Two years. That’s the amount of time I waited for the ball to drop. Two years observing my Aunt from the sidelines as she slowly but surely did herself in. Two years anticipating that at any time she was an accident waiting to happen. Two years of being ready to take action. And sadly, two years waiting for the phone to ring that today was the day she was ready to move. That phone call never came.
Last week when all of my waiting came to an end Moving a Reluctant Parent – Part 16 and I got the call from my cousin that my Aunt had finally agreed to sell the house and actually signed the listing agreement, my emotions went numb. I could not speak. I could not feel happy. I simply went to bed and put my head under the covers and wept. I was mentally and physically more exhausted than I realized. All I needed in the moment was peace and quiet and time to adjust to the new plan; then a miracle of miracles took place.
My Aunt’s niece (who lives on the west coast) decided to come to Chicago to stay with her Aunt for three weeks. There were numerous reasons for this visit – one of which was to prove me and my cousins wrong for “forcing” Auntie out of her house. This niece was coming to Chicago because she is angry and thinks what is being done is cruel and unjust because “there is nothing wrong with Auntie and she does not have to move if she doesn’t want to.”
The phone rang several hours after the niece unpacked her bags at my Aunt’s house. I took a deep breath as I answered the phone. This is not going to be pretty I thought to myself. To my surprise the niece was pleasant and chatty, and never once verbally attacked me the way she did my cousins. Hmmmm. She has no clue how much of a role I played in this relocation situation and I don’t intend to let her know.
A few days went by. The niece and my Aunt are running errands, shopping for groceries, preparing meals and cooking together, watching TV and just hanging out. And every moment they are together the niece begins to see and experience what I have known all along – that Auntie is no longer safe to live alone. Plus, she is not eating, is extremely forgetful and quite unsteady on her feet.
Listen up long-distance family members…
The niece who is visiting has a lifetime relationship with her Aunt (as I do). The difference is they literally talk EVERY SINGLE DAY on the telephone. My Aunt has been physically and mentally declining for years and none of the clues were detected by the niece over the telephone. She was unaware of any of the real dangers in my Aunt’s life.
If you are a long-distance family member and you think everything is AOK in your elder’s life because they sound peachy over the phone, you can be sadly mistaken. The telephone is a sorry excuse for in-person meetings. If you do not visit your elders on a regular basis and see and experience for yourself how they are managing on a daily basis; then get ready for an emergency telephone call that something bad has or is about to happen.
More to come.