Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Family Ties

It's been a busy new year.  Mostly in a good way.

The boys vacillate between playing with all the new toys and chomping at the bit to be out of the house. 
Can we go outside now?

I was able to attend a wedding for a high school friend this past weekend.  It was across the state, in Cedar Rapids, but totally worth the drive. My parents watched Logan for me, so I could go have some adult fun. The wedding featured as one of my goals for the past few months of weight loss. I wanted to be able to grab an outfit from my "Too-small" box of storage clothing, instead of buying something new to fit my baby-weight. Total success. It feels so great to say in the first half of Jan that I've met my weight loss goals for the year.
A note about weddings, I'm not sure when the practice of abandoning the wedding so the bride/groom/entourage can go drive around in a limo and take pictures became common practice, but I have to say I hate it.  The ceremony was lovely, Dr Who was a prominent theme. :-D :-D  And afterwards the guests were invited down to the reception area, and then the wedding party disappeared for almost an hour.  I caught up with a few friends, and drank some wine, but really, would have been happier to talk to the couple that I drove 6 hours to see.  Oh well.

Mom and I got some time to chat during the weekend visit, which was nice. I mentioned that Dave and I are going to start saving soon to move in the next couple of years. Likely to Missouri. She seemed concerned about it, and then questioned me if I really thought Dave's family was going to be able to help us out more if we moved down there. Which made me chuckle a little bit. The thought that the relatives further up the tree are going to be helping us is so far from my thinking that it was funny.  I don't expect to get much more help from any of our family, from either tree. We got a bit of help with setting up cloth diaper supplies when Rowen was an imminent arrival.  And we continue to get lovely presents at holidays from most relatives, that do help in small ways. But HELP help? Nope. Not anywhere in my plans. (Just like I don't expect to receive any inheritances or property from the rapidly aging extended family.) We're headed south so WE can help THEM.  As well as get us closer to my family, again so we can help them. On one hand I feel like this isn't an uncommon thing for my generation, and on the other hand, I feel like it's a lot of weight. Family sizes are significantly smaller for my parent's generation, with 2 kids being the norm, instead of the 6-8 kids my great-grandparents enjoyed. That means the pool of cousins/siblings that I have to work with is small. It doesn't help that a sizable percentage of that small pool are addicts to drugs or alcohol or shopping. I don't mean to imply that I'm some saint either, I have my battles I fight, just like everyone else, but at least I'm supporting myself and my family and paying my bills, and the percentage of cousins/siblings that can say the same is running slightly less than 50%. It's the micro-version of what's happening on a grander scale nation-wide. How exactly my generation is going to care for our top heavy aging family trees remains to be seen.  I plan to eventually house a couple of aging family members, to care for them that way, since I don't expect to be able to pay for a care facility. Whether or not my small pool of siblings and cousins are thinking similarly, I don't know.  If they are anything like the rest of Americans I'm sure they are giving it very little thought. In some cases that's because they are busy trying to support themselves and I can understand that. In other cases though, I fear it's egotism and self absorption. Maybe some time and living will see that abate.  I can only hope.

Speaking of the aging family tree, this week also saw a proposal shot down.  I have been concerned for some time now with my great-grandparents. They live in the middle of no-where Louisiana, they are 90+ years old, and starting to slide a bit in the cognitive and physical areas.  They don't have much in the way of care. My grandparents live 2 house down, but aren't much better off physically.  And no-one in the family can seem to do anything about the situation.
No society in the world treats their elders as poorly as we do.  As long as they are fit and spry and RV-ing around the country, it's fine, but the minute they start to need care, it's either abandonment or a ticket to a facility. The good ones are of course costly, and the cheap ones don't bear thinking about.
I'm not claiming that my family has abandoned the Great-Grandparents, but why is Great-Grandma the one taking care of Great-Grandpa? Why is nobody helping them get some care? Great-Grandma is of course stubborn, and insists that she's fine. The problem is of course, that things could go from fine, to NOT FINE in a very short amount of time, and the results could be tragic.  Will probably be tragic, if the family continues to let her push away help.
I proposed that we ship my little sister down to be live-in care for them as they approach the end of life.  Yes, the sister that struggles with alcoholism.  She is the only member of the family with experience in Elder Care. She is also unique in that she has no job, no family and no pets tying her to Iowa right now.  That is due to a variety of reasons, but mostly the alcoholism.  My father of course argued that we shouldn't give her any help until she proves she's past the alcoholism. I think that's a shitty opinion. Thankfully, I'm no longer a dependent of my father, and his opinion doesn't shape how I spend my time and energy. I don't think she is going to heal faster if we give her nothing but neglect, isolation and tough love until she somehow proves herself.  I happen to think that meaningful work, and purpose, and caring for elderly loved ones could be very beneficial to her, and help her fight the battles that every recovering addict has to fight. I argued hard that it could be beneficial for everyone involved, including the extended family who might save thousands of dollars in Dr/Hospital/Care facility costs. To no avail. Great-Grandma claims she's too old to have someone move in, which is just about the most ironic thing I've heard in awhile. Grandma said she would be nervous about Melody being there, and while I can understand and sympathize, it's still disappointing. It seems like other cousins get help after help after help.  But, maybe I don't have a clear view of things from a half a continent away. Maybe things aren't that unfair.  And maybe there are plans in place to handle Great-Grandparent's decline, and it's just not being shared with those of us living in Iowa.  And maybe not.

Anyone else have bright ideas or solutions to the personal side of the baby-boomer population bulge?


1 comment:

Jon Lorisen said...

Congratulations on losing the baby weight, that's a great accomplishment!

Not too many easy answers for elder care, sounds like you are making the best plan possible. It is sad how spread out our families can become, we lose the opportunity to support each other. In an ideal world, I would be living in a shared space with family and friends - some would be working, others would be providing childcare or homecare, gardening, or contributing in whatever way they could. With the outrageous costs of living, going it alone is a very difficult thing to manage. Sadly, not all of us have families that we want to live with or even be around. Or even have family at all.