One of the downsides of having a plethora of chronic diseases is that death could be just around the corner, as it could for anyone, they may die in an accident or tragically something worse. The difference being though is every time I get a flare up or get another diagnosis I find myself making sure my husband knows where the bank details are and to remember to fill the boys memory boxes that I have been building since their birth. But the part before death, for us lucky ones, there comes Life.
If I asked you to think about your extended family, you’d probably recall seeing most of them at maybe the christening of your distant cousins baby Ben. Or second Cousin Billy’s marriage to cousin Sarah…hmm! Or maybe when your 90 yr old uncle finally kicked the bucket. You see, for me, this is a very strange part of human behavior. I can understand for siblings and the people closest to you. But it’s quite beyond me to feel obliged to attend every member of your family’s ‘event’ when you’ve not spoken for 10yrs. After it’s over, and you’ve made the journey home, you are quickly forgotten again, and a little poorer for it. I’ve always been a bit cynical when it comes to any interaction with others, but since becoming ill it has made me consider my priorities, my thoughts, and my obligations a little more.
A good example of this is when our first child was born. My mother informed me that auntie Margaret had sent a card and a few pairs of booties. I didn’t want to sound ungrateful but I had to ask, ‘Who the hell is Auntie Margaret’ to which she replied, ‘Well she’s not actually your auntie but do you know Bertie next door but one..?’ She went on to explain that auntie Margaret wasn’t related to us, not even by marriage, just an old lady who likes to knit. So I sat with a card from a total stranger in one hand, and the booties in the other. They somehow managed to be too small for one of the smallest humans on the planet. I received a lot of cards from distant relatives, some I’d not heard from for years, some I had never actually met, but it was still nice that they were sending lots of ‘best wishes’ and ‘hope everything goes well’ messages. It did, however, make me wonder why nobody really bothered how things were going for us before the baby.
Similar thing happened when we got married. Only a few close friends and relatives received an invitation from us, space in the registry office was limited and the small reception was being held at my parents bungalow. Our mistake in this, hindsight is a wonderful thing, was letting my mother arrange the reception. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful, but walking into what was meant to be a small, personal ceremony to find that forty per cent of your guests hadn’t been invited by me or my soon to be husband was a little off putting. I saw that all the seats had been taken and people were standing at the back. I literally hadn’t seen most of these people for years, and I felt bad because the registrar was very clear on the forty person limit. Some of the guests I vaguely remembered from when I was a child, others I’d never even met, and it was odd being introduced to my own wedding guests. And it’s not like they travelled five minutes from the next village on. For most of them it was a 400 mile round trip. It does make me wonder how far people are willing to go to drink forty pounds worth of somebody else’s alcohol.
Strangest of all was my Grandad’s funeral. In his later years, he could barely move, causing him to gain an enormous amount of weight. In turn, this meant he could no longer drive unless he held his breath, as his large stomach would impede his steering. A few close family members would do occasional chores for him, like gardening, shopping, and would even clean the mostly unused car that he refused to sell. Once again, they all crawled out of the woodwork for the funeral. Some of them hadn’t seen him for so long they were shocked at the abnormal width of his coffin. Some of the guests were so distant, that if I had been in charge of sending out the invitations I would have requested a swab for DNA confirmation. The many people who didn’t have the money for petrol to visit, or couldn’t possibly get time off work when he was alive, only confirmed to me that where there is a will, they will always find a way.
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