Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Every now and again I think a bit on the passing of time in my family. Right now I am in the second oldest generation but only by a very little bit. The only surviving member of the oldest generation is a remarkable 93 year old woman who looks as fragile as a little bird but who can knock back a couple of Black Russians with the best of them and who recently came through a fall without any fractures but a couple of compressed vertebrae that healed in a surprisingly quick time. She is much beloved by all, including my daughters, and will probably--hopefully--go on for some time longer.

The men in the family (this includes both my father's and my mother's side) don't generally last past 71 if they get even that far. It is hard, however to say if they were felled by genetics or by the physical self abuse that was rampant, particularly on my mother's side. Alcoholism and heavy smoking combined with terrible diet were everywhere. It is sad to contemplate the wastage of human life and talent. My mother dropped at age 52, a terminal alcoholic and she was not atypical. They all signed on one after another, acting as each other's enablers and putting up impenetrable defences against getting any kind of help. A rebel against many areas of my family's dearest beliefs, I realized at a very young age that to survive, I had to repudiate all of what they stood for and how they lived.

I suffered and in some ways still suffer feelings of disloyalty to those closest to me but there really was no other way. My own generation, almost across the board, pulled the plug on the dominant lifestyle and enjoys far better health, physically and psychologically, than any of their elders. Except, of course, for the 93 year old who came into the family by way of her daughter who married a cousin of mine. She came in from a whole different tradition and had far better life habits, those Black Russians notwithstanding.

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