Monday, March 8, 2010

Family Angst

My uncle has gone home. While he was always my favorite uncle by far when I was a child, I find it hard to be around this guy for more than a little while. He is so extremely depressed, and on one level, there's a very good reason for it. His wife killed herself. He found her. But this is not the first episode of extreme depression he has had. Many years ago, he was suicidal, and would call me up on a regular basis and demand that I talk him out of suicide. I guess he found me convincing because he didn't do it, but I dreaded hearing his voice on the phone, and had the impulse to flee whenever he was around.
Many years passed. He didn't call, didn't demand that I justify life to him. He was helpful to me in many many ways, carrying bags of rotten trash from the site of my parents' home in Philadelphia to the dump in Maryland near his home. I don't know how he and his son kept from retching all those many hours. He advised me on a regular basis on how to invest my parents' money or what vitamins/foods/juices to give my father for his kidneys or heart.
Yet this weekend, with him staying at my house, I felt as if I was being smothered with a heavy blanket of gloom. I felt the request, though it remained unspoken, to justify life and thus keep him alive.
Richard retreated to the bedroom and mostly stayed away, and I don't blame him. I would too, if I could have.
I have learned over the years that I cannot rescue anyone, and I don't want to try. It is not my responsibility, and I do not have the training or the knowledge to counsel him. But if I told him overtly that he drives people away with his depression and that is why people won't visit him, why the women on J-Date don't want to go out with him, not his looks, which are actually quite fine for 80 years old, he might go home and do himself in.
Ai. Relationships. What a hassle.


mym said...

It would be nice if we could fix life for our children, our spouse, our parents, our other relatives, our friends. Most of the time we see so clearly what another person should do--as they probably can see us. But I suppose that all we can do is give advice when asked and be an example, as best we can, of a more sound way of living.

Robbi said...

Yes Marly you're right. They can see what's wrong with us, and most likely we don't listen to them when they advise us how to change. So how can we expect them to listen to us?
But an odd thing happened to him on the way here in the airport. He found a little hand-written note that said that life is a gift, and that's why this moment is called the present. While okay, that's a bit too facile, isn't it because there are plenty of nows that are less gifts than curses, it was a message he needed to hear, but he is so invested in darkness and cynicism that he dismissed it as "a tract," a worthless relic of some sort of religious zealot who goes from airport to airport scattering these missives to the travelers who might find them.
Why, for once, couldn't he be like that denizen of a concentration camp who reached into a pocket and found a scrap of Torah, that very scrap that he needed to see at that moment, and take it as a message from another person, from God, from the universe? Why not? What does he have to lose?

Lou said...

I feel so sorry for this old man.

Robbi said...

I do too, but it doesn't do him any good.