Gomer Pyle Said, "Surprise, Surprise, Surprise"


Gomer Pyle Said, "Surprise, Surprise, Surprise"

I thought the biggest surprise about my mom's passing last month was that she seemed to pass from this life with so little fanfare; so little recognition for a life well-lived; so little notice for the empty space she created.

Now I realize the bigger surprise, and right now the bigger loss, is the relationship with my sister. I only have one sister. Through the entire caregiving process (2 1/2 years) I told myself she and I had a great relationship, she supported me, we were a four-legged stool to under-gird the care and feeding of my mother with dementia. I said it here in print. I repeated it again in the Table Talk Podcast with Denise.

Somewhere that went haywire. Maybe it was never true? But it certainly has not been true this year, this summer, and now as we are "supposed" to be approaching the dismembering of Mom's estate as equals. It's not just the normal expected sibling stuff where we jockey to get more goodies than each other. I don't think that is barely in question, or matters. Neither one of us expected to be getting anything right now, least of all half an estate. I was anticipating a lengthy common Alzheimer's decline, and had no idea I would be in this position so soon.

I have been back in Mom's house for one month, getting up at 2 or 3 a.m. to write thank yous, clean bathtubs, purge closets, balance accounts, file papers, kill ants, return the Life Alert system, cancel credit cards, and the list goes on and on and on. My day is full. My month has been full and I am satisfied with what I've accomplished. Then my sister blows in from the south like an awning dislodged by Hurricane Erika, and imparts her four-hour wisdom on what I've done for a month.

Whatever intimacy we had is gone; we are two strangers pawing through piles of table linens with nothing to say. It is not just the death of my mom I'm experiencing, but also the death of my relationship with my sister. She wasn't AWOL all along as some siblings are. The four-legged stool had it's legs sawed off at some point. Is there something wrong with her that I'm missing? Did the roulette wheel of early-onset Alzheimer's stop at her door and we don't know it yet? I don't get it.


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Dear Jan, what a an odd reaction from your sister! I am so sorry it happened this way. I agree with the others that maybe she is grieving in her own way and needs some time. Hopefully, you can reconnect on a different and more meaningful level. It is interesting to think of the Alzheimer trait being a culprit, so would you really do anything different if you knew it was? Sending you ((Hugs))


Jan, I think Denise is right and your sister is fighting her own demons. Grief can bring people closer, but it also brings out a whole slew of issues. It's just been a month. As hard as it is and as disappointing as your sister's reaction is, I hope you can respond gently. If you had a great relationship before, you probably will again. She just may need time.


I don't understand this either, Jan. You are just so great--I just can't wrap my arms around what's happened with your sister. Could she be tormented by guilt? Regrets? I think she's fighting her own demons. Over what I'm not sure. I'm so sorry for this surprise, which could be the one that cuts the deepest.