I mentioned Donna’s Uncle George the other day, how he was near the end and Donna’s Aunt Jan had asked her to come be with them in his last days. So Donna’s been in Elk Grove, California, helping out and offering emotional support. When George died, Sunday morning, she helped Jan get through the surprisingly many tasks that must to be done when someone dies at home. Police have to register the death, the hospice folks have to be notified, and in Uncle George’s case, the Neptune Cremation Society had to be called to collect the remains (and since they drove up from San Jose, that took a good while). The next day Donna learned from Aunt Jan that Uncle George, a Seabee in his younger days, had continued drilling as a Naval Reservist for many years and may have accrued some benefits, so she helped Aunt Jan navigate those particular wickets. Well, the point of all this is to say that although everything requiring immediate action is now done, Donna wasn’t able to book a flight home until Friday. Polly, the dogs, and I are eager to have her back.
I may also have mentioned, in older posts, how when I worked for the Veterans Administration I met a lot of old coots, mostly men but a few women, who had been estranged from their own families. Aunt Jan has two middle-aged sons who live nearby, one right there in Elk Grove, and neither offered to help or even came to visit. When Donna called to tell them Uncle George had died, it became clear they weren’t planning on coming even then, and did so only reluctantly after Donna read them the riot act. And then their wives didn’t come with them.
My thoughts on parents and children who turn against one another can be summed up in a single sentence: what a stupid fucking thing to do, nursing a grudge all the way to the end. I watched so many old vets grow frail and suffer and die alone, too proud to ask their children to visit, or maybe they did and it was the children who were the assholes, and what was the goddamn point? Family. In the end, it’s all we’ve got.
I’m going to get personal for a moment. I’m mad at Polly right now. Mad as hell. Our middle-aged live-at-home daughter is drinking again and may be on the verge of losing yet another job, if she hasn’t lost it already. The thought crossed my mind, as it has before, to give her the boot. And then I think of those estranged vets, dying friendless and alone. Yesterday I asked Polly point-blank: will she be there for us when it’s our time? Of course, she says.
Well, it don’t get more personal than that. I hope that didn’t make you uncomfortable. It certainly did me.
I’m cooking a small piece of salmon for my dinner tonight. I’ll brush it with honey and dill, and eat it with a microwaved baked potato. I’ve got a good book on the Kindle, and some streaming TV series to finish before Donna gets home and cuts me off. Actually there are two small pieces of salmon, and I’ll offer one to Polly.
© 2019, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.