Daily Affirmation

The best things in life are free.
The second best are very expensive.
- Coco Chanel

Thursday, January 10, 2013

When I Get Older...

I'm staying holed up in my little office.  I have the space heater going, and it's nice and toasty.  I could always turn on the heat, but then it seems too hot when I go down to cook dinner.  California doesn't usually get this chilly, but we're enjoying some rare nippy weather.  I like it because I can put boots, scarves and sweaters to good use.

It's been a busy week as far as work goes.  That's a good thing.  In my case, more hours worked = bigger paycheck.  I haven't received my first paycheck of the new year - that will happen tomorrow - and I'm curious about how much smaller it's going to be.  If you hear a loud wail from my direction, you'll know the tax hikes found their mark.

This week (today actually) is my aunt's 79th birthday.  She's had a rough few years, first being my Grandmother's caregiver, and then suffering her loss and learning to deal with that.  I feel that we're starting to see some light at the end of that tunnel on some days.  Her health really suffered for several years while she took care of Grandma but never herself.  Consequently, she is physically weak, and her memory is spotty.  Good days and bad days, basically.  She lost her driver's license recently because she drove her car through some barriers and into a local parade (yes, I still laugh when I tell the story, but it's a nervous laugh).  Luckily, no one was hurt.  The only damage was to her pride and sense of independence.  And today, on her birthday, she had her final laser surgery to correct the failing eyesight that failed to notice the oncoming parade.  Or the barriers.  She still talks about getting her license back, and I just change the subject.

It's a delicate subject, this thing of getting older and deciding when it's just not safe to be driving anymore.  I think she knows in her heart of hearts that she shouldn't be driving, as she's frequently confused, and it wouldn't be good if she were to become confused while behind the wheel of a large-ish Mercury Marquis.  But I can also keenly feel how difficult it would be to give up the idea of being able to run to the drug store for your own prescriptions, or to Target to pick up a few things.  She has never wanted to be dependent on anyone - EVER - and it's killing her to depend on rides from friends and family, and/or to schedule transportation through the facility she lives at.  So when the subject comes up I just smile and change the subject.  Bob and weave.  Because her driving reminds me of Mr. Magoo.

But this is the aunt who bundled my brother and I into the front seat and boot area of her Triumph circa late 50's and would take the top down while driving down to the beach.  She would read us stories, and help us with our homework.  She is the aunt who sat in a dark living room with a headache when my friend Marion flitted in and began dancing her modern dance routine to a supposedly empty room - and neither of them has ever forgotten that magnificent moment.  She has been involved with my kids, donated money to the cause over the years, and now keeps up with THEIR kids.  She's been the Best.Aunt.Ever.  And it's hard to see her health decline.

Oh, I do my best to go over there and give her pep talks.  I had to tell her that it wasn't appropriate to get mad when people wish her a happy birthday, but instead to smile and say "Thank you."  I encourage her to get out and mingle, I tell her it's not okay to skip meals because she's depressed, and that she must must must take her medication.  I remind her to take walks to strengthen her legs (but with a friend, PLEASE, with a friend!  She falls a lot...) and I just generally boss her around horribly.  My husband jabs me and tells me to stop it, and I've tried to get better.  Luckily, she takes my unsolicited advice in the spirit it was given, and has never ordered me out.

Some days I feel like we're getting somewhere, and other times I feel like a complete failure.  I'm honestly not sure what I should do.  How much to control, and when to let go.  I feel that I really will have to put my foot down about her driving, but I'm trying my best to avoid the subject.  I just keep dancing, hoping to distract her.  She is in an "active senior" facility.  Their meals are provided, their rooms are cleaned, their laundry done.  They can come and go as they please.  So many activities and outings are provided, plus I only live 5 minutes away.  A quick phone call and I'm there.  For whatever she needs.  (Working from home is proving to be a very very good thing.)

