Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Guests Who Never Arrived

Last night, I was browsing Facebook.   One of my husband's cousins is getting married this weekend.  His family is somewhat scattered throughout this country and today,they were all flying into the Northeast United States for the wedding.

One by one, as they arrived, they posted their statuses and their photos on Facebook. They all arrived safely.  Although they are far-flung, they are close knit.  All are happy to be where they are tonight, all are eager for a mini family reunion, all ready for the weekend's festivities.

Except for an aunt and uncle of the groom.  They were missing from Facebook and from the wedding.  They were supposed to fly in, too.  Their hotel reservations were set.  They were looking forward to the trip.

And then something happened.  The aunt became ill, a recurrence of a sickness that she has suffered from for years. There was no way she could travel.  Her husband stayed behind to care for her.

It sounds like a sweet story, this sacrifice, except for one little detail.  And it's that little detail that makes me hesitant to even post this act of love on my blog.  It shouldn't matter, not in our modern world.  But I'm not sure the family would like me to even talk about this.  I am anyway.

Because, you see, this illness is not physical.

A stigma still exists surrounding illnesses of this type.  My husband's cousin, the groom's uncle, has borne so much of this burden by himself. 

This couple, through the years before they moved from the Northeast, did many good things for my mother in law.  They visited her.  They installed grab bars in her bathroom, installed extra lighting for her aging eyes, installed railings on stairs, put sliding shelves in her kitchen cabinets, and made life easier for her in many other little ways. This aunt of the groom has an energetic mind and was an experienced caregiver for her own mother, now deceased, so she knew what to do.  

But then they retired, and moved away to be close to their daughter.  My mother in law was so looking forward to their visit for the wedding..  She was also invited to that wedding and this couple was going to take her there. (Another nephew will now take my mother in law.)

The aunt of the groom is intelligent, delightful and a very caring person.  When the illness strikes, her entire family suffers, and I know she must suffer most of all.

But last night, as I saw the other smiling faces on Facebook, I thought of her.  And her husband.  It's hard to put into words how I felt.

I wish I had an answer for this situation.  But I don't.  We email sometimes, and track each other on Facebook.  But we've never lived close to each other, and never knew each other perhaps in the way we should have.

All I can hope is that, one day, medicine will find a cure for this illness, or at least, a better way to manage it. 

Have you faced this type of family challenge?


  1. I'm assuming this is some kind of phobia or inability to interact socially. It is sad but I know people who have severe discomfort in social settings and it IS excruciating for them. Medicines? maybe. Counselling? maybe. Sad and perhaps they will have to settle for being guests from afar and enjoying pictures, etc.

  2. There are stigmas around many things. I know someone who speaks freely about what she deals with, but she isn't what most people consider "normal." However she is a fabulous "abnormal." The same goes with me. I talk about things, like cancer, that others won't touch with a 10' pole. You'd think it was somehow contagious. I have come to realize in recent weeks (so it's a fairly new realization) that the reason I think we have an issue with things like this is because we don't talk about them. You see, the things that are familiar are comfortable to us because they are familiar. The minute you get out of familiar territory it is extremely uncomfortable. Once upon a time it would be very difficult for me to talk about cancer. It was very scary. Oddly enough, it is somewhat less scary now, since the diagnosis. It would be great if it is addressed medicinally somehow, but it will be overall in a much better place if people would just take a risk and start talking, and start educating. It does, at times (many, in fact) suck. But I'd like to think it is somehow worth it in the end. Have a good night.

  3. This is becoming a common occurrence now for a lot of families including my own. Aging and frailing parents who can no longer travel, and some like my mother, come from a generation that does not know how to or want to use a computer let alone facebook or skype. We make do with weekly phone conversations and the occasional weekend visit.

  4. That's such a tough situation. All you want is for the family to be together and happy but we're way behind in treatment for mental illness. It's something that really needs more time dedicated to research.

  5. I can relate. I have a family members who is bipolar, and a stepdaughter with the same problem. She has gotten good at managing her condition, and sometimes if she feels a mood swing coming at her she has to cancel activities and take time to recuperate. This means there are holiday gatherings that are too much for her so she and her husband come on a quieter day instead. I totally respect this decision. If it helps her to deal with things, it's worth a small inconvenience to the rest of us.

    My dad also was bipolar and took medication which helped him. Unfortunately it only modulated the manic phases and did little to prevent a depressed state. Still, that was better than nothing, as it enabled him to live at home instead of in an institution.

    I hope everyone is understanding about what your aunt is suffering.

  6. Any type of mental illness affects the immediate family. My first husband suffered with depression during our 27 years of marriage. Only after he left me for a doctor's wife, was he diagnosed with bipolar. If only he'd received treatment while we were together.
    On a more upbeat note, I hope your day went well.


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