Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Importance of Being Remembered

As you get older, you get more acquainted with the death of loved ones or even just acquaintances. One of course hurts more, but I find I get sad for people I hardly even know. Steve Irwin's death, who I don't know, I found very tragic. John Candy, I looooovvvved his movies, and it was pretty depressing when he died. I don't even know these people, and I feel sad for their family, their friends, for their lives that seem unfinished.

Then of course there are the people I know who have died. It's funny though, before they died they weren't so concerned with how they were remembered, as the living people I know are. Living people seem to be concerned with what they have before they die, what their reputation is, how many people they've let know of their good deeds, et et. I remember being at the funeral of a wealthy and successful business man. His immediate family listed all his good deeds. They and I were the only ones there. Basically, if you weren't in his will, you weren't there (well except for me, I was there to support my step, as any evil step daughter plotting the demise of ones marriage would be LOL).

Not that that would bother me before I went (if I didn't have high attendance). No doubt he was old enough that his friends may have passed on or been unable to attend. There were certain other family members not in attendance. It made me think, in the end what is being remembered? Why should that be one's life goal? I mean your gone later.

Einstein is remembered. But is HE really remembered? (I mean who he really was, he wasn't just an inventor. Our occupation isn't always the sum total of our identity.) Perhaps certain personal stories have been passed down through his family. People go so far as to have children for the primary reason of being remembered and for passing on their "legacy". I have been told that I am selfish for not having children for that reason. I mean not lately. I could have children, but that ship has largely sailed for me. Plus, I never wanted to inadvertently hurt a child the way I had been hurt. Realistically, I would have probably done alright. Also, these people who think it would be great for you to have children, I don't know that they realize kids can die before you, they could not talk to you, or they could be very sick and die young. Morbid I know, but not having a real hunger to have children, those all seemed such risks to take. I never felt I was being selfish by not subjecting children to those risks for my "remembrance" in later years. Or at my funeral, when I am old and grey (I do have excellent genes for longevity).

As far as being known for things, it strikes me again and again that is not something worth clinging to later on. I mean, yeah I don't want to be in some lonely room somewhere. My grandmother, however, was not put in the most modern nursing home. I have to say, she seemed pretty happy. It was clean, there were people with her most of the time, and activities were provided that she enjoyed participating in. She actually had a "gang" of women that she hung out with around the elevator (that is if you could find her, and she wasn't on a trip). I don't know that the richer gentleman that I am talking about was any happier than her. All sorts of relatives and friends (even ones her age) found a way to be there with her. She could have had more, but having grown up in the depression she was rather frugal. Unfortunately, she did used to tell my dad all the time that he was had to take care of her in old age. I am sure she never knew how much that hurt him. If she had, she would have apologized. She said a whole lot of ill advised things to her kids and grand kids. As far as I know, I was the only one who ever confronted her (right before my wedding). She apologized right away, and said she loved me. Just like that, no further discussion necessary.

My grandmother really loved us all, and no she wasn't perfect. She didn't talk to her youngest (of nine) sister for many years until she found out she was dying. All over their mother's (my great grandmother's) estate. Not only are things not anything to fight over, but we are talking about people who could not afford much that was nice. Maybe that was the problem, or there was some kind of sentiment involved. Any way, I am pretty sure my great grandmother would have been horrified to know what happened. I never talked to her about it, I just "heard" about it.

I remember there was one story my grandmother used to say about her mother-in-law. She wasn't proud of her in this instance, quite the opposite. I never knew this great grandmother, but this story makes me proud of her. During the depression my family bought land or tenements. Well maybe they bought them before the depression hit. Anyway, these were either lived in by family members or rented out during the depression. Rather than evict anyone who couldn't pay, my Great Grandmother just let them live there. Eventually they lost certain properties because my Great Grandmother wouldn't kick them out. My Grandmother thought this was awful because they would have eventually been rich with the money later on when they sold the places. I thought it was a great story, because my Great Grandmother put people before material items, even though they were not her family.

