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home, with stuff

Well, how’s this for serendipity? On the plane home from Ottawa, I began to talk to the woman in the seat next to mine, and told her about my search for a retirement home for my mother and aunt. She, it turned out, is the editor of an Ottawa magazine and has commissioned an article about this very topic for her November issue. I wrote most of the first draft in the shuttle bus to the Royal York.

Because it’s a topic pressing on my heart. What a difficult decision we face, as do most families of seniors. I thought about the old days, when generations lived together and people just grew old and died in their own homes, cared for by their children and grandchildren. My mother and aunt, at 87 and 90, should not be living alone – not just because with their health problems and frailty, it’s unsafe, but because they should be out and about while they still can.
So I am pushing for a massive change for them both. “The move might kill us,” said my aunt. “Yes, but it might save your lives,” I replied. We’ve found an assisted living facility with all meals prepared, outings and activities planned and laid on; it’s downtown, near cultural amenities, and it’s on the Ottawa River with great views and big bright windows. The residents look cheery, well-treated and well-fed.
The sacrifices of the move for my mother and aunt would be great, no doubt about it – their autonomy, their cars and their ability to cook for themselves – the units do not have kitchens, only bar fridges and microwaves. They’d have to give away or sell many of their possessions. But in return, they’d get peace of mind, and so would their families. There’s nursing 24-hours a day, a pull cord on the wall to summon help, and a doctor who comes in twice a week.
So we discussed back and forth, and while we did, squawking Canada geese flew by the window on their way south, and the trees of the Gatineau began to turn red. The condo my mother lives in now has a spectacular view of the sailboats on the Ottawa River and the nearby forests, and most of all, the sky. I love the elegance and spaciousness of the place. But I’m frightened for her health and safety there, alone.
When I left, the sisters were not sure, and I understand that. So we’ll see. I did my best.
And was overjoyed, as always, to get back to this bright house with its too-many rooms. One day my world, too, will shrink, and – if I’m lucky enough to live that long – my children will have this discussion about me. Perhaps, for their sake and mine, I should stop accumulating stuff now.
P.S. Friend Penny in England just responded to this morning’s post, me kvetching about Mum and her repetitions at breakfast:
Your mother’s offer of breakfast toast reminds me of my much missed mum who greeted my arrival after a five hour drive with “Now I know you’re a vegetarian so I’ve cooked you a nice rabbit stew”.
If she would be there to open the door to me now I would eat it ten times over.
Got it, Penny. Thank you for reminding me.



2 Responses to “home, with stuff”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Beth,

    Does the assisted facility mean that there will be no Florida vacation?


  2. beth says:

    Oh, Sally, a painful topic. We are pretty sure that it would be hard for Mum to get insurance now, given the latest health issues. But we can try. Her lovely bright condo is there, empty, waiting for her. If you know someone who wants a bit of time near an endless Florida beach, please let me know.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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