when death is cheaper than living, and less embarrassing….

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I met a couple last week, married 68 years!

Sharing a little apartment in an assisted living community, they sat at the table in their tiny kitchen talking with me.

As we talk, I’m noticing how good looking they both still are, appreciating great bone structure in their 90-some year old faces. Is that weird? I wanted so badly to see a picture of them as newlyweds, they must have been blindingly attractive back then.

Now he’s scooping out raisins on their plates, and she’s crumpled in her chair, her body isn’t keeping up quite as well as her lovely face. She can’t see much anymore, can barely walk, they don’t like to leave the place because it’s just too much work.

They are funny, intelligent, and enjoy a bit of dark humor. She’s got a form of cancer, had some chemo for it. They tell me the doctor said she’d last for 2 more years. This was about 3 years ago. He’s laughing as he tells me how he went back to the doctor and asked why she was still alive… “you promised 2  years, not more!”

She laughs too, but tells me “it’s too expensive to live”, she’s serious. They feel like they’ve overstayed their welcome here… but don’t know how to make a graceful exit.

They aren’t the only ones, I hear this a lot.

Cute lady today, almost 100. Fought with her son about wanting to keep her own house, take care of herself, she didn’t need any help. He took the knobs off her stove because she left the water boiling once.

She is very neat, pretty too. bright blue eyes, and a flowered headband. So tidy and precise as we talk. She’s embarrassed that her son caught her in a moment of weakness. Embarrassed that she fell and had to crawl to the bathroom, trying to pull herself up on the toilet so she could stand again.

Almost bewildered to find herself in this predicament….

Sighing as she talks about how her son put his foot down, she’s not allowed to go back home. Planning to sell her house, not sure how much time she should plan for….

How does it feel to get to that point, when person feels like they should possibly apologize  for living too long?

How can we do this better??

 

 

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Role Reversal

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She wanted to talk to me.

She’s having trouble sleeping, but doesn’t want the kids to know. They already worry too  much about her. She doesn’t want to be a burden, already feels like she’s a burden.

Her daughter called her three times during our talk, our 20 minute visit.

They worry about her, they push her to do things for herself… walk more, exercise, socialize. But she’s tired of pushing herself.

She’s sad, and anxious, and not demented at all. She’s smart,  but her body can’t keep up with her mind.

When did the roles change?

Why do they make decisions for her? Why do they tell her what to do, when to do it, how to do it?

She always feels like she’s disappointing them. She can’t reach the goals they set. Her frailty frustrates her. She’s letting them down, they deserve better, she’s just in the way.

How can she stop feeling like a burden? How can she stop them from feeling like she’s their responsibility?

I’ll bet she can remember holding her chubby babies. Feeding, bathing, loving them. Nurturing them, raising them, watching them grow up as she grew old.

I see her. I SEE her. One day, I could be her.

My words don’t fix things, but she’s grateful for the time we spent. I can’t change how she feels, and I can’t make them feel like they don’t NEED to care for her. It’s out of love and the duty that comes with love.

But…it still sucks.