"Families are about love overcoming emotional torture."
My mother was one of seven siblings. A large family by average standards and they were all blessed with the longevity gene. The first to pass away was well into his seventies and the other two who have passed away were into their eighties. There are four siblings remaining and they range from 80 to 93. Not counting my mother, there are two childless widows and the 80 year old baby brother who still has his wife. They live on their own, are in good health and look amazing for their years. None is what he was when they were younger and to varying degrees my sister and I have to keep tabs on them.
My uncle and aunt are completely self-sufficient and only require some help on infrequent occasions or anytime the television has to be re-tuned to channel 3 so the cable box will work. They are fortunate to still have each other to rely on and to keep company.
The eldest of the sisters is quite amazing. At 93 she looks 60 and is still as spry and active. In fact she is far more spry than I. She doesn't grunt or groan and boasts that she has no aches or pains except for a little "stiffness" in her hands. She is a 15 year breast cancer survivor. She has no plans of going anywhere soon although she has the comfort of her faith and is well aware of the eventuality that she is on "borrowed time". Her only hint of melancholy is when she talks of having outlived most of her friends.
The youngest sister (85) is also a testament to the longevity genes. This one is best described as "a character". She was a cheerleader in high school and 70 years later still perceives herself in that way. We perceive her more as Baby Jane or perhaps as Norma Desmond. This aunt demands attention regardless of its form. She's equally adept at summoning pity or rage. To be fair, she has a generous and caring side. She just has an amazing ability to obscure with her ability to raise the hair on the back of ones neck.
Due to the fact that I have my mother with me and under my care I am accessible. Naturally the family comes to visit and spend time with their sister. I'm glad that they do. When they were just a bit younger and knew where they kept their marbles, they would offer me some very valuable freedom because they could "babysit" my mother while I got out for a few hours. They still generously want to help but now I need "babysitters" for the "babysitters".
"Having a family is like having a bowling alley installed in your brain."
OK, so I took a bit a poetic license with the opening paragraph. I don't have dreams of pirana. I should have them, but I don't. The old gals are pesky. [I'm attempting to be polite] There is this odd phenomenon that I have observed repeatedly. It seems that sometime past the age of 80, perfectly mature people reconnect with their inner six year old selves. I don't mean that in a nice or cute way. I mean that in a way that drives me crazy. They touch things. They touch and break things. My things. They touch, break and lie about touching and breaking my things. When they are alone with my mother for an hour so I can buy groceries so I can cook them dinner I never know what I'll find when I return. Did I mention that they also hide things? My things. I'm not sure if it's some intentional game they have invented to torment me or if they're trying to be helpful. I find bowls in the closet with the pots and pans. I find the dish towel in the living room. I find butter in the spice cabinet.
The old ladies think I believe in gremlins or interloping spirits. They must. No matter what I discover when I return, they didn't do it. Ever. Understand that my mother is confined to her hospital bed in her upstairs bedroom. No one else is in the house. They didn't do it. Whatever mischief "it" is. It wasn't them. I refer to them as the "deniers". Unless I have the most amazing dog ever, I doubt he opens jelly and peanut butter jars and leaves the gobs of jelly prints on the handle of the refrigerator. I love my dog but he doesn't have opposable thumbs.
Yesterday was an amazingly lovely and rare spring day. I had to get out of the house for a break and I left the two munchkin sisters alone with my mother for a couple of hours because I was desperate. I had a terrific, much needed time out in the sun. When I returned (with groceries, of course) and went into my kitchen I immediately thought that Charles Manson had been released from prison and had recreated his "helter skelter" theme. I was sure that my family had been slain while I was out because the outside of my white refrigerator, the floor and some of the kitchen cabinets were covered in dripping, deep red liquid. When I heard the sisters in the living room, over the twelve decibels that the TV volume had been raised to, I quickly snapped out of my Manson fantasy. No such luck. Upon investigation, and a little screaming on my part, I discovered the liquid was in fact syrup from the frozen strawberries that had been in the fridge.
I'm offering a reward for any information leading to the arrest of the offending stranger that must have entered my home, walked past the sisters, escaped being detected by my 110 pound dog and headed straight to the container of strawberries in order to vandalize my refrigerator and cabinets. Of course neither of the conspiring sisters would "fess up" to being the culprit. Neither could understand that I would be bothered by a "little accident" in the kitchen. They did, however, offer to "help" clean up the mess. I calmly suggested they could best help me by returning to the living room while I cleaned. I know how they "help".
I cooked and served these poster women for the Dr. Kevorkian fan club a lovely dinner which they of course criticized in their usual "stage whisper" subtlety. While I watched [and unfortunately listened] to them eat I tried hard to picture them as they were when I was an obnoxious six or eight year old.
Indeed, payback is bitch...