Written In response to topic: Why my Siblings Don’t Help me with Elder Care (on AgingCare

I’ve spoken on this topic and on this list before – yes it is a huge topic. I was reading about African value system yesterday, written by the late Steven Biko – about how people worked to benefit the community, tnot individuals – because a community that grows, brings up all members. But a single rich person does not bring up a whole community. (article on Biko and ethics)

I appreciated this under-recognized ethical system – for when I took responsibility for my youngest brother’s entry into adult life, I knew I needed help, far from family, and without family of my own, I found professional programs very limited – and placed him in small rural towns where I found community places that would support him just by being there.

I learned to look to community resources around him, after feeling the benefit of active inclusion and sharing in community when I drove a school bus during Boston Desegregation or “Busing”. It took me a while to get used to a different set of cultural expectations but once I did, I pursued similar study throughout my life, and found that I valued the openness of communication, where all voices contributed to the solution of problems, with familiar patterns that structured entry to participation, so that all parties had some experience in helping to guide group activities.

Driving Black students to white neighborhoods in Busing, I found myself challenged by my students if I acted indifferent to their feelings, “Cassie, that was ‘cold’!” I found in that remark, reason to explore my own beliefs and wonder about alternatives. I found many other instances where respect, attention and response were expected – not always affirmative response, but definitely response, signaling participation in a conversation within the group on the bus. They educated me, and I also educated them in some of the value of my peaceful Canadian responses.

I relate to your share above, Moxy – “unloved” by siblings – painful, and something that takes time to cope with. That was much of my experience in my fragmented home, and it took me a long time to sort out the interwoven issues around my relationships to my family – but once I saw disabled brother’s vulnerability to predators of many kinds, at prompt risk if I did not stand close to him – I did stand there and contributed much of my working energy to efforts to communicate, study, show up, all learning how to help, coach, find support and then find ways to tie the supporters together, with the goal of getting him past the stage of youthful rebellion, and learn how to learn from others and be helped.

I kept in touch with my family in other aspects – biding my time after disagreements, and I hated their pronouncements of interpretation of my character which blamed my personality or lacking social skills for the amount of difficulty I found in working with people – they had no idea, from their total distance, of the impact of fragmentation in helping services, how that makes them very ineffective in any support outside their institutions (and also not much help at times, within them.) They need to be helped to notice changes and target care. Business and professional services bring an important consistency and money to research details, but they cannot claim any moral right to lead, for they are both part of the fragmented perspectives, which look at life in detail within their spheres, and delegate all the rest, with varied levels of indifference – which ends up destabilizing, demoralizing and angering hard working people outside of business.

With my own siblings, I came a long way over the years – my one older sister and I started by making up after I initiated adult visits across the miles. Later, efforts to meet my brothers where they felt most comfortable, and I am grateful for supports they give. I’m now 73, and older brother who manages the money, is 80. He has learned that I take no direction from him, for I was the one who stayed close enough to see and find what was needed for the youngest disabled one. He took over money management after death of oldest brother, so he arrived after all my work had happened.

I’ve learned to get help or advice from him, and we have a basic arrangement for money – so I tend to relax, until i hear him object to me mentioning my struggle to deal with the cumulative cost to my own economic and physical advancement in life (I’m buried in clutter, and work to reduce and eliminate it – but that job in itself keeps me from doing the writing or pursuit of other career, for my own retirement income – and time to build on my interests, not disabled brother’s.

Problem is, brothers have learned a formula, too often repeated in our countries here, that praise individual responsibility, and interpret any other version of life needs and care, as secondary to employment and jobs and investment money planning, and they think they can apply their wisdom learned in their business relationships to others.

Fact is, there are times of life where everyone is vulnerable, areas where some need special education to remedy gaps, and someone stable, not flying all around the world – to watch over them, and see what’s needed. That’s where the alternative ethic comes in, I think – if everyone enjoyed community, and did our best to show up and contribute to ongoing activities, we can find help and resources all around us – not from the limited venues offered in our system so based on ideals for people only in the workplace and of working ages.

Cassie Quinlan