I don't know why I'm telling you all this.  I guess I needed to vent, because I'm worried.  Some days I decide I should be more aggressive about accompanying her to doctor's appointments and the like (to ask questions that she never remembers to ask, and to just find out what's really going on) and other days I revert back to thinking that she needs the dignity of doing it herself.  I'm in a quandary.  Wanting to do the right thing, but not quite knowing what the right thing is.  If anyone has had experience with this, I'm willing to listen to suggestions and ideas.  She does actually seem happier than she did at this time last year.  Her sense of humor is back most days and she seems happy to be living close by.

I suppose if the biggest problem I encounter is the persistent wish to go get her driver license, I can continue to "smile and wave, boys...smile and wave..."  and then distract her with a Starbucks hot chocolate.  It's her new-found guilty pleasure.


  1. We are dealing with my Mom on this very subject. My sister lives with Mom in Mom's house. That arrangement started when Mom fell and needed some home help. My Sister rents out her own home and will live with Mom always...but now Mom (she's 86) is not driving so good and my sis is having the same dilemma...tell her no and face her being upset, or perhaps watch while she drives and has an accident...so scary. She has to renew her license every 2yrs. in Illinois and has mentioned that she probably won't get it redone..but that's next year, and what about this year? She failed it the first time last year but took it again and passed. We were hoping she would flunk! She only drives to Church (every morning to Mass) and to the grocery store, but hey, it's still Chicago! I guess I just vented and really didn't give you any help, but maybe your Aunt will realize after not driving for a long time that she's too nervous to try again and will forget it. Just hang in there and keep the distraction going until that happens. You're a good niece! She's lucky to have you!

  2. Hi, karen! Your posts remind me of emails sent to a good friend and I always enjoy reading them. It certainly is challenging to deal with our aging loved ones. We want to offer help and advice but don't want to overstep, offend them or make them feel like a burden on the family. I'm sure your aunt realizes and appreciates your loving intention when you voice your opinion about matters that affect her such as driving a car. Here in Florida there are many seniors behind the wheel and they cause a disproportionately high percentage of accidents. In many cases the elderly motorist steps on the accelerator thinking its the brake and the car lurches through a store front or off the end of a pier. Perhaps your aunt keeps bringing up the topic of her driver's license as a way of asserting her independence but at the same time is actually relieved when you try to talk her out of it or change the subject. I am told by her daughter Kathleen that 100 year old Margaret Schneider, the oldest living Dell rat featured on my blog, is still very clever and even manipulative in a benign way when dealing with her children and other caregivers. You can never be completely sure what's on her mind and what she really wants.

    Thank you for bringing us up to date on what's happening in your world, dear friend karen, and happy birthday to your wonderful aunt!

  3. I got a little lump in my throat when you were describing all your aunt has done and been to you and for you through the years. She sounds like such a wonderful person. There's not much easy about old age. I hope and pray you will all find a graceful way to navigate through it.

  4. I love hearing all these new things about people I've known all my life but not really "known." I wish I could go visit her. Poor Margie. I really want to hear the story about the parade one of these days! Also, you are a wonderful writer.

  5. I have a similar relationship with an aunt only we don't live so close now that I can keep such a good eye on her. Your post got me remembering all the wonderful things she did for me as a kid.


  6. I remember going through the same thing with Dave's mom and her car-driving. It was scary, and we finally had to clamp down. She called us a few names, too. Seriously!

    We just took the heat and did our best to show love in other ways.

    But it's always a fine line to walk, isn't it?


  7. You are a good person.... nice to read about life as it's lived thoughtfully. :-)

  8. Hi dear friend! I'm back after a long hiatus some of it not of my own choosing! Your post here reminded me of when we had to have 'The Talk' with my grandmother. We had received a phone call from the grocery she had just left. The same grocery where she left someone's side mirror dangling off their car and dinged another's car bumper. As were you with your Aunt we were relived no one including my beloved Grandmother was hurt.
    It's a hard thing seeing those who were our keel and rudder lose pieces of themselves and their independence bit by bit, isn't it? I send you love and hugs and appreciation for a very loving post! Looking forward to being able to jump back in the swing of our little blogland!

  9. tough situation for everybody! we just watched the problem with the curve last night...clint eastwood had the same problem!


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