Strong Family Ties – Who Do You Believe?

Not being a mother and no longer being a wife, I have no desire to live to be 100 years old.

However, I reserve the right to change my mind at 99 11/12 years of age IF I’m still a source of helpful income to care-full people.  If not, I’m a member of Dying with Dignity though I still have to complete the paperwork.  The paperwork requires me to name people who are willing to be the decision makers if I have become unable to make my own decisions.

I have no idea who I could possibly ask to take on that responsibility. 

Here’s what has me thinking about this:

In an e-zine article, “Aging Gracefully – How To Live To Be 100”,  Dr. Andrew Weil reported that living to be 100 years old doesn’t mean “that particular foods, supplements or other substances have anything to do with our living to extreme old age.”

The article says, “[Dr. Weil] contends that strong family ties, healthy food (but no one, specific food) and lifelong physical activity…” are the primary factors for longevity.

Reading this, I felt quite righteous –  I score two out of three.  I eat good food, take supplements, exercise faithfully and spend time with good friends whenever possible – catching them for a hike as my visit-of-choice.

But does all that make up for “strong family ties”?  Ha!  How does an older aunt who lives on an inconvenient island, who doesn’t have the means to ply nieces and nephews with meaningful gifts and who is a “sister of great-grandpa” – become a person of any interest to the younger generation?

Strong family ties…can this mean the family I’ve created in the absence of blood family?  My blood family and I don’t live in close proximity.  They don’t call me to join all their various family gatherings.  I am not “mom”.  I am not “grandma”.  I am an aunt who declines invitations due to impassable roads (Islands don’t have normal road service) or because a pet needs meds 2, sometimes 3, times a day.  Does that make me worthy of being judged out of strong family ties?  Apparently.

Strong family ties…Friends moan over their obligations to family.  I’ve never felt obligated.  We were raised to do what we needed most to do.  I headed home to Mom and Dad with great anticipation.  When a brother or sister invited me to their home and I was free to go, I was over the moon.  So I ask friends about it.  They feel they have no choice.  Does this mean the strong ties are actually a choke-hold?  Who dictates these laws – besides our conscience?

Strong family ties…I’ve listened to people confess re putting themselves under unreasonable financial strain in order to fulfill the “togetherness” quotas.  If a family is that close and that loving, do they help each other out? 

Makes me wonder how many years are peeled off my 100 years due to my questionable foul-weather family ties.  This kind of tie means we will be in touch very quickly if one of us is in trouble.

Oddly enough, this subject keeps coming up.  My antennae seem to be in receive mode.  I listened to a radio report about a woman in Mexico who celebrated her 127th birthday.

When she was asked her secret for longevity, her strong voice responded without hesitation.  “No se casan”…”stay away from marriage.”

Okay, but will I really be able to light 127 candles on any tiny “auntie” cupcake all by myself?

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19 thoughts on “Strong Family Ties – Who Do You Believe?

  1. An awkward question, no doubt. People seem to have different expectations of family and family mostly doesn’t seem to gather round and nurture one into the grave anymore. I have my son, which works for me, and my daughter-in-law, so I’m okay. But recently a friend asked me to be her point person for just this task. She a good friend and “like” a sister to me, but I asked her to think it over. She has a blood sister and her father is still alive. I wonder how they’d feel. She says she only trusts me to do what she wants. Quandry. I love her dad and am friendly with her sis. I want to help her but I don’t want to hurt them. We’ll see what happens.

    Dispite the topic, hope – and assume – all is well with you~ 🙂

    • I’m very well, thanks, Jamie. What an huge consideration. You are being so very considerate – and perhaps relieving Dad and Sister of having to make that decision. It’s a terrible burden to most family members – which is why “extreme measures” is (too?) often their decision. A few years before Mom had her stroke, she let me know she’d talked to a woman “friend” (who’d been a care-giving companion) about making sure there was a sufficient number of pills… I don’t know the details. I couldn’t bear to listen. I respected Mom’s wish/plan, but couldn’t hear about it. It was too real. It turned me cold, but it also made me realize I could never have been the one to make sure she had what she needed.

      The “friend” moved off island and I had the feeling the connection weakened considerably. Then Mom had a stroke that seemed to put her in a state of semi-bliss until she died 6 years later.

  2. This makes an interesting and realistic study of family ties! Yes Amy! families do bring responsibilities, disappointments and financial constraints. Despite that families are loved, sometimes relationships go sour but we make up…we may not meet very frequently but at the back of our mind we have a strange contentment that there are people who care, who would stand by us when we call. Friends also fulfil all these requirements, in fact they do so better than family members, if they are real friends.
    I don’t wish to live beyond 80! How I wish, ‘wishes were horses’!!

    • So, wise Balroop, you remind me…it is a blessing to know a call would be answered by a sibling. Since I’m the youngest, I suspect I’ll be saying goodbye to them. I do wonder about the purpose of this aging thing…is it to facilitate acceptance? Too bad we couldn’t just ascend in stages without the inconvenience of our bodies breaking down. Yes, if wishes were horses.

  3. You may be lighting 127 candles but even if you’ve outlived your family I doubt it will be a cupcake. No matter what our age, it’s highly likely there will be ‘choice family’ (friends) around to help you celebrate gladly.
    Proximity to family doesn’t necessarily signify closeness since families don’t always love, or even like each other. But where there is still a bond there is a telephone when presence just isn’t possible and that just makes he time you can meet all the sweeter.
    By the time you’re ready to celebrate that birthday the family may no longer live on impassable roads since people move all the time, and your cake may need to be huge to feed all the celebrants.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    • Whether it’s a cupcake or a huge layer cake, David, my wish would be that it’s plant-based. I’m already spoiled with having an islander prepare the most delicious cakes from veggies. Eating a piece of his cake is like celebrating with 127 candles! Hope you are exceptionally well, you kind-hearted man.

