The Greatest Generation is now gone


At the beginning of 2014, my children had four living grandparents 90 or over.

As of last week, they have none. Husband’s dad, a good man, at 97, the last of our beloved parents, now knows if there is an afterlife or not. Our parents are missed, and there is nothing anyone can do about it except remember them.

It is sobering to think about now being the matriarch and patriarch of anything: husband and I are both eldest children. My parents did that so well for so long, and I can still remember my grandparents in Mexico doing the same thing. And I am not capable of doing any of what they did, keeping the family together by having everyone over for dinner on Sundays or Mondays, holidays and birthdays. I have been the beneficiary, and can’t pass it on. Our kids are currently in San Francisco, Boulder, and Troy, NY.

I have so many stories, and I have passed them on (ask my kids – I’ve talked their ears off), but I have not the energy to write many of them, not while I’m still writing fiction myself: there are only so many hours in a day I can use, and stories are best transmitted in person.

Making new traditions

I have come up with the idea of us going to a resort once a year, all of us. Not at Christmas or Thanksgiving, but at a convenient time. We can see each other every day, spend time with slow Mom on the beach or in the pool, and then those who can will take advantage of whatever the resort and local area have to offer, and maybe gather for dinner. For that talking part. A way to bring together someone with no energy and descendants with it in abundance. As long as the old folk can travel.

This way, I reason, they can go to the in-laws (when they have them) for holidays without trying to be in two places at once.

We’ll see if it works out; but we can’t maintain the family homestead, an awkward but much loved house with way too much space and maintenance, and too many stairs, just so the small clan can gather at a time when travel is horrible and in a place (suburban central NJ) where you have to go elsewhere to do anything. I have failed the task of ‘everyone is going to Grandma’s house.’

So be it.

At home in Mexico, a gigantic extended family still gathers – but we don’t go.

Now to focus on the two of us

I have to make my tiny daily allotment of energy cover getting out from under the responsibilities, which are becoming overwhelming (mostly for husband), and out of the social isolation which comes from having little energy to go anywhere.

Selling a house and moving, possibly cross-country, and settling in to a retirement community, is non-trivial, but it is only going to get harder. Most people leave it too long, and move in a crisis. I need things I can’t walk to here: a pool, a gym, facilities like a sound studio – and many of the Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) have them. We need to find friends – ours here are moving away, or are no longer with us.

And I am aware of how delicate my ability to write is: everything that has come along has stolen days worth of writing because it needed that focus and clarity I can only achieve for a couple of hours a day at most.

The last of the big brain-sucking tasks,

finishing the tax returns for my parents, who were both American citizens even though they lived in Mexico since 1957 (and Pepita when she was a child), was finished yesterday. Daddy’s went with the postman.

I gritted my teeth and filled out Mother’s immediately following, aware that if I set the second task down I would have to learn from scratch all the tasks and arcane instructions – when I could force myself to do it again some time in the future. It was such a huge task (for me – not for a normal human), and consumed so many hours since June 2016 when my sisters gave up and asked me to do it, that I despaired of ever finishing. Mother’s is sitting in a sealed envelope for the postman today.

Each return was four simple pages. Above the surface there is no evidence of the frantic paddling below that reading and filing take, IRS worksheets and arcane bits from processes intended to make it hard for the very rich to take everything with them (ie, hand it over to their rich heirs). To finally end up at the same point for each detour: $0.00 – insert in box X of form 1040.

And on the bottom line: no tax owed. Which is good, because, IIRC, IRS penalties for filing late are some percentage of the tax owed.

I made every mistake possible during my filing of this twice-in-a-lifetime (mine) paperwork, including, yesterday, deleting the just completed return by writing the IRS instructions over it. Don’t tell me I should have let a tax accountant do it. Just believe me that it would have been far worse, and on someone else’s brisk timetable (the horror!).

I can do this stuff: but it takes days’ and days’ worth of all the energy I have.

And I learn nothing that I can use again. I fervently hope.

I’m a writer now, and still working

I plan to finish Pride’s Children, Books 2 and 3. Several nice people have claimed they’re waiting for the rest of the trilogy. As long as life and brain hold out, that’s the plan, and I’m very aware it doesn’t depend on my intentions. I hope God isn’t laughing too hard.

With the latest marvelous review, I have made some new connections on Goodreads, and possibly learned some useful marketing tips.

I despair at where the energy will have to come from to do a better marketing job, but obscurity is the other option, and I’m not happy with that, either.

When I do settle in to the writing, though, the deep pleasure is still there; my beta reader is content and says I haven’t lost it; and I still experience that moment, for each scene, when it all clicks and I know: that’s the way it really happened.

Given that Olympic skiing is off my list of possibilities, I’m glad I have the writing one for the story only I can finish.

There is so much yet to learn

A huge part of life is doing the best I can so that, if they every figure out ME/CFS, and it isn’t too late for me, I will be able to take advantage of the medical research, and maybe write faster. Or go skiing again.

My support group on Facebook has other people like me, and invaluable sustenance (as well as overwhelming loss). We CFS folk have little hope, but losing it all hasn’t happened for me yet.

If I did, I have no idea what I’d do all day.

But we are the oldest generation now, husband and I, and we don’t give up. Yet.

That’s why I’ve been missing from the blogging world. Hope you’ve all been okay.

15 thoughts on “The Greatest Generation is now gone

  1. Janna G. Noelle

    My condolences for your loss. It sounds like you’ve still got a lot on your plate. Hopefully with slow and steady effort you’ll eventually be able to be able to get back to doing more of what you love most (i.e. writing). Congrats on your great review, by the way. That must feel wonderful.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Thank you, Janna. Support is appreciated.

      I feel if we can get out from under the house and other responsibilities, it may help. And I desperately need a pool for physical therapy – the longer I wait, the less possible it may be to walk better. But it has to be very close – I lose it when I have to leave the house. This week, Sat. – for a very good friend’s retirement party, and Sun. – for church, has done me in completely.

      I’m doing everything right, resting, resting, resting – eating carefully and not too much, and was rewarded by being able to pull all the pieces together for the next scene this morning.

      I’ve even been looking for some help with marketing, but keep finding people who want to teach ME how to do it, instead of doing it for me, and I just don’t think I can take the load on any more. Know anyone?

      But it may be best to just keep writing, and not worry about heavy-duty mearketing until the next book is close to done.

      The review was very satisfying – thanks. It is nice when someone not only understands what you’re trying to do, but says you do it well. And uses phrases like, “the tension is considerable, and the reader is kept in suspense all the way to the disappointing end,” which disappoints him because he wants more. I work very hard to create that tension, learned all the techniques, and it is nice to have it noticed.


  2. joey

    I’m so sorry another parent figure has passed.
    I like the idea of a vacation resort reunion. We tried that many years when we lived in Georgia. It worked out exactly 0 times. School schedules never met outside of summer, then there was military leave to deal with, and two people working the heights of their busy season. Ugh. We went home, they came to us, but we went home a lot more, which always bothered me, because we were SIX. At several points, I flew people in, because life is short and time is unkind. I also got angry at the cost of flying in minors. Rawr.
    I’ve also been unable to get four of us ‘girls’ back together at the same time. I’ve managed three a few times, and I’ll keep trying for that fourth. It will be the best time ever, because none of us will miss the fourth, as so often happens when there are three.
    Anyway, people do this successfully and y’all will too. I have several friends who meet their families in cabins every summer, and they post some of the happiest photos 🙂

    I’m sorry you’re spending another winter in NJ, in the cold, isolated.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I’m not sure we could have done it when they were younger, the kids, because they were work and not much help. Ie, the grownups have to do the planning and all the arranging, and there are school vacations, etc., as you pointed out. I managed to get my three kids to Mexico with me every once in a while, but the four sisters there were at ‘normal’ and we were visitors, so it was okay, but not fun. Necessary, but not really a vacation (once was for my parents’ 50th wedding anniversay).

      Now they handle their own travel arrangements, cope with passports and taxis, and arrange their own side excursions – we’ve done a cruise with all three that way, and one vacation with two. Just have to move out of this house, because taking care of a house when you’re not there and something hits – hurricane like Sandy or snow storm like this winter – requires so much arranging as to almost not be worth it (if you don’t shovel your drive, every passing car will know you’re not home.

      I’m sorry I’m here, too, but not sorry that Bill was here for his dad and sister when they needed him. We’ll work it out.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I haven’t done OUR taxes for the last three years since the husband retired. It used to take me a good three weeks each time, and that was with tax software which helped. These I did by hand.

      I’m bewildered. It was such a huge sword of Damocles over my neck that I feel I’m missing something in my life since it’s done.


  3. Marian Allen (@MarianAllen)

    I’m so sorry for your loss. As I well know, it doesn’t matter how long we have them, or how old WE are when we lose them, we lose a lifetime when they’re gone. And I know how you feel: She was extraordinary; I can’t measure up to her. The world is poorer for her absence, and I’m not enough to fill the gap she left. Hugs to you and your husband and all your family. Your plan of a non-Holiday holiday is brilliant. Enjoy!


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      It is a curious thing and they didn’t teach us how to do this, they just soldiered on when our grandparents left this world. Teaching by example.

      A full life and 90 years or so can’t be stored in the longest biography. Some of their secrets we’ll never learn. Now we have to show OUR kids.


  4. clairechase51

    I’m sorry to hear about the death of your father-in-law. It is so sad to lose our dear parents.
    You have much on your plate. You are right that things will just get harder or else left to the next generation. Good luck with it all. I, too, am anxiously awaiting your next books. Little by little….it is worth waiting for. Hugs to you!


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Thank you, Claire. It is hard for everyone, every time; it’s just ours now.

      The book is coming along, slow but sure: I got right into it today as soon as the brain was on. And then, after a bit, I did get rather tired.


  5. Nita Thatcher

    I’m sorry to hear of your family’s latest loss. My sympathy to all of you. As for family gatherings, we too have embraced the “going somewhere together and doing something special on vacation”. The last two years have been that way and it seems to work well for us. It should continue to work as long as it is near where I live and I am able to get there.



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