After my father passed away I became my mother’s chief ally, supporter and later care giver. This was for 20 years. It began rather abruptly with my father’s unexpected death. It was my mother who had us worried. She was having back surgery and my father and I arranged to go together the day of the surgery. Since this was a serious procedure with the help of her own physician she was referred to a hospital in Portland, 125 miles from her home. Previously all of the preliminary doctors visits she drove herself or I had accompanied her. The day of the surgery, after my father and I stayed with my mother, I drove my father to my home. After he had something to eat, he got into his truck and drove the 98 miles home. It was a long day when I rolled into bed and said a few extra prayers especially for my parents.
The next day I went to visit my mother in the hospital in Portland an hour’s drive from our home. As I arrived at the hospital to see my mother the head nurse stopped me at the nurses’ station and took me aside, to tell me that my father had passed away peacefully in his sleep in his bed. I was naturally shocked, and I went to my mother’s hospital room, comforted her and headed for home. At the time, my children were in college, and my husband took over the visits to be with my mother. Alone, I drove the 98 miles to take care of the family arrangements. It was February, there was a two day blizzard and I was driving back and forth making funeral arrangements, when I wasn’t on the phone. A couple of days later, my husband picked up my mother from the hospital in a wheel chair after her back surgery.
They drove directly to the funeral home from the hospital. Following the funeral we took my mother home. I was still teaching 98 miles away, I stayed with my mother for a week or longer and then came every few days. I hired a housekeeper for her, the day of the funeral and we began taking care of the home. I then hired a carpenter to modernize her home, so that she was able to say there for many years. This was her decision to remain independent. Inevitably the day came when things became more difficult as she aged. One day I came without calling her. Usually I called her and told her I was on my way, when I arrived I found her sick in bed. Her physician had been warning her about living alone but home is a special place with all the reminders of the love, and life of the past. It is comforting to be surrounded by things you love. We began to look at assisted living communities, I did the preliminary research and then we would look at one or two. It was quite discouraging to her. She continued to stay at home for awhile, I put more things in place to assist her and took on more myself.
I noticed she had difficulty knitting, crocheting, and reading. She needed eye surgery, she needed more social life. As we began to talk about leaving her home I hit upon an idea. Why not take a writing course at a nearby college. A faint smile came on her face, “Is that possible?”
It was a spark that turned into the glowing flame that made moving to an assisted living community a more pleasant experience. I attended the class and accompanied her but my mother wrote the essays, read her assigned books, thrived and was the star in the class. Everyone loved her. We took two more classes together after this. Writing was the bridge of a very important adjustment in an elderly person’s life. She was still writing at 91 when she passed away. She had the will and found the way.