    • Charles, if I keep doing my Kundalini Yoga practices every morning, I’ll be able to manage at least half my age! I’ll want you at my party – by that time your messages will have caught the attention of the world and you will have humbled the nations. I’ll need someone famous to blow from the other end of the cake.

  4. I’m not at all sure I want to live to 100. Of course, everything is relative. I once thought I didn’t want to live to 60…what an idiot I was. What I know I don’t want is to be warehoused in a bed, waiting to die. If my mind vacates my body, why take up valuable resources? If my body gives out but leaves my mind strong and capable of wondering, learning, and thinking, well, ok.

    I too, have had to put in place paperwork naming those who might step in if I can’t make decisions for myself.Another thing I’ve been thinking about, but have yet to really put in place, is a stable of younger friends. I watched my mother’s health decline and her young groupies huddled around her like angels. That can’t happen if all your friends are older than you!

    • There’s lots to be said about having a good age range of friends. I had a younger friend set up as a possible Power of Attorney for looking after business if I become demented, but she has since reneged. Methinks the age range wasn’t big enough. Oddly enough, the nieces and nephews who I’d like to ask about these matters aren’t that much younger than me. I don’t really know their offspring well enough to broach the subject.

      Some good idea will pop up…I’ve opened the channels now! 😀

  5. That old saying that you can’t choose your family is so right.
    I am blessed with having really good friends(though Wendy shuffled off this mortal coil far too early).
    I also have a large family.
    I do NOT want to spend my twilight years with any of them.
    I love them but I have a feeling I won’t be the easiest person to live with.
    SO….I don’t want to reach a hundred….really!!!!
    I am older than you but I would be quite prepared to come over and do the “dirty”. 🙂

  6. I don’t know you at all, so I hope this comment doesn’t sound out of place. and forgive me ahead of time if anything I say is out of line, but I sense a great woundedness in you…everything from the opening line then continuing to emphasize on not being “Mom” or “Grandma”, to the comment which intimates that a great deal of money is needed in order to have relationships with your nieces/nephews, to the fact that you chose to live on a remote island – which in and of itself seems very symbolic to me, because when DESIRE is there to connect, an inconvenient road isn’t a hardship and pets can be brought along or tended by others to be given their medication. Again, I may be totally out of line…just the observations of a stranger. As an aside, I think that there is a registry for advanced directives and wills…an organization that maintains these items and makes them available to physicians. Perhaps something like that would give you peace of mind….where you can let your wishes be known about all of these things ahead of time, and no one else will need to make the decisions – just execute the.

    • Sweet Grace, you seem concerned. Many thanks. As with one and all, I’ve been wounded in many different ways in many different incarnations. I am not sad or feeling unloved.

      You’ve landed on key observation points re human nature and you are filling in the detail. You see, I chose a family that doesn’t put a lot of demands on its members. For example, my older brother asks me each year to drive to another province with him – where we could visit another brother and sister, but I have this pet who now takes 3 pills a day. While he doesn’t make a fuss about it, my brother sounds a little disappointed to think I put a cat ahead of a trip with him, but for a couple of key reasons, it’s a priority I find easy to make.

      I’m an old soul, Grace, and – if you believe people gifted with past life regressions – I’m on my last incarnation on this glorious orb. Thus I have experienced every kind of human condition imaginable. This time around, I live spiritually, as an observer, delighted with many ordinary aspects of living.

      That’s what my writing is about – observing the human condition. My stories are laid out for the convenience of others to look at themselves as much as they want. You see, I have a full and abundant life full of simplicity. If my family suddenly wanted lots of my time, life would become very crowded. It would be very hard to give them my full attention.

      So, worry not – I am largely content. When I’m not sounding content, it’s because I’ve made human nature too much my business.

  7. I’ve just read this Amy and the synchronicity is reassuring (once again!)
    Martin and I were just commenting that both our blood families are estranged from us right now ~ their choice, not ours. It’s sad in one way but we do have a much larger ‘family’ ~ here on the Island and all over the world, through the internet. These wonderful kindred souls (yourself included) nurture us; relationships with our blood family (even my adult children) seem to be one~sided, complicated and debilitating.
    We too, have considered asking friends to make decisions on our behalf, if the time comes when we can no longer do that for ourselves ~ but that is a huge responsibility. I guess I’m ever hopeful that the situation with my kids will change, that they will choose to contact me again, just because they want to, Until that day comes, we’re focusing on living a full life as long as possible, enjoying every moment as it unfolds.
    From time to time my confidence that all is exactly as it should be wavers. So it’s great to read this post and all the comments ~ they help me regain balance! Thank you 🙂

    • Jacqueline, “family” has so many different definitions and feelings. When people try to lay out what it “should” be, I hear justification, woundedness or a wish. We all have to make adjustments, compromises and efforts to support a loving family. If/When it’s not safe to do so or the ‘giving’ is one way, we reach for our boot straps. As my Beloveds teach consistently to all people asking for support, we are not here to be victims. They teach new mindsets to empower oneself.

      I have friends with large families and they think nothing of wearing themselves threadbare to accommodate family. They are delighted to be in the midst of it all – it’s kin. It’s familiar and it’s tradition. They don’t have time to give back to the community – which is my focus. We understand and respect each role. As you do, I have my family and I have my families within the community. At times, I’ve come to the aid of a person I love dearly and when I hear mothers and grandmothers talk about their feelings about a family member in need of support, they’re speaking my language. I share their feelings.

      Whether blood family or otherwise, like Martin and you, I hesitate to put life/death responsibility on their shoulders. From discussions and points learned in my Dying with Dignity group, I’d say it comes down to who I trust to do what has to be done – not what their heart allows.

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