Sunday, September 5, 2010

Anatomy of a lost generation

The following is a short history of the flawed anatomy of one half of my family tree.

Consider my mother and her siblings. They are all either heading for, or have already passed their 70th birthdays - not old by today's standards, but not young either.

Yet between the four of them, there has never been one serious illness. No cancer, no heart problems, no major surgeries or time of any signifance spent in hospital.

There were a total of nine children born to those four siblings, the first coming along in about 1968, the last (my good self) being born in 1982.

Only seven of us remain alive.

Two of my first cousins have died as a direct result of being born with Cystic Fibrosis. They were the son and daughter of my only aunt, and her remaining child also suffers from CF. He has been kept alive through medical intervention that was not possible for his brother and sister. He received a double lung transplant in 1996 and a kidney transplant in the years since then.

My uncle had four children, the youngest of whom was born with Down's Syndrome and who has in recent years also gone blind.

Finally, my mother added two more children to the mix. A boy and then a girl - a gentleman's family, as was joked to my father time and again. My brother is fit and well, but I have my organ failure and my wait for transplant.

I often muse on our generation and I am reminded of the matriarch that stands at the head of this side of the family tree. My nana.

To say she was a formidable woman is to understate the killing power of semtex. She was born in 1899 and she had her sights set on her 100th birthday and a cheque from the President when she passed away.

I never remember my nana being sick. She broke her leg when she was 89, but she bounced back from that to continue to read the newspaper without the aid of spectacles, to have a sharp interest in current affairs and to order her middle-aged children around as if it were still 1954.

She died of old age really, but it was a battle to put her to sleep. Her will to live overpowered everything else and it took the gentle euthenaisa of a morphine pump some time to send her on her way. My dad always said she would outlive him. He was right. I only hope he was waiting for her up there to direct her straight towards DeValera's quarters on arrival. He was her hero in 1916. Yes, she was that old.

Nana's siblings also all lived to be in and around the 100 mark. To look at that generation and my mother's generation, it would seem that ours was a family that was impervious to weakness and premature failings of the physical kind.

But having skipped two generations, Death and his forerunner Sickness has evidently sought to make up for lost time by invoking double the suffering in our generation.

There is a good chance that of the nine grandchildren my nana welcomed into the world, only half will make it to old age.

She would be so disgusted with that.


  1. Once again Regina, it is the honesty of your posts that really impresses me. You are exploring territory which is uncharted for most of us, which is why your blog is such a good read. And it seems to me that you have inherited your Nana´s spirit and will to live a good and long life, Ciaran

  2. I know there's a file in an actuary's drawer somewhere with my name on it and a note attached which says 'Meh'.

  3. Ciaran - If I live half as long and with half the determination of my nana, I'll be doing very well. Hope South America is treating you well!

    Holemaster - Maybe all us marked 'Meh' will come back in a future life, reincarnated as superheroes. That's what I'm hoping for anyway.