There are 100 to 110 residents who live here at the Lodge, and there are 100 to 110 stories being lived each day.
By late afternoon when weather permits, the porches become gathering places to talk, to sit quietly with your thoughts as the sun fades gently away and dusk descends. One by one the porches empty as each resident makes their way back to their apartment to watch a favorite program, read a few chapters of a book or to just reflect on the day’s events.
I have, on occasion, been the last person to come into the building. As I look down the long hallway, each door is closed and the occupants are alone with their thoughts. Was it a good day? Did you have visitors? Maybe the children were busy. They will probably will be here tomorrow, or call tonight. Each visit or each phone call is like winning the lottery to a parent, who sits and waits and makes excuses or wonders why.
For two years I have had the chance to observe two sides to the story of parent/child relationships. I have seen a mix of situations and I must admit – I have a different opinion today on the topic than I had in the past.
For example, in my old fashioned way, I believed there was no excuse to not be kind and loving to aging parents. In most cases I still believe that – however, I have seen some examples where it would take a sainted angel to be kind and loving to some of the mothers/grandmothers I have observed! I understand (very personally) that when your health is on a slippery slide downward, it is easy to be a bit out of sorts, but that does not give us senior folks permission to be downright bitchy, especially to our children who are trying to help us.
Just recently a daughter came to visit her mother. She brought her flowers which her mother did not want. She tried to have a conversation with her mother that ended in a shouting match about the mother’s money and the daughter left in tears. (I must say, however, this was a rare occasion.)
But there is the other side of the story. A woman lived here for a time who told most everyone about her son who is so “important” he does not have time to visit her. I do not know if he managed to “make” her birthday party.
The one that touched me the most was about a lady I will call Ms. Lou. This was not a case where a son was absent because of neglect. But it shows how important a child’s visit can be.
Ms. Lou talked about her son Teddy. She would always ask “Did you see my son Teddy? He was here yesterday.” I knew he was not here and I always tried to change the subject. One day she came across the room to ask me again. She said “If you hurry, you can see him: he is just outside. He has beautiful blond curls and big blue eyes – I won’t let his father cut his hair.”
On the way out to the parking lot I met a friend who asked me if I was going out. I told her what I was doing and she said: “June, there is no Teddy – her son died when he was five years old…” I could not move for a few moments and turned to go back in. Ms. Lou met me and asked me “Did you see Teddy? Isn’t he so pretty?” Right or wrong, without thinking, I said “Yes Ms. Lou, I saw him and he is just beautiful.” It wasn’t much longer before she was moved to an assisted care place that could give her the care she needed.
If I have a message for my peers, it is to try to be as pleasant as possible when your children visit. Nothing will make them happier then to see you happy. Let them know you appreciate their devotion. Writing this blog has made me think, do I thank those who care about and for me for all they do? I have spoken before of how my three children Donna, Rick and Tara attend to my needs. But I must add my granddaughter, Lee Ann to that list. Her specialty is unconditional love and she makes and brings me the best Lasagna!
If I have a message for children with aging parents, it is this: find a good retirement home for them, if possible. Make time to visit them as often as you can. There is no substitute for your children. If your parents get a little crotchety sometimes, