Bad sad news

It is difficult hearing bad news about family members. I have a cousin with whom I have kept contact off and on for many years. Most of the time it’s been more off than on.

She started to send me jokes and political comments and “Say this prayer” type things in emails a few years ago. We didn’t usually exchange to much of anything personal, but it was a way to keep in touch.

We have one other cousin who grew up with us. but we lost track of Janice a few years back and have not been able to figure a way to contact her. We just plain don’t know where she is now. Her home phone land lines no longer work. Janice was the oldest cousin of mother’s side of the family. She was, or is, twelve years older than I am. I don’t have many memories of doing anything with her. I babysat for her when her kids were young then I went away to college and very seldom saw her. I have no idea what her daughters’ names are or where they live.

Anyway, that leaves Diane. I noticed she hadn’t sent any emails for a while so I wrote to ask her if all was well. A couple of weeks later she wrote back replying that she and her husband were down in Florida for the winter. She said that Roger was having trouble keeping his balance and was falling frequently. She said a couple of weeks ago that he was going in for testing.

Today I received the same email that she sent to all her email friends. The diagnosis is not good. Roger has been diagnosed with ALS. She apologized for probably not being on line very often from now on.

Roger and Diane married right out of high school. Neither one of them had a cent to their name. Their first apartment was smaller than a two car garage. I can barely remember it because I think I was in sixth grade when they got married. From what I remember it was a bedroom and a kitchen. It must have had a bath but I’m not sure.

I was twelve when their first daughter was born. Diane called me to babysit at first during the day. They had graduated to a three room house. This one had a kitchen, a living area and a bedroom. A year later a second daughter was born. Some time after that they bought a two bedroom house that had a basement for the girls to play in. I also lost track of Diane once I started college.

She and Roger stayed in the same home their entire marriage in the same small community where we grew up. They were both good at fixing up houses so they started buying rent houses to supplement their income. Roger was a very good handyman. He stayed with the same company all his working career.

They started traveling when the girls were out of the house and went all over the world. Roger kept that small house in good condition. It always looked nice. They had no desire to climb up in the world. They are both very plain people who lived a very plain life, but they did it together. I think they’ve been married fifty-two years and are still happy with each other. That’s a rare thing these days.

Diane was very close to being a sister to me when I was growing up. She and my sister were the same age, born in the same month. My own sister was always too busy feeling the angst of having to put up with a younger sister, but not Diane. Diane would actually spend time with me. My mother died before I was four. I spent most of those first three years living with Diane and her parents. I guess that is when we had the chance to bond while my sister and I were kept separated. My sister stayed in the house with our mother and father while I lived next door until my mother’s funeral.

It is sad to hear of anyone getting ALS but it is especially sad when it affects someone you love. Diane and Roger will both be seventy this year. Heaven only knows how long they will have to deal with this burden. Sometimes people with ALS live an average of three to five years. Sometimes they live longer. Sometimes ALS goes into remission automatically although no one knows why.

Diane has not been alone at night since the day they married. She has a lot of adjusting to do. I know that one daughter lives fairly close by but I don’t know about the other. I am hoping she gets all the support she needs from the friends she has maintained throughout the years. Living as far away as I do, I know I will not be of much support.

My heart is heavy today with the news. Diane and Roger are what used to be called “the salt of the earth” type people.  In this day and age they are a rarity to have stuck together in a loving relationship for so long. The last time I was home, Roger was out cutting the grass with his shirt off. He certainly still looked extremely healthy. I’m hoping their union will last long enough to give Diane an opportunity to let him go gradually. She deserves that much at least. Namaste. Attic Annie


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