This is part three of a series of late night posts. Just FYI. I’ve been up late thinking, lately. Makes for good blogging.
3) (Because three is a nice, round number.) Illness and Distance
I mentioned earlier that all my grandparents are still living, a fact which both delights and frightens me. I’m in my third decade and everyone seems to be in good health. I’m talking grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, distant second-nephews, etc… In fact, only one person in my entire immediate and secondary family (it’s huge… I’m talking close to 100 people) has ever had a serious brush with mortality (like 10 years ago) and NO ONE has passed away. It’s an insanely hearty bunch.
The distance from my family (approximately a hundred thousand miles) has become an increasing cause of anxiety for me over the last year because of several family members who have been, at some point or another, in ill health. An ER trip here, an emergency surgery there, and few cases that look like they are going chronic…. like I said, no one has had a serious “this could be it” brush with mortality, but people age, people get sick. As I head into my real adult years I start to understand why extended families tend to live near each other, and why lifestyles that involve a lot of moving (like the military) tend to adopt pseudo-family relationships. (And “emergency travel funds”)
One of the great fears of my adult life is that I will be absent when I could be of use, when I might be needed, when I could do something. The plain fact of the matter is that no one needs me on a regular, day-to-day basis and changing up our whole life/career/income situation so that can happen is a futile endeavor. We have excellent reasons for living so far away and they hold up well based on regular, day-to-day considerations.
But I’m pretty good in a pinch, and I have all these awesome skills that really come in handy when people are sick, hurt, etc… For instance, I’m great a fetching ice cream, brewing tea, picking up prescriptions, lifting people in and out of beds, and suggesting mind-numbing TV shows for the sick and infirm. I can drive. I can communicate with doctors. I can watch little kids and feed dogs.
Can’t do any of that from out here, though. Too far away. All I can do is check in, send cards, fly out in emergencies. Living so far away sucks when people I love are sick or hurting.
I want to be able to use all my skills for the people that mean the most to me, my family. And the simple fact of the matter is that I can’t. It occurs to me (suddenly, with the clarity that only comes in the wee hours of the morning) that what I’m really wanting is a way to deal with the fact that people get old and people get sick and someday the people that I love will die. Being able to take action helps… I have no real idea how or why but I know for sure that doing something does, in fact, help a lot in dealing with it all.
(It also occurs to me that this must be why older people pray so dang much.)
One of the benefits of living so far from “home” is that we are not saddled with the emotional weight of watching a loved one undergo daily suffering. One of the drawbacks is that we can take no action.
That’s something I’ve been mulling over quite a bit, lately.
Now look, I started out a few days ago by lamenting my lack of blog-writing chops and I’ve just proven myself very wrong. If you’re still with me, good for you. Thanks for reading; you’re a good egg for sticking with it. Leave a comment if you like, I’d love to read your thoughts.