Monday, October 16, 2006

Alone or Abandoned

My step-grandfather, Loren, passed away on Saturday night, with only one of his children present, and while she was sad, she also complained A LOT about all the work she would have to miss, and various other inconveniences that this would bring upon her.

His children were involved with the decision to take him off the machines, but that was it. Granted, they are not local, but my grandmother's reason for calling them was so they could say goodbye, and no one was interested. No one was interested. The whole situation is being treated by his kids as a horrible inconvenience.

They are annoyed at having their grandmother's health situation put on their plates because my grandmother has no desire to be involved. That poor woman's only living son moved to Florida upon being granted power of attorney over her accounts, abandoning her as an invalid without a nurse. Loren cared for his mother-in-law (MiL) because her own son wouldn't, and his motivations were largely financial. When it began to be clear that, at the very least, he was not going to be able to care for her for an extended period of time, my grandma packed up his MiL's things and brought them to her attorney because Loren's daughter was not interested in caring for her grandmother. "Too busy."

When folks bring up the idea of who will care for me when I'm elderly if I have no children, I wonder what would be worse — going through an illness alone, or going through an illness waiting for someone to care. I wonder how Loren's MiL must feel — her mind is alive, at some level, but her body has withered away. She knows her son has taken her money and abandoned her. She knows her grandchildren won't come see her. She will now know that the only person left in the world who cared about her anymore, whatever his motivation, is dead.

I'm not saying the idea of being alone isn't a concern. But I think it's silly to use that as a way to try to convince someone to have children, especially when I've seen families abandon each other more often than not. My grandmother was the only one of 10 living children who my great-grandmother remembered as Alzheimer's claimed her because she was the only one who saw her regularly. When she became ill, it was as if everyone wrote her off as already dead, resenting the money her nursing home drained from their own incomes.

Some people, like my Gramps or my friend's grandfather who recently passed, are fortunate enough to be surrounded by family who is there 'til the end. And it does give me sadness that I won't experience something like that. But to me it's like someone asking me if I'm sad that I'll never win a Clio award because I'm choosing to get out of high-buck advertising. If I decided to go back to an agency, sure there's the chance I could do great things and I could write an award-winning campaign. But it's a big "what if" that requires a sacrifice that I'm just not interested in making for my life, my marriage, and my happiness.

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