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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A beautiful story

 

I’ve been thinking about this couple…wondering how they are doing, and hoping they are still together and enjoying each other. I love their story…. a perfect memory for Valentine’s day. 🙂

hands

 

I worked today, checking on some patients in the hospital.

There was a lady there, age 83, I had to see her before she could go home. It really could have been a 5 minute visit, I already had looked up her lab and imaging studies before knocking on her door. I knew she didn’t need anything from my group at the moment.

I walked out of that room an hour later, feeling a little lighter around my heart.

Her husband was in there, and although 86, he was still fit and handsome. My patient also looked much younger than her age. I watched how they interacted with each other as I asked her some basic questions. Teasing each other, winking at me as though I was in on the joke.  They were so proud to bring up how they had been married almost 60 years.

I don’t know exactly how it happened, but somehow after talking about her medical issues, we just kept talking.

The husband had an iPad. I thought it was surprising and adorable. As we spoke about different things, where we all grew up, the job he retired from, the fact that the wife could barely walk anymore without help….. his fingers were skimming over images. He was so ready to share, I could tell he brought that thing with him everywhere.

He had retired over 20 years ago, he was an attorney. He had photos of newspaper clippings that he’d saved about trials he was involved in. I loved it. He’d met some celebrities, had some great stories to tell.

I asked him if he had a wedding picture on that iPad, from his own wedding.

He didn’t.

But as they told me “their” story, I got to see something even better.

They met, over 60 years ago, at the Jersey Shore. He was from Ohio, she was a Jersey native. They were both on vacation. She started telling me the story….”and can you believe it, this guy says he knows who he’s going to marry….the first DAY we meet! I thought he was crazy!” And he smiles as he takes over, “but look who was right and who was wrong, huh?”

So they had a few days together, getting to know each other before he went back to Ohio with his family.

And then HIS mom calls HER mom. I’m told because that’s how things were done back then. He was 26, she was 23. the moms plan together for her to come to Ohio to visit. She stays with the family. She comes again. Then he goes to Jersey.

He took her to a jewelry store to pick out a ring on her second visit.

She told me that she counted the actual days they spent together before getting married.

FIFTEEN.

15 days of face time before walking down the aisle.

Then she moved to Ohio. In with his family, his parents, his sister, him. “We had a grand time!” Then they moved out…..next door.

I heard about their three daughters, and now their grandkids. All daughters are married to good guys, thank God. I saw pictures of their Florida home, on a golf course…. I see his eyes look a little wistful when he talks about it and then asks “do you play golf?”  He misses it.

They built a home in the city I live in now. I saw pictures of this too. I’ve driven past this house.

They had to sell it. They are moving into assisted living together, because she can’t be alone safely. He does not leave her side. And this is when they look at each other with so much love, and she jokes how this is payback for all the years she took care of him. And he tells me she is the best mother and best wife anyone could have. They invited me to come visit them. Because somehow we have become friends in this short time.

And then he took out the iPad one last time.

And showed me a picture, black and white. Three young people on a beach, sitting on a blanket and squinting at the camera.

It’s him and her, with a friend. The DAY they met. Because he knew……

And THAT is a beautiful story.