Thursday, May 05, 2005

Going it alone, part 2 (for part 1, see “Motherless Child”)

My sister suffered a serious back injury and whiplash in an auto accident the week of our son’s brit milah over two decades ago, and has never fully recovered. Several years ago, she developed life-threatening allergies, complete with anaphylactic shock She has “multiple chemical sensitivities,” which I believe means that she can get sick from just about anything at just about any time, presumably without warning. Her health is so poor that she doesn’t even feel well enough to see our son, her only non-Israeli nephew, when he comes home from college later this month.

Thinking further about my reaction to my mother telling me to look in a cookbook when I asked her for cooking advice (see , I realize that, at an ocean’s remove, I was simply unprepared psychologically to make the transition from being a child who depended on my parents to one on whom her parents depended. Though my sister lives within commuting distance, I think I’m approaching that transition point with her, as well. She’s the oldest of us kids, and has always been the one with her finger on the pulse, the one most likely to have a good grasp of the stock market and of the care and handling of various bureaucracies. As a first-class networker, she’s always been the go-to person for information on just about any subject other than computers. In addition, when our son was younger and his maternal aunt was in better shape (both physically and fiscally), she bought him tons of books, invited him over to her apartment, took him to the movies and other events, and babysat for us every year on our anniversary. I was hoping that she’d be in reasonably good shape for another decade, at least. But, at this rate, not only do I face the prospect of losing her as part of my own support system, it’s likely that I’ll become part of hers in the near future.

When it comes to my own family, I’m pretty much going it alone. If I ever had a safety net—and that was debatable even before my parents made aliyah, since they lived so far away from me—it’s gone, or nearly so, at this point. My brother in Jerusalem is my parents’ safety net, not mine. My brother in California is too far away from any of us to be of much help. (And vice versa, to be fair.) And at this point, if I lean on my sister, she’ll break.

I suppose that this is a stupid and, admittedly, selfish thing to say, considering how many years my (younger) brother and ex-sister-in-law have been taking care of my parents, but I can’t help feeling that I shouldn’t have to deal with this kind of responsibility at my age. Or ever. I spent 19 years raising a child with disabilities. No sooner was he safely tucked away in college than my husband developed kidney stones and swallowing problems. Then our son developed kidney stones. Now my sister’s physically falling apart, even though she’s only two years older than I. It seems as if I’ve spent half my life taking care of other people. Who’s taking care of me?

Actually, that would be my husband. And my friends.


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