Any way, it's still the small things that my grandmother did as well as her flaws that I remember her for. Her flaws make me giggle and appreciate her more, and how much she truly did love us. For instance, she used criticism constantly to say "I love you". I think it was because she wanted to get discussion rolling, and didn't know what to say. She also didn't know how to say "I am concerned for your health" instead on greeting certain members of the family the first thing out of her mouth would be "you aren't loosing weight" followed quickly by "you never call or visit me". How this used to annoy me (I was always the skinny one so I didn't get the first message) until I figured out the code. "I love you and I miss you." There was always the guilt trip starting as far back as I knew her "Well....I don't know if I will be around next year". She lived until 91, and had been saying that phrase from her sixties on. It's funny now, and especially because I know she didn't say it with any malice.

These attributes really twisted themselves more to the negative in her three children though. They are all weird, controlling, possessive, about money. I will never forget Christmas morning (with Grandma there mind you) them tagging and arguing (they pretended playfully) over the spoils when she died. One of them would rather give grandpa's tools to Goodwill rather than have his grandsons have them. I never did figure that out. They went so far as to chase people away from dining room chairs that people helping them would sit at for a rest after the estate was closing because that is where "they always sat".

Grandma may have been frugal, and she might have been a bit funny about money. However, if you said, you have the choice to make your loved one happy for the rest of their life or money, she would have picked the first. I know she would have. Her kids though, I think they would take money, success, fame first no matter who got hurt.

Then in me, it seems to have morphed into the opposite. There were plenty of times I could have taken easy street and profited well. I let my ethics and morals stand in the way most times. I'm not necessarily proud of that. Sometimes I think I could have made it easier on my family, and my family certainly would have thought it was something to be proud of (the result that is). Course, besides my husband, I think you might get the picture (and my departed grandmother and grandfather and my husband's side), I don't really hold much value in what certain blood relatives value and especially what they might value in me.

I don't care that I am not remembered frankly. In fact, I don't want to be rotting in some graveyard with some silly stone above my grave when I go. I just want to know what I have done, even if they are small accomplishments. Like the fact that a girl Springer Spaniel is now living happily with her family, when there was every concern that her misbehavior was going to end in euthanasia. That dog will be dead long before me. Her owners probably will to. While that won't be remembered by anyone but us, I think it's worthwhile. It's not saving the world, splitting the atom, becoming a millionaire or billionaire (not that I wouldn't adore a winning power ball ticket), but it makes me happy. If people don't remember that, so what? If I don't have kids to give some speech at my funeral, so what? Why do people concern themselves with these things?

What brought this up? Well, I think the other day we were saying "Mrs. Grace" isn't with us. But yes she is, and not just because we remember. There are people dead or close to death that she helped. She was a patient advocate for people who were sick. She made dealing with their doctor much easier on them by taking some of that initiative when they weren't feeling well. She used to read what I consider "boring medical" books, but I didn't realize until the other day that she probably used some of this information in her work. She had done this long before she herself got sick. Some day all those people, and the people's families that she helped are going to be dead. Does that make it less valuable? I don't think so, in fact it makes it more valuable. She never crowed about her accomplishments. She just quietly did it.

Also, even though they are going to be long gone someday, she truly loved having children. She just loved them. There was no ulterior motive to her having children, which is quite surprising considering her arranged marriage to a man that was not a nice man at all. In small ways, Mrs Grace goes on, although it may never be "her" per say that is remembered. Her good deeds have improved some one's life even if it was the short term. I would rather "not" be remembered for something like that, than be remembered for all the stuff or accolades that I did have.

Then their are the parents who want their kids to be their beacon not by being good people, but by their accomplishments. Marrying "well" (ie wealthy), picking the right carreer (ie something they can brag about materially or will allow them to travel on kids coattails), having grandkids for them. You should have seen the look my step monster gave me when I broke the news that I just was not having kids to my father. I felt like I had just said "I am having the devil's spawn".

And I thought I couldn't think of anything depressing to write today. Hah!! I have woken up in a good mood this morning, and don't know where I pulled this out of.

1 comment:

crse said...

I cannot even tell you how helpful this blog is for me right now. I keep saying it but it doesnt really begin to capture it. I think I need to talk about this stuff more or write about it. I agree. My Grammy (whose death spurred our estrangement with "mom") is so much a part of me, i talk about her every day. Thanks for helping me put things in perspective for the day (once again)