Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Aging Siblings






Two weeks ago my grandmother had a heart attack and subsequent triple bypass... during this time I went home and spent the time helping out as I could. I don't often get to spend time alone with my parents so while the occasion wasn't happy the resulting closeness was a welcome event. My dad had been away on a trip with his younger brother to visit another younger brother in Missouri and returned early in the week so he could be around when his youngest brother had surgery for prostate cancer. (which went well according to the surgeon...we wait and month to see if they got it all!)

Anyway I also spent many hours sitting with my mom and her sisters and her aunt waiting for the cardiologists and surgeons etc to take care of my grandmother. It's an interesting dynamic to watch my mother and her sisters.... her older and younger sister are so completely different from her and her now deceased brother. My mother is easy going, quiet, thoughtful, intelligent and when crossed can whip out a temper that will surprise even the most prepared. Her sisters are loud, opinionated, not terribly bright, selfish and whip out the legendary family temper so quickly and often that no one takes them seriously most of the time. My mother's youngest sister has never had a child and it shows so apparently in situations like this where you have to push through being tired, you have to put off being hungry because other things are more important at that moment... not her... when she was tired at the hospital she went back to the hotel and went to sleep, when she was hungry she left and had a meal, when she was bored she went shopping. I kept checking my location because she behaved as though she was at a poorly chosen resort for a vacation that wasn't going her way. My mom's oldest sister holds the distinction of being the only human on the planet that has suffered...she lost her husband to cancer several years ago and that was a very sad and horrible thing but come on let's get some perspective other folks have had hard things in their lives too. She is always more tired, hungry or has suffered more as a result of whatever ailment is being shared than anyone else. I try to treat both of them as I do other people with special needs... they can't help being the way they are and we all love them anyway even when the way they behave seems to make no sense!

Anyway the point of this wasn't to point out family members and their personality flaws but to appreciate the special time of spending alone time with my parents. My Dad is getting along in years... not really old enough to be considered elderly at 65 but his health is beginning to decline some and it's just odd to see him having more problems getting around, not as strong as he once was , his vision poor and so forth. He had a bad case of gout while I was there and honestly the man is so stubborn I almost had to sit on him to get him to stay off of it! He was determined to visit his brother which required a 30 minute drive in one direction and lengthy walk into the hospital to find his room... he refused the wheelchair that I offered... then he wanted to visit my Grandmother which required another 30-45 minute drive in the other direction and another long walk. That night his foot was horribly sore and swollen and he wondered why!?

We spent the next day sitting around a lot and talking which is always fun. Every time I learn more about my dad and his childhood and other experiences. It's funny the things I didn't know about my dad and the things I thought I knew but didn't. He was pretty funny talking about how when he was a kid his family would visit his aunts who lived in other areas often with all of them ending up visiting at the same time at one aunts house. The boys used to make fun of how the aunts would sit around comparing ailments, medications and general health. My Dad said his recent trip to his brothers they suddenly found themselves sitting there comparing medications, blood sugar levels, what their doctors said that conflicted with what the others doctor's said and so forth! They immediately got up and went sightseeing to shake off the feeling of having aged !

My Dad and his brothers spent lots of their time debating and "traveling" by Atlas. During their week together they often ended up calling in an "expert" to settle an argument or to verify information since the brother they visited had just recently given his computer to his daughter and didn't have Google to consult! One night they called my mom to have her Google Lake Erie to settle an argument about some geography they vaguely remembered from childhood travels. Another night they called a cousin to jog their memory about a place they had visited in West Virginia and could no longer remember the name of. Then yet another day they called their elderly aunt in New York to ask another geography question about something that was near her house they all remembered differently from childhood. I just imagine how entertaining being a fly on the wall during those debates would have been! They are all very opinionated, smart and stubborn! They all claim the others are too stubborn to admit defeat but since they all think they are right no one thinks they should admit defeat! HA!

Spending time with my parents like this especially with their siblings makes me think about my kids and wonder what it will be like when they are all older and dealing with all the things that come into your life as you go through life. I think lots of families end up "assigning" roles to children that they continue to play out as they grow up... the "pretty" one, the "smart" one, the "responsible" one etc. I mostly hope my kids will grow up and still love each other, still respect each and care deeply about one another. I wish I had a crystal ball to see into the future when I may not be here and know they appreciate one another that they value their relationships with their siblings and maintain their closeness. My children have a factor that some children do not in that they will all be involved in making decisions for the care taking and well being of their special needs sibling. I sometimes feel guilty that I may be leaving this burden to them but then I see them going out of their way to compliment their sister, to admire something she does well, to envy her thick, beautiful hair she is letting grow out, to listen to her tell them about a video game or movie for perhaps the 100th time. No one is making them love her or make concessions for her... they just do and for that I am exceedingly grateful!

1 comment:

Emily said...

This is soooo true!!!