Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Family ties

As the mother of four adopted children and a woman who has been befriended by so many people, I have long said it's not blood that counts. It's love, what you do for others, what they do for  you. I'm having the opposite experience of that right now in an odd way.
I have a cousin in Canada who is bipolar, 78 years old, in a nursing home, and not in good health. She's in a wheelchair and can be verbally abusive when she doesn't get her way. Since she can't handle her own affairs, I have power of attorney and have been handling her affairs for several years. I remember my father saying years ago, when I was maybe 20 and he and Mom were about to set off on a trip, "Judy if anything happens to us,  you will take care of Jenny, won't you?" All these years later, those words have come home.
I have not seen Jenny since I was perhaps ten or twelve, so I can't claim we're close. And these days I can neither understand her on the phone nor read her handwriting. Sometimes she dictates a note to a nurse to send to me. She loves dogs (when I first got into this she had several animal shelters on an automatic withdrawal plan from her checking account and was donating $500 or more a month--I had to put a stop to that). But I send her pictures of Sophie, and since she's a packrat, I occasionally send a stuffed animal. And I send email notes through a wonderful lady at the home.
The other day the Senior Health Centre said they like to have final arrangements information on file in case a patient dies unexpectedly. No, they assured me, she had not taken a turn for the worse. So I've been planning a future funeral and on a journey through a branch of my father's family I know little about, tracking down her mother's birthplace--I have no idea and my dad is the only one who could tell me, so that's out. My grandfather was an Anglican minister who moved his family to a new parish every two years, and I swear they lived in every small town in southern Ontario. I give up equally on her father's birthplace and his mother's maiden name--I barely remember Uncle Walter and was never close to Aunt Rachael. Why do funeral homes need this? Then I got an estimate sheet--holy cow! It's expensive to die! Since there is no family I simply requested an Anglican minister say a prayer at the gravesite. But it's a lot more complicated than that-- they would have to hire pall bearers, and have cars to transport staff and clergy, use a hearse. If there's no funeral, why do they need staff? All of this makes me feel kind of ghoulish, since she's still living and shows no signs of dying soon.
I knew that somewhere in my files I had a record of the Denison Family Cemetery, so tonight I went through nine years of files--and found it in the last place I looked. The current file. Went to the website only to be warned it had a known threat. Wrote to the person who maintains the Denison family Web page, but it bounced back. So somehow I have to verify that Jenny's parents are buried there and there is a plot for her. All of this, of course, makes me nostalgic about family ties and sad that so little is known about Jenny, grateful that my children will carry on my legacy, such as it is.
And my one major thought about Jenny is what a sad, unhappy life she has had--sometimes off her meds and dumpster diving, never married, never worked, never had the ordinary life that most of us have.
So I'll keep digging until I contact someone at St. John's Cemetery on the Humber, beside Denison Park, in North York, Toronto--which is a long way from Texas.

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