Ailing elder father fumes over daughter’s secret move to quash a long-planned hiking trip

Dear Patti,

I’m a 76-year-old widower. I live alone, am extremely independent, well-traveled and in excellent health. Besides helping pay for his college tuition, my graduation present to my 18-year-old grandson, Jacob, was all-new camping gear and a hiking trip this summer from Maine to New Jersey. The trip is approximately one-third of the Appalachian Trail and would take us a couple of months. He’s a great kid, a strong boy, and I’ve really been looking forward to sharing this experience with him. We’ve both been happily planning the trip for over a month.    

Recently my daughter Lisa (Jacob’s mother) surprised me with a ticket to go with them on a Disney cruise with the whole family. While my idea of a vacation isn’t to have breakfast on a ship with Goofy or Mickey Mouse, I was more than willing to go for the sake of my twin granddaughters, who are 8. I then realized the cruise would be replacing my trip with my grandson.

Jacob angrily revealed to me that the only reason his mother planned the cruise was because she doesn’t want me to go on such a strenuous hike. He explained that his sisters preferred going to tennis camp instead. I became furious that Lisa would interfere with my relationship with Jacob, squelching a trip of a lifetime and a bonding experience we would remember for the rest of our lives.

This isn’t the first time my daughter has been controlling under the guise of worrying about me. She has made doctor’s appointments for me without checking with me first and always tries to control my eating habits. However, this is the first time that it’s been about something really important. Not only did she upset me, but she’s disappointing Jacob. I don’t understand why she didn’t come to me directly with her concerns instead of becoming scheming. I didn’t say much, just declined the offer of the cruise. Lisa and her husband are now very upset with me. My son-in-law told me I was ungrateful, that Lisa had gone to a lot of work and expense to find just the right vacation, that it was nonrefundable, that I’ve upset the whole family’s summer plans, and that I don’t appreciate how much my daughter cares and worries about me.

I don’t want to be too stubborn to apologize to her, but I can’t shake the anger at her for not trusting me to make the correct choices for my own life.

  — Richard

Dear Richard, 

I don’t know if you’re generally rigid or set in your ways, but the way you’ve explained the situation, I don’t think this is necessarily an example of stubbornness. Anger is resentment at being hurt. Having a trip canceled that was extremely important to both you and Jacob without your knowledge was very hurtful.

Your daughter, however, is more important than even a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I understand how frustrating it might be for you to be treated as old before your time, but it’s important to try to get to the real reason why Lisa is so focused on your health. Is she overly afraid of losing you after losing her mother? Is there truth in her fear you’re neglectful about your doctor check-ups and nutrition? Make a commitment to take her concerns seriously if she presents them to you directly rather than becoming manipulative.

Discuss with your daughter just how important this trip is and why it means so much to you. Bring to her attention the possibility that the disappointment of having the trip canceled might actually be more stressful on your body than going on the trip. Maybe you can work out a way where the trip can be less stressful for Lisa by making assuring compromises such as taking the trails slower or calling her whenever possible.

Maybe once you talk things out and she feels less fearful, she’ll agree for you to reimburse her for Jacob and your cruise tickets and the rest of the family can have breakfast with Disney characters while you and Jacob take off for the Appalachian Trail. 


Patti Carmalt-Vener, a faculty member with the Southern California Society for Intensive Short Term Psychotherapy, has been a psychotherapist in private practice for 23 years and has offices in Pasadena, Santa Monica and Canoga Park. Contact her at (626) 584-8582 or email pcarmalt@aol.com. Visit her website, patticarmalt-vener.com..