Thursday, July 03, 2014

Why I'm not going to Canada

When I was about twenty, my parents were leaving on a road trip and my father said sternly, "Judy, if anything happens to us, you will take care of Jenny, won't you?" Of course I didn't want to think about something happening to my parents, so I blew off the Jenny part.
Jenny was my cousin in Toronto, about two years older, with some severe mental disorder--I was never sure what but some kind of bipolar syndrome I suspect. I last saw her 53 years ago, so saying we were not close is an understatement. She lived her life in and out of institutions. About ten years ago, my father's words echoed loud in my mind. Our aunt, who had watched over Jenny, was failing. I offered to take over care of her affairs and, with Jenny's consent, was given power of attorney. I've been paying bills, dealing with care facilities, watching her checkbook (I made sure she had no access because she gave huge sums she couldn't afford to animal welfare shelters). I made sure she was well cared for, had necessary medical attention, paid her bills and her taxes, and all that. And as best as I could, I saw that she was happy. I became good friends with the patient coordinator or whatever at the care center, and we corresponded frequently about Jenny. My cousin and I spoke only once, and with my bad hearing and her speech garbled from a stroke, it was a disaster. I sent her small gifts--stuffed animals--and pictures of my dogs. She would look with interest and two minutes later ask, "Who are they?" But sometimes she would dictate a note to be sent to me.
Jenny died May 13, and it became a big deal for me to go to Toronto to see her buried. My oldest son, Colin, would go with me, and we would see the lawyer, Senior Health Centre people (who were so good to Jenny and really loved her) and banker, in addition to having the service. But it turned out none of those people were available on the date we chose to go, the date I had the interment ceremony in her family cemetery all planned.
Last night I had an epiphany: I was about to spend $4,000 or thereabouts to go stand at the graveside of a woman I hadn't seen in 53 years and didn't really know. I had this vision of Colin and me in Toronto for two days saying, "Now what?" I cancelled our plans but have been frantically arranging for the interment to go on--cemetery will be ready, flowers will be there, minister on hand. The only person I haven't gotten is the funeral director who will bring the ashes--it's kind of crucial that he be there or it would be like throwing a party without the guest of honor. I think some staff from the Senior Health Centre will also attend.
This decision has been hard on me. I feel guilty letting her be buried without family there (she has no other relatives and no friends) but I have come to the conclusion that I can say, with a clear conscience, "Yes, Dad, I took care of Jenny." And that's enough.

1 comment:

Vera R said...

Good reasonable decision. Sometimes it seems easier to assume guilt rather than spend time really considering what is rational. You gave her a lot!