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.