Change: pt.1

by Tracey on August 7th, 2015

It’s inevitable. Change. As unstoppable as the tides and as determined as waves beating down the edges of a shoreline.

I’m in it now. I see it as clearly as my hand in front of my face. The tides are pulling me.

A little history first: Family dynamics are an interesting thing. In mine,  the dynamics have remained- for the most part- the same since I became an adult. As Nana, our matriarch, rounds the curve into her one hundredth year (97 next week and still going strong) we all still pussyfoot around her rules and standards of perfection. But as the rest of us are aging, we have ripened into solid characters. Our roles in the family are developed and strong now. Our positions in the dynamic field, solid.

Allow me to clarify. Last week was my petite family’s reunion. There are 15 of us. If my brother was still part of the picture he and his family would make 18. Without him, we are a small bunch, not a crop. Hardly even a grove. Nana is the head and has been for a quarter century-since my grandfather died on a trip to Russia. Next in line come my mom and her sister. Both in their 70’s and both struggling with illnesses that will eventually take their lives. Of the next generation, there are 3 of us. My two cousins- the eldest and her family: a faithful husband of nearly 23 years and two sons, 22 and 16. Her brother never married but I count his girlfriend/companion  in the mix. The last 5 of our bunch include me, my husband, 2 adult children, and my daughter’s beau.

As far as dynamics go, the two sisters’ lung diseases have become a constant part of our lives-something they have been dealing with for ten or more years. The serious nature of the illness (both are diagnosed with mico-bacteria infections, asthma, and chronic pneumonia symptoms) has led us to consider that Nana will out live them both. But then what happens?

Though is seems closer than ever, the inevitable change, the deaths of the three matriarchs will come when it comes. I cherish every moment with them now. I try to learn as much as I can from them, conscious of what they contribute. I’m able to put a positive spin on the lessons they teach.  FYI, my learning process has always been a little backwards. I tend to first see the negative, (That’s the controlling, narcissistic part of our family dynamics shining through.) then I put my own positive spin on things: ie, this is what NOT to do.

What I’m struggling with isn’t really even important in the grand scheme of things.  Given the way things are in the hierarchy, the matriarchal matrix of our family, when the top three decline, the logical next “ruler” should be my eldest cousin- the one with the family. She should be the one to organize gatherings and pick us up when we are down. She should be the one to care take the sick and elderly, and help them organize and prepare. As it turns out, she is sick too.

I (well, yes I’ve seen it coming) am the only member of my generation capable of care-taking and organizing. I am the only one who can step up to the plate when the shit hits the proverbial fan. I am the one giving support where it’s needed. I am the advice giver, teacher and nursemaid. I am the leader.

This realization has come to me slowly. For many years I’ve been in denial, thinking that my cousin would magically recover from her mental illness and become responsible. I have let her brother manage things. He doesn’t enjoy it, but he lives in the same city they do. And I have stayed away.

Tides change. I am beginning to see the need for me to step up and take on this role of leader/caregiver/head of family. It is staring me in the face. It is calling me to duty. My mother is very sick now.

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