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Love and Change
A decade from now, brothers and sisters, my parents will be gone. I may be a grandmother, for love is on its way to my grown children. That which I long for today will have long since been attained or forgotten.
Now, though, is my time with my Mom and Dad. I am embarking on a QUEST, which you know is important because of the all caps right then. They are in their 80’s and it’s time to sell the house. Big things, like winter and stairs have become intermittently hard. And I have this house with an in-law apartment. Recently, though, I have been learning about CHANGE and about PROCESS and about SYSTEMS.
And about scaling up. Leveraging my life to scale, to be exact. So today I am inspired to announce that those with whom I share soul contracts, namely my birth family, and I intend to share the journey of parental arrivals and departures to show the world how it’s done. The next few weeks, I’ll be describing this in more detail, but suffice it to say, I have seen Aging in America, and I’m not about it.
Twin aunts I had, Bobbie and Bernadette. Tiny Jackie Kennedy-esque women, educated and impeccably dressed, and selective with their affection as only uncompromising childless husbandless women can be. They were nurses of high degree, living out their heydays in New York City in the 60’s and 70’s. Fine unions and pension systems we had then, and with frugal living (again, no hubs or kiddos, expenses that they are) left them financially comfortable to live out their days post-retirement. Who know there would be so many of them? Days, I mean.
First, they bought a condo near my parents until such time as their hoarding behaviors and eroding health became too much for even my mom to manage, she being the youngest daughter of Italian immigrants. That hearty lineage whose sense of duty borders, no, not even borders: is full on martyrdom and codependence Badlands. So off to independent living these two aunts went, with my mom doing their laundry, managing their affairs to the extent they would allow, and Dad, silent and steady, driving them all to their doctors’ appointments, mass, and holiday dinners at home.
Cognitive decline is stealthy, my friends. It tiptoes in a couple of times a week at first, and hides until dark. The TV stays on, usually news. Bathing and dressing become erratic, and the thing that is remembered is one phone number: my mom’s. Long beyond the healthy time to move to assisted living, just down the hall in this sprawling citadel of decrepitude. Here is the Shangri-La of existence: where meals happen for you, hygiene is outsourced, and should you be aware of your social isolation, there are group activities that could be fun. But most of what’s going on with the body and mind can no longer enjoy all those anticipated pleasures of retirement.
It eventually, and far too late, becomes apparent to family and staff that full time care is needed. Bathing, dressing, feeding, walking, are all handled by well-meaning and hardworking strangers. The social circle of fellow inmates is more like a rhythmic pulsing of familiarity than meaningful exchange. And let me be clear: these are the good spots.
Last year my aunt Bobbie decided she needed to get something from the closet that required climbing on a chair. At 90 and using a walker, this was no small feat and she almost made it. It’s always the descent, isn’t it?
The hourly staff check-in revealed her plight and by the time she got to the hospital, her time of embodiment was done. We all thought Bernadette would soon follow because of the twin thing. Yet she floats on between us and Summerland, as she has for over a decade. My sister is a patient, comforting companion and visits every two weeks. Mom sneaks over a couple of times a week, but the value of those visits has faded, and she is quickly dismissed with an “I want to go to sleep now”. We’ve been sort of hanging out, waiting for this bit of closure that doesn’t seem to be coming….year two now.
And I want something more beautiful for my parents, that’s worthy of them.

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