Friday, October 18, 2013

The Passing of a Generation

I received a text from Sister a little while ago.  Mom's sister died yesterday.  She was 80.  She was the youngest of 3 siblings, and I know from conversations how much she missed her brother and sister.  She is with them again, as well as her beloved Daddy.  She was diagnosed with cancer 4 months ago, but didn't want anyone to know.  She chose not to have chemo, a decision I admire and respect.  I was thinking of her last week, and now I wish I had called her.  When I last spoke to her a couple of years ago, she seemed in a hurry to get off the phone.  I wondered if it was too painful for her to talk to me-- she told me often how much I sounded like Mom on the phone.  I didn't want to add to her pain, and I was busy, so I didn't call. 

She lived across the country from us, so we only saw her when we made our annual pilgrimage to visit the grandparents.  I grieve the passing of that generation.  Mom, the middle child, was the first to die just over 4 years ago.  Her brother, the oldest, died a couple of years ago, and now the youngest.  On Dad's side of the family, he has one sister still living.  He was also one of 3.  When a cousin called this week to get contact information for a family member, I wondered if she was calling to report that surviving aunt's death.  I was relieved when she wasn't. 

In my generation, I have lost a cousin on each side of the family.  Sometimes it weighs on me, and I worry who will advocate for Daughter when I'm gone.  Will anyone understand her and offer her the support and limits she needs?  I have no fear of death, I do, though, have a concern for Daughter.  I wouldn't want to add the burden to a family member, yet I also worry about what will happen to her without a strong advocate.  It is a problem faced by many families.  I have two members who serve as guardians for siblings.  One man got the job after his sister died.  It has been a burden, as he has struggled to figure out what treatment his mentally ill brother, who is now showing signs of dementia,  will be most beneficial.  We've had many conversations about it.  The other man has been his sister's guardian since his mother's death.  As she ages, the challenges involved increase.  Greatly.  He came to talk to me after he broke a tooth grinding his teeth in frustration after a conversation with her.  He has been clear:  he will not pass the burden on to his wife or sons.  If she outlives him, she will have a public guardian. 

I am grateful that the knowledge of my challenges with Daughter opened the door for these conversations, and I'm sorry so many families find themselves struggling with such challenging issues.  I regret that we don't have a better system with more support to meet the needs of mentally challenged adults. 

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