Family Ties – lines drawn in the sand

The Spanish movie, ala Almoldovar, called Seres Queridos (English title -Only Human) is set in Spain where two relatively mismatched people are about to tell her family that they are engaged to be married. The engagement is not the issue. The issue is one is Jewish; the other Palestinian. A comedy of errors ensues the minute they arrive in the house, as they navigate through the family’s reactions or possible reactions to the news that the boyfriend is Arab and a Muslim. As much as you laugh at the quirkiness of each character the underlying theme is that family ties can be put to the test and the lines drawn in the sand blur when a crisis arises.

Few things bring families together like births, weddings, illness or death.

In my family sickness is the all time root for the home team. Flights are boarded; phones are congested; homes and hospitals are overwhelmed. Discussions are in constant ebb and flow as we gather around the one that is sick to lend support; that lending hand or check.

Incredible as it seems we let go of our rivalries and hug each other in commiserating feelings. We are family.

But there is this underlying sound. Faint and hard to pinpoint that says all is not well in the home front. We usually ignore it; we usually go about our business to take care of our loved one. The one in that bed becomes the priority, yet once in a while that inexplicable feeling comes to the surface. Suddenly, without warning.

And it becomes stronger the further removed the patient is in family blood ties. The In-laws may or may not give support; the family member most removed in time and space may lag behind in his or her enthusiasm…but its there. Sometimes it is silent; in other times it is vocalized with catastrophic consequences.

Human dignity- so easily lost during illness is magnified when death or the inability to fend for ourselves manifests itself. Alzheimer’s in our case is that factor.

One of my numerous aunts has Alzheimer’s; that deteriorating disease that leaves you little dignity unless truly supporting family members are there to shield you from its indignities. She is one of a growing few who have on-set Alzheimer’s among her siblings. And as each sibling grows older their progeny grow more worried who will be next. The younger ones make plans to be tested; we plan for the future based on this most icky of conditions. My aunt without ever knowing where she would end up, had worked hard in the past to put things in place so she would never have to depend on anyone. She doesn’t depend financially on any of us; but now she depends on us to make sure her finances provide for her – even when finance to us would not have meant less care.

The carrying of our last name, for us at least, signifies we must be there front and center. So there is my aunt rambling from a place only her mind knows- and here we are hearing but not quite listening so as to minimize her loss of dignity.

Unfortunately, there are those who know her less that have turned her crisis into a media circus. And the rest, like herds of the animal kingdom, have encircled her to protect her. Not an easy feat, considering what we are up against.

Some of us have put our livelihood on the line; others their reputations; others have called in favors and still others have fought with their spouses for the right to be by her side. We have collected measures to enact for the betterment of her quality of life; yet the bruises these have cost us are still smarting.

One day I hope we can come together and these inconveniences don’t come to light and helping doesn’t become a burden to us; but I know it is wishful thinking. We are only Human.


1 Response to “Family Ties – lines drawn in the sand”

  1. 1 basbousa
    August 17, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    It’s very sad, but beautifully written.

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