Change can be painful, necessary
Throughout life we encounter many changes — some for the better and some hard to handle, like when that day comes that we know the “Big Life Change” is imminent.
Oh, how I remember those family conversations — the ones that made me open my eyes and brain to the fact that now that my husband has passed and my health was such I could not safely continue to live alone, I would have to give up my independence and move.
But, let me tell you I fought.
They waited until I came around and when I ended up in the hospital, I stopped screaming and we chose the facility best suited for me.
As I walked into my new home, Brookedale Littleton, I announced to my family, “OK, you won. I came, but I’m not stayin.’ I came to shut you all up.”
That was almost four years ago, and I’m still here and as adjusted as someone like me can be. I suspect this situation was and is the hardest adjustment in any older person’s life.
During all of this turmoil, I kept thinking about when I had to do the very same thing for my parents back in 1991. I flew to Delray Beach, Florida, where I had to find the best assisted living in Delray and then move them from their home of 45 years to what I thought was the perfect two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo. That meant selling their home and other belongings. I wished so much they would not attend the all-day sale but they did. Never will I forget my dad wandering around in his Atlanta Braves cap and carrying a cigar box which he put money in when he sold something. All he could say was, “Oh lord, oh lord, what have we done?”
My mother flew around trying to decide prices and trying to decide what to sell or what to keep and we felt the pressure of deadlines and sad decisions.
But it was not my mother who couldn’t process all that was happening. It was my dad. When it finally penetrated his tenuous hold on reality (Alzheimer’s) that he was moving, the realization glazed his eyes, erased his memory and pulled a solid black curtain around him.
But because my mother was still taking care of him, I knew she would be ill soon if I didn’t move them and lessen the burden. So we moved them, all the while her knowing that this dynamic man who always took care of everything no longer could.
I am the only daughter and only child and I always knew some day I would become the parent and caregiver. But, still in my heart, I saw them as vigorous, beautiful, strong parents. They no longer were.
They taught me about letting go while trying to spare the other the pain of it. At least my mother did this. While I believed it saved my mother’s health to not have to run a household, it probably added to the mental confusion of my dad. Everyday he asked, “But when are we going to go home?”
I will always carry the picture in my heart of my mother and daddy sitting on their couch in their lovely new assisted living condo, holding hands and just as much in love. I see her always making sure his comfort and needs came first and his taking this care as any small child does.
So they moved and their life continued its beat. They did their best not to change so they still used the same bent old pot to heat his noon soup. They still rose at dawn to slowly take their daily walk and they always said grace before eating.
I pray I handle this now with half the grace they did.
I’d like to end this column with a column I wrote after my dad was moved to a nursing home and passed there. The old pot I mentioned earlier is the one I’m referring to.
There’s this pot. I wish you could see it. It seems this pot has been on my mother’s stove top as long as I’ve been around.
Now, I really do understand reluctance to change especially as we grow old. People come here to live and they have given up so much, some gracefully, others with struggle.
“Mother, let’s pitch this pot. You now have lovely non-stick cookware with sturdy handles.”
“Mother, how old is this pot anyway?”
“Mother, I’m just afraid you’re going to get burned.”
Silence. She looked away.
“Mother, how ‘bout it? Can I toss it out?”
“Mother, just why is it that you need to use it everyday even now?”
Silence, but then, “Your dad likes soup for lunch — has for years.”
“Mother, so why won’t one of your new heavy pots heat the soup for him?”
No longer silent, “Oh no, the soup would never taste the same if I changed the pot.”
“Mother, but the handle is hanging on by one screw. It’s just not safe to use.”
“Mother, daddy no longer lives in this condo with you. You eat soup in the nursing home, remember?”
“Mother, did you ever heat soup for yourself in this pot?”
“No, but other things.”
“Mother, like what? Water for your coffee maybe?”
I smoothed her bed sheet and opened the blinds to welcome sunshine into the room. I kissed her sweet forehead.
“Mother, don’t you worry. I would never throw your pot away.”
Change can be so painful.
The view from the mountain is wondrous
Jean Brody is a passionate animal lover and mother. She previously lived in Winchester, but now resides in Littleton, Colorado.