Friday, November 26, 2004

The holiday has been put to bed (yet another year) and

-- as usual -- there is a residue of renewed joy at having my family gathered 'roun' my table in celebration. This year 18 year-old Rhico brought his lovely Amelia to add to the clan -- a beautiful high school senior preparing for college. The littlest grands were with their other family -- this year we get custody of Christmas as the holidays alternate with most divorced parents in these times. I missed them, and look forward to having them breathe new life into the Christmas tree again as we gather in the creation of new memories for them and for us.

For the first time there was no turkey to roast. David prepared his first goose and brought it along ready to carve. The rest was up to Mom, and consisted of side dishes and dessert. There are benefits to having the kids grow up and take over, right? I suppose this will be increasingly true as the years pile on.

Bob drove up from the ranch at San Juan Bautista, bringing with him Julie, the latest DVDs of their work together (impressive), and his music to share. David's lady joined us later in the evening, having other family obligations to attend to earlier.

Dorian was filled to overflowing with the joy of being surrounded by family. We rarely see the boys these days, and she misses them terribly. The hunger rises as does her need for dominance over all conversation. She is unable to understand the "whys" of the feelings but obviously senses my not-so-subtle attempts at shushing her and becomes bewildered and resentful. I also understand, but am helpless to control my need to create spaces for others to interact. She only knows that today is all there is and that her beloved brothers will disappear out of her life again tomorrow for endless periods. It's always been that way, at least since the day one early September when she -- at the age of 9 -- left home for the first time to be educated and to live at The Cedars in Marin County where we would all see the end of the family-as-a-whole . I suppose that she has no way of knowing whether it was something she'd done that sent her away from us ...? Now the hunger is expressed in her need to compete for their attention -- to vie with the children, with their ladies. It makes for some awkward moments, but we manage to cope despite all. They've always managed to reassure her for brief periods, but I'm certain that they're grateful for having been spared the constant demand that she places on their lives and mine.

That's the bittersweet part of these reunions. They hint of an unknown future when I will no longer be here to absorb the responsibility of her life into my own. When I will no longer provide the buffer that allows them to live their lives free from the weight of hers. The fears that I've not done enough to prepare them all for that time, and that all of the work done earlier when she lived on her own over all the years may be in the process of being undone now. The infamous "social safety net" has been almost totally removed and people like her will become a burden on those who want to go on loving them but can't despite a deep sense of obligation -- because of the fear that their lives will be diminished by her all-consuming need.

We've so rarely spoken of such things, and I find myself wondering why that is? Denial on all our parts? I truly don't know.

Pictures on the tube this morning of the countless homeless people who were fed yesterday at the various rescue missions, churches, temples, and public diningrooms are disquieting. There are so many this year, more than ever, with many seen in family groups with small children. People living in cars and on the streets and under the bridges ... .

My sons and I need to be having this conversation.

I'll find a way to do that soon. But when? And why am I so fearful of where those revelations may lead? Is there fear that they won't feel as responsible as I? That they will walk away because I've failed to instill in them the will to succeed me as caregiver? Or, am I simply wishing to postpone the burden of her care for as long as possible?

Despite the demands her mental handicaps have placed on mine, my life has been fulfilled and varied and rich beyond measure. I've lived fully and accomplished much over the years. Why would this not be equally true for Bob and David? They've been witness to what's possible. I suppose that's the truth that I must trust. That's the conversation that we must have -- or not. That I've provided the living example might simply need to be assumed and not questioned. "This is how its done" sans comment may be the only means of transmission. Maybe -- having modeled what I want to see will have been enough. After all, in those "sandwich" years when it was necessary to assume a parental role with both my parents as they approached life's endings -- while being responsible for guiding Dorrie's future, the boys were old enough to watched it all unfold. Maybe all that needs to happen now is to trust that the pattern has been adequately laid down and that -- between the two of them -- she will survive in some limited but adequate way. Given her sensitivity and despite her mental deficits, I suspect that at some subconscious level, she shares some of these same concerns and the edge that I sense when we're all together is reflected in her need to control her environment - as long as she can -- against the unknown... .

Do you suppose?

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