Thursday, May 11, 2006

Sadness is . . .

an aunt's death.

The phone call came this afternoon. My mother's only remaining immediate family member died suddenly early this afternoon as she was being discharged from the hospital. She'd been in and out of the hospital since having a stroke last year. Nothing unusual, really, although rather sudden and unexpected. But this death is a bit harder to deal with.

My uncle passed away seven years ago. He had suffered two strokes and was diabetic. He lived in the same town as the aunt who passed today, within a couple miles of each other. So my aunt and her husband often helped care for my uncle. And when he died, my aunt's husband expected to be paid for services rendered. Understand that there is history to all this. My cousins referred to their father as "Squeaky" because he was so tight with his money. My uncle had never married, and left everything to my sister, my brother, and me. That upset my aunt's husband, who hired a lawyer to threaten a lawsuit. We're talking about an estate worth less than a couple hundred thousand dollars.

My aunt sometimes made a meal for my uncle. My aunt's husband always provided a bill for my uncle to pay. We're not talking about an every day thing, or constant care. My uncle had live-in caretakers much of the time following his stroke. But my aunt's husband thought he ought to be paid for everything his wife did for her brother, which included things like checking his blood sugar (they were both diabetic).

The situation created a rift in the family. I used to receive Christmas cards each year from my aunt and most of her children. That stopped. Most communication between my mother and her sister stopped. It was silly and sad and stupid.

Fortunately my younger sister had established a good friendship with one of our cousins. They both thought the entire episode silly and sad and stupid and remained friends. Eventually, my aunt sent a letter to my mother. They began communicating through my cousin, and were even able to talk to one another on the phone a few times. But it all had to be hidden from my aunt's husband. And my mother hasn't visited the graves of her mother, father or brother (all in the same city) for seven years. She hasn't been to the state where she grew up, met my father and got married in seven years.

And now she doesn't know if she'd be welcome at her sister's funeral. This is troubling me. My sister is the family member notified about my aunt's death, and had to tell my mother her sister died. I don't mind getting the news through my sister. But I wish that wasn't how it had to be for my mother.

I grieve for my aunt. But I grieve more for my mother, who now has no immediate family still living. And who doesn't think she'd be welcome at her sister's funeral. Because of the greed of my deceased aunt's husband. May he rot in hell.

Stupid, silly, and sad.