Saturday, February 2, 2008

Every time we say goodbye...

Thursday afternoon I got a phone call, one I've been expecting. My grandfather has not been well for awhile (multiple system failures. Take diabetes seriously, even when you're a skinny fella!), and after much consideration has decided to cease inpatient treatments for his myriad of ailments and let his body finish shutting down. He's now only going to be on peritoneal dialysis and palliative treatment for his pain. It is a decision I completely respect, and one that, quite frankly, is the right thing to do.

Grandpa is my grandmother's second husband, the step-father to my mother and her five siblings. He brought four kids of his own to the marriage, and thankfully they didn't have any together. Believe me when I say that I have plenty of family. And that's just my mom's side. They've been married for about 45 years.

The relationship that we all have with him is complicated, like you see in most families. Grandma loves him, and that's what matters now. We need to focus on taking care of her once he is gone. I have a certain amount of affection for Grandpa, but it is tempered by a lifetime of being aware of just how much of an abusive bastard he has been to all of us in one way or another.

I don't have the greatest relationship in the world with my mother. She wouldn't be someone I would choose to socialize with if we were not related. The following is an example of why I just don't get along with her.

Her step-brother, my uncle "Z" is the only son of my grandfather. He has a wife, five kids, and a number of grandkids. [Disclaimer]I have always liked him, even though I know I'm not cool enough or athletic enough for his crowd. I think he's rather shallow and self-centered. But I sincerely like him and his wife.[/Disclaimer] My mother has said that she will not be especially sad to when grandpa dies. In the next breath she starts castigating Uncle Z for not doing his duty and dedicating himself to a bedside vigil for his father (grandpa). Jesus H. Christ on a crutch, woman - have you ever considered that maybe he has an even more troublesome relationship with his father than you do? Oh, no, wait. I know you. It's always all about you, and your need to denigrate others so you can feel superior. Sigh...

I've let the despots at work know that I will be having to make an obligatory "It's been nice knowing you" visit in the next few weeks, and a funereal visit sometime in the next few months. Everyone is appropriately sympathetic, and I appreciate their kindness. I really want to be inappropriate and say "Thanks, but I'm actually more worried about my grandmother than anything else. Grandpa dying is going to be hard on her. Grandpa dying, not so hard on me. I'll need more sympathy and understanding when one of my cats dies. I have a closer and better relationship with the feline overlords."

Really,I know disclosing that is not a good idea. So, I will be going through the motions, and acting as expected, because that's what you do. People don't need the peculiarities of my family dynamic thrust upon them when they are trying to express a kindness. And I do appreciate their kindness. Making a nice person uncomfortable because I suddenly feel the need to spew the truth is rude and unkind of me. Thoughtless, too.

But let me tell you, this is one funeral that I will not miss unless I absolutely have to. I expect the hypocrisy levels to be at an all time high, and if at the gathering afterwards punches aren't thrown or a shriek-fest doesn't break out, I will be completely shocked. These are people with 40+ years of grudge carrying, gathered together in an emotionally charged situation. Me, I hope to stay on the sidelines with my cousins, catch up, and let our parents go at it. It's been over 20 years since the last blowup (Christmas 1984?), I think they're due.

In closing - write your will and file it. Prepare your medical power of attorney, a living will, and decide if you want a DNR. Write out your wishes for disposal of your remains, and explicitly state what you don't want if it could be an issue. The people that survive you that have to deal with your affairs once you can't need all the help they can get.


Michelle K said...

You have my sympathies, as I actually have a pretty good idea of what you are going through--unfortunately for both of us. :)

My mantra for dealing with my mother is, "it's not me, it's her."

So remember--it's not you, it's her. :)

I wish you strength to deal with any familial insanity, and to help your grandmother with her grief.

And don't forget to take time for yourself--when helping others it's easy to let yourself get run down.

Nathan said...

I was hesitant to respond to this because the last thing you need is advice from me...who knows nothing. It does sound like you've got a healthy handle on the whole situation, so just keep doing what you're doing and don't let anyone dictate to you.

If you feel the need, post lots of rants as a means of venting.

Tania said...

Michelle and Nathan - thanks! I wasn't really expecting comments, this isn't exactly the sort of thing that one can respond to easily or well, though you both managed to do that.

Heck, I'm glad that Janiece seems to be recovering from her surgery. Dental implants - yeowwwch.

Michelle K said...


If you get to feeling bad, we can trade family horror stories. :)

Though if it comes to brawling, you'll probably win.

Michelle K said...


I meant brawling stories.

Not to say that if there was a brawl that you wouldn't win that too. But that wasn't what I meant.


(glances around in desperation)

Look! Chocolate!

(Runs away)

(peeks back around)

Yes, I do use humor to deal with stress, why do you ask?

Tania said...

Michelle, I'm giving you a 5 on my humor scale. That will make more sense once the Super Bowl is over and I have posted my ad reviews. I'm working on my homework (ooh, Giants touchdown!), listening to the game, and blogging my reaction to the ads as they come up. Thanks, again, for everything.