Sunday, December 18, 2011

Musings on the Importance of Family

So, my hopes and plans to go to Pirates Fest dashed by my husband's exhaustion, I find myself with a rare quiet moment.  Marissa downstairs asleep, Greg upstairs asleep, I sat down in the sun room to watch the last of the snow dance around the air as the sun chased the last flakes away and began working on dispelling those bold enough to try and stick around.  Finally, albeit very briefly, I can look outside my window and see wintry white in the trees and on the rooftops.  I better enjoy it while I can, as the temperatures climb back to balmy mid-40's with a chance of rain, and it seriously looks like my hopes for my first white Christmas since I was in my teens may be fading.  Of course, on the other hand, it is a lot easier to drive around when it is like this than when the roads and bridges are covered in snow and ice, so I won't whine too badly.  On the other, other hand, I don't drive around too much as it is, which is why I was looking forward to going to a mid-winter event about a summer sport put on by a team who hasn't had a winning season in two decades (I mean, why else would I?!).  It was somewhere that was not here.  I may love my little cottage, but the walls can tend to close in on you when you spend as much time inside of them as I do.

However, as far as that goes, I've actually had a fairly adventurous weekend.  Greg and I went down to Washington, PA. on Friday to my cousin's Christmas party.  It was a lovely time.  I like her home no matter the season, but it was resplendent in its holiday attire, and she had a full dinner - which I didn't expect - that was beyond excellent.  But, more than that, the party was populated by good people.  A mixture of relatives, some friends of hers dating all the way back to her school days, neighbors, ladies from her book club and co-workers.  Some I knew, some I didn't, but it was a mellow, easy time and conversation ran freely.  But, what you notice in the threads of the conversation, as I have observed in the past, is the sharing of memories and experiences.  There are always funny stories to tell because, let's just face it, in a family with such strong personalities, those personalities will generate some tales.  Gradually I thread together pieces of my mother's life that I never knew - some because she didn't want me to (and I realize more and more how editorialized what she did share actually was), and some because she just never thought to share it - she wouldn't have seen the humor in it that the rest of us do.   And that makes me so sad that I could not get her back here to share her last days with this family around her.   These are good people and they all love one another.  They loved her.  And I didn't really appreciate the full extent of those statements until I moved here and began to see them more.

I don't feel guilty about the choices I made at the end for Mom.  It's not the same thing as being sad about it.  There really was no realistic choice to bring her home to end her days.  Even if her doctors in Texas would have released her, no one here would have taken her.  She was too sick, too demented and too fragile to be moved.   No, I may not have been an ideal daughter at the end, sick with grief and short with patience, but I sleep easy at night knowing I managed her care like I had to.  But, I know now why she wanted so badly to be back among these good people.

It makes you wonder why she ever moved to Texas in the first place, and I have my suspicions about that.  She fell back in the mid-nineties and broke an ankle.  I couldn't take off work to come back east - I had just taken a week off to see her right before it happened and there was no allowance in our little company for emergency leave.  But it made me realize that she was becoming more fragile and the distance between was us was becoming more problematic, so we offered to move.  She refused to accept it.  She told me there were no jobs here.  I told her all we needed were two:  surely we could find something.  But, in the end, Greg was committed to Austin and didn't really want to move, the kids were little and had their friends there, Mother didn't want me to come, and I didn't push it.  And she did okay for a few years, with some help and support from the family here.  But things began to erode.  She was less steady on her feet, she wasn't able to care for the condo on her own, and my Aunt Ginny was no spring chicken herself and less able to watch over Mom.  So when Mom announced her decision to move close to me, I thought it was a concession to her physical condition.  And, to a certain extent it was, but she remained fiercely independent once she got here, refusing help and wanting her own space and friends.  I have wondered more than once, but really wonder it more and more, if she was just that adamant that I not be too exposed to the family lest the secret of my adoption leak out.  She seemed completely committed to me going to my grave being none the wiser.   There are a hundred questions I would like to ask her about all of that, but instead, she was able to go to her grave never knowing that this closely held secret had ever been leaked, and as a result of her own hoarding tendencies to boot. (Makes one wonder who exactly my birth parents were and if I should Google serial killers named's probably about time I find out, but more on that later.)

As we drove home from the party, I thought about all of that and how I wished I could have assured her that it didn't matter.  Whatever it is she didn't want me to know would not change how I felt about her, and she should have been allowed to stay here among her family where she belonged.  Then I realize that the man in driver's seat next to me is clear across the country from his.  And I've been thinking about that since.

But for now I'm off to troll the Internet for nefarious McGuigans.

Mother and all her siblings

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