Conscious Aging: Remembering Cousin Adrienne

My cousin Adrienne just died in the locked care facility which has been her home since a psychotic episode some years ago made it unsafe for her to live alone. Ade and Minga were about the same age, which invites comparison of their lives and deaths.

Ade was an only child; her mother Ann and my mother Margaret were sisters. Ade and my sister Linda are close in age, and she and Ade became more like sisters than cousins. Linda often spent the weekend with Ade at her home; we lived near each other in north Jersey. Ade and Linda talked about growing old together on the Avon beach, walking the boardwalk arm in arm. I’m sad for both of them that mental illness intervened.

Ade was a high school graduate, and a smart one. She went to work for Exxon Mobil in New York, commuting there on the bus from her adult home in Fairfield for 30 years — minimum 90 minutes each way through the Lincoln Tunnel. She worked in the legal department, doing a job that I imagine today would require a law degree, or at least a paralegal designation. She read huge legal briefs and summarized them for the lawyers on staff. All of those years, she got Exxon Mobil stock options. Her husband, Mario, was an asbestos worker. I’m not sure he even graduated from high school. When Ade died, her estate was north of 5M. Energy companies did very well over the course of her working years.

My mother’s Irish Catholic family has a dark side, and not just the mental illness that afflicted Adrienne late in life and some of my cousins. That darkness is as dense as the sod from which the rural Irish built their cottages, and as combustible as the peat bogs from which they dug organic matter to heat their homes. Adrienne was laid to rest and is at peace, but hold your hat for the turmoil that I predict will arise once her will is read. Five million dollars over two sides of a family and lots of cousins is a recipe for havoc.

Minga had nothing by way of money, but she was rich in family and richly loved. Her family and friends and neighbors and dialysis community came together at the end to give her a beautiful funeral. Ade was a wealthy woman, but she died mostly alone in a secure facility under heavy medication. She had few visitors, because seeing her like that was too stressful for most. The N.J. cousins did seem go to her spare and limited funeral, although not I. I loved Ade, but felt as if I’d lost her a long time ago. She was the fun cousin, and she should have had a lovely retirement taking cruises and buying frivolous clothes and extravagant presents for the next generation, whose names she always knew.

Hard to say the way life shakes out resembles anything remotely considered “fair”.

2 thoughts on “Conscious Aging: Remembering Cousin Adrienne

  1. I remember Adrienne. Didn’t she come to the group graduation party in Grafton? Suzy and Iand from HS and Sara from Tufts. She WAS fun, more lighthearted than your sisters. So sad what happened to her. I’ll send a note to LInda. And yes, lost long ago, but struggling no more. Love you, Jeannie

    Sent from my iPad


  2. for Jeannie: My, but you have a better memory than I do. Yes, that was Adrienne. She was a wonderful person. Her mother died, and then her husband, and not long after that her mind simply went. Very sad.

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