This past week my cousins have formed a bridge for my beloved Aunt Ruth to cross when she is ready, which will be very soon. But my elders are a stubborn lot and don’t give up this life without a fight as long as there is fight in them. My father’s two remaining siblings are 98 and 106. My mother and her sister are 100 and 94. Their mothers were 96 and 99 respectively. There were several other nonagenarians as well.
What is the secret? The two families had very dissimilar upbringing and different personalities, they grew up in different parts of the country. But almost all of them had 1) 50-year plus marriages, 2) both of my father’s siblings (and also his mother), like my mother, remained in their long-time homes until nearly the end of their days, and 3) almost all of them had or have hands-on family caregivers. Are those clues to their longevity, or coincidence?
Mama is about to cross a bridge to a new home. We think. We took her to visit on Sunday. She seemed impressed enough, but when the director asked if she would like to come and live with them, Mama told her it was up to her daughters. Yes, I guess it is, and it’s hard to bear that decision-making responsibility.
My mother lived in twelve homes before she graduated from high school and several more before we moved to her current home in 1960. She told me her dream as a young woman was to stay put. But perhaps she foresaw this future of being in the wrong place in the last years of her life. She wanted to move several times, both before and after my father died. My father said over his dead body, and after he died Rebecca thinks we discouraged it. I don’t remember that in the past, but I know I didn’t want her to move three years ago. By then I wanted to keep the property, and the best way to do that was to keep her in it. We got her to admit she really did want to stay. I wonder now if she said that for us, or perhaps because moving felt exhausting. Maybe when my father died we should have been more proactive in helping her cross the river of inertia. Maybe we should have realized we were setting ourselves up for heavy duty caregiving by letting her stay put.
We anticipate the move in a week and a half. I am giddy about the change for myself. At the same time I’m trying to put myself in her place and imagining it the way I felt at leaving my home in NC. And I had only lived there five years, not eleven times that; and I was young, energetic, and ready for adventure. It puts me betwixt and between. I heard reports that Mama told the hospice nurse and one of her caregivers she was okay with the move. Dan THM reports she told him she wanted to stay at home. We all have one foot on each side of the span.
Rebecca told Mama that her beloved sister-in-law was nearly ready to leave us. Mama said, “Tell her I will see her soon.” Today Dan the Handy Man told me she told him she didn’t think she would be here much longer. Maybe she is getting ready, but I think, like Aunt Ruth, she will linger. She had me crush her multi-vitamin for her tonight.
I don’t think any of these old-olds want to be here. Over zealous modern medicine is not to blame for the fact they are. They just don’t know how to let go. Of one thing I am clear, I don’t want to be a centenarian. If long love and long residence in one place are the secrets, I’m good.
This isn’t quite the post I meant to write today. I left my laptop in Seattle last night, and I’m writing this at bedtime on my sister’s. I hate to miss my Wednesday deadlines, so I’m rushing it. And now we are battening down the hatches for a stormy few days; and on Saturday, what could be an historic storm. We live in the forest, with big trees. And the wind really howls here on the side of the hill. Please say a prayer. I truly don’t know how I will deal with Mama if the power is out for an extended time. Or if there’s a tree on the house. I well-remember another historic storm, on Columbus Day 1962. The potential on Saturday is being compared to it.
Word came shortly after I posted this that my beloved Aunt Ruth had crossed the bridge. I hope she is enjoying a reunion with her siblings and dear Uncle Walter.