Tuesday, October 13, 2009

WOW Blogging Buddy: Family Ties

Today I'm participating in a mass blogging! WOW! Women on Writing has gathered a group of blogging buddies to write about family relationships. Why family relationships? We're celebrating the release of Therese Walsh's debut novel today. The Last Will of Moira Leahy (Random House, October 13, 2009) is about a mysterious journey that helps a woman learn more about herself and her twin, whom she lost they were teenagers. Visit the Muffin www.wow-womenonwriting.com/blog.html to read what Therese has to say about family relationships and view the list of all my blogging buddies. And make sure you visit www.theresewalsh.com to find out more about the author.

Every family faces their own unique challenges. Some have a family member battling addiction. Others have members with fidelity issues, financial issues, and the like.

With my family, it's health issues.

My family has been touched by two illnesses in particular. My mother and a cousin have suffered with multiple sclerosis for well over 20 years; my great-grandmother and now my grandmother were both diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. As my mother has lived with MS for most of my life, I've come to accept her condition as my "normal", though she has deteriorated steadily over the past two decades. Her condition has prevented her from participating in many of the "milestones" throughout my childhood and adolescence--her last venture out of the house was to attend my high school graduation in 1998. She has been living in a long-term care facility for the past 7 years.

In that time, the rest of us have watched my once vibrant, active, Superwoman of a grandmother revert back to childhood, and I'm not exaggerating by much. The faces of her grandchildren are vaguely familiar, though our names have been long forgotten. Now she needs to be coaxed through the regular activities that most of us don't give a thought to--things like getting dressed (in matching clothes), brushing teeth, and household chores. As my mother's health declined, my grandmother filled in for many of the things that my mother wasn't physically able to do. Seeing my grandmother's memory and comprehension skills disintegrate in front of us has not been easy.

As I watch both my mother and my grandmother live their lives as best they can in their current states, many thoughts go through my mind. I wonder what they are thinking. Do they realize what is happening to them? Do they worry about themselves as much as the rest of us worry about them? Will these challenges and hardships bring the rest of our family closer together, or will we drift apart because it's simply too painful to remember them as they "used to be"? Each time I see them, I'm reminded of how truly fleeting life can be, and how honestly precious every moment is. I had my mom and my grandmother for a good twenty years, and though they're still physically with me, needless to say the dynamics of these relationships have changed considerably. I often wish that I had more time with both of them, but a force far stronger than my wishes is working at a much faster pace. So I do what I can as a sort of tribute--by writing posts such as this, and essays where I can, to remind them that I haven't forgotten them as they used to be.

For more information on the Alzheimer's Association, visit www.alz.org.

For more information on multiple sclerosis, visit the MS Society at www.nationalMSsociety.org.


  1. I'm so sorry for the struggles and pain you must be feeling. It's never easy to watch a loved one decline. My thoughts as with you :)

  2. Thanks, Sandie Lee. No, it's never easy, but it helps you appreciate the good that you do get in life. I appreciate your thoughts--thanks for commenting :)

  3. Wow, what a touching post and what a difficult time you are dealing with. I can't imagine "losing" the mother figures in my life, especially at the same time. God bless.
    ~Mary Jo

  4. I'm taking care of my step mom right now who is battling cancer, among other illnesses. It's a very trying time for all members of the family, but your post helps me remember to appreciate every moment we have. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Mary Jo--Thanks for your comment. I think it's been harder to watch my grandmother's deterioration almost more than my mother's, because, as I said, my mom has had this illness for most of my life, so I've been used to it. But yes...definitely not easy, and definitely a challenge for everyone in my family.

  6. Ang--I'm glad my post struck a chord with you. I'm the sort of person who always tries to be grateful for every moment, but it definitely takes on a whole new meaning when I'm around my mom and gram. I helped to take care of my mom for years, and it wasn't easy, so I can appreciate what you're going through. Keep the faith. Thanks for commenting.

  7. My sister also has MS and she is such an inspiration to me. She has always been determined the MS wasn't going to run her life and she has overcome some major setbacks in her health. She's quite the lady to look up to!