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The Caregiving Family

August 23, 2010

I just spent some time in the past 2 weeks with my adult daughter (a recent college graduate now contemplating graduate school) and son (just starting his freshman year at Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ). The week before I went with my younger son to a baseball conditioning camp for pitchers at the University of Southern California in LA. As a lefty with 80 mph+ speed, he has the potential for playing for a D1 program, and the intellect and grades to gain admission to a competitive program. When I had free time, I went on Facebook and read about the progress of some of my nieces and nephews who have either just finished college, or are just starting, as my son is. My sister in law congratulated and encouraged the nieces and nephews starting college, and I am amazed by the number with considerable potential.

When I reflect to my generation and back, the numbers were not so high. From my Dad’s side of the family, I was the first to earn a college degree. From my Mom’s side, I was the second (Aunt Caroline was the first). According to stories my Mom told me, her Dad (Jay B. Mallott, Sr.) had expected her to go to college. She also said that Father Gallant, the Priest in charge of the Pius X Mission in Skagway and her math instructor, expected her to go to college as well. They were both disappointed when she dropped out of high school to marry my Dad.  And from the time I spent with my Dad, it was clear he also had the drive and ability to earn a degree.

Education was an expectation my Mom gave me. I always remember her reading something. If it was a paperback, she had her bobby pin as her bookmark. She always encouraged me, and vice versa. While I didn’t have much guidance on how to apply for and finance my college education, she kept me focused on the goal we had discussed of me becoming a lawyer. For my graduation from Princeton, she traveled almost 3,000 miles with my sister Doris by Greyhound Bus to attend. She surprised me then with her GED. She told me that she couldn’t encourage her grandchildren to finish high school when she hadn’t finished herself. She told me I had inspired her to put the work in to take the required tests. One of my sisters subsequently completed her GED and Associate of Arts Degree in accounting.

The next generation has the potential for breaking past many of the problems that plagued my generation and previous ones. I spoke about the historical and intergenerational trauma that we experienced in past posts and in other speaking opportunities. I have written about what my board sees as its goal for our tribal members. I also see my nieces and nephews supporting each other with encouragement and financial help. I hope what I am seeing is a natural response to healing family trauma through improved caregiving and understanding. If the family dynamic tends towards healing, then I am optimistic that the next 2 generations can turn the issues we are facing around. I see evidence of it in my children and their cousins.

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