and when it was taken away from him, his ego took a major blow.
We had to say it out loud and clear: What happened happened. There was no going back. Living in the past wasn’t going to be healthy for any of us. We needed Dad to accept that and move forward with us as a family.
Having to resign made my dad feel like he’d been rejected, like he wasn’t good enough. So we reminded him that if he wasn’t good enough, he wouldn’t have been in the position for 18 years. Retirement from a job is inevitable, and it had nothing to do with his ability to do his job.
Knowing that Dad’s confidence had taken a hit, we decided to bring it back up. He had worked as a financial advisor for most of his life, so my sister had him tutor her for her finance and accounting classes during her breaks from college. He enjoyed it thoroughly, he loved that his kids needed him again, and it brought back so many memories from when he would help us with our homework. My sister’s finance and accounting grades were the icing on the cake.
We made sure Dad didn’t feel like life was meaningless now that he wasn’t working.
Change of scene
Being in the house all the time forced my dad to revisit what had happened. So we made sure that he was a part of family BBQs and picnics. We made him go on outings with his college friends who were in the country, and the rekindled old memories reminded him of his glory days. He soon realized that his family and friends loved him and respected him whether he had a job or not.
In the process of pulling Dad out of depression, we needed to ensure that Mom didn’t respond with anger, as it would just further agitate him. During this tough time, Mom had to be patient and supportive. We asked her to ignore his sarcastic comments for a bit even though it seemed like he was picking fights just because he needed an outlet for his anger. We told her to be calm and to not get upset if he seemed to be picking a fight.
Something stupid would happen, Dad would say something mean, and Mom would take a deep breath and distract him.
Over the next few years, we let him do his thing. He got busy with daily chores and other activities. He saw us all graduate, he saw us get our first jobs, he saw his kids be strong and fend for themselves, and that is something that’s given him more happiness than any job he ever had.
About the author
Sherley Alaba is a writer and translator, always interested in ways to help individuals (especially youth and women) reach their full creative potential. Her focus has been on writing, producing, and editing stories on business, finance, interesting personalities, entrepreneurs, culture, the environment, gastronomy, lifestyle, and social issues.
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