I've spent a lot of time in these columns addressing family and friends on behalf of "Dad" who finds himself needing a little help. It occurs to me that this may appear a little rude. After all, Dad has made it this far, and who knows better than him what he needs?

So to all the "Dad's" out there, my apologies. Let's just you and me chat.

In the rush to help sometimes you get lost in the shuffle, step back and become amazed that so many people are making so many decisions for you. And not just family, but friends and sometimes a parade of well-intentioned social workers, agencies and everyone else who feels the need to say something.

You remember the saying: "God loves you ... and everyone else has a wonderful plan for your life!" And sometimes you're a little more than amazed - you're frustrated, angry, maybe even a little frightened (which makes you more angry) and on it goes.

Sound about right? Now in past columns, I've made much about communication and the kids taking the time to listen. But you know what, Dad? That means you have to do your part. Let them know where you're at, what you need and how you'd like it done. And sometimes, that's not too easy, is it? For example, how do you tell the kids you're tired of living in the big old family home, when you actually only use a few rooms on the ground floor? After all, they grew up there and you don't want to hurt their feelings.

Admirable, but this really is about you and where you're at today. (And believe me, I do know how hard it is not to always be the Dad and focus only on the kids and their feelings.) However, sometimes a conversation has to bring the reality to light that truly the times they are a-changin'.

Maybe you want to live somewhere else where the loneliness isn't felt quite so deeply. If so, then maybe it's time to remind the kids that it's great when they visit, but when they're gone, it's not so great. How about the feeling of responsibility for maintaining the home when all you can think of in relation to a ladder is the possibility of a broken hip?

Listen, Dad. You wouldn't have gotten this far, nor would the kids be still coming around if you hadn't done some things right. But now it's time to take stock for the next stage of your life and decide what's best for you - and that should always include what you want, not just what you need.

I would recommend one thing. Find out what options are out there. Do a little digging, get your ducks in a row - and every other cliché that relates to getting information. It's a truism that we don't know what we don't know.

Where to start? Any of the numbers at the bottom of this column, or the Web site, would work. We could help you refine what you're looking for, assist with referrals or simply give you lots of resource information. Talk to friends. If you're familiar with a computer, do some searching there. Get ready for conversations. Then have the conversation.

It's been nice chatting with you, Dad. Keep us posted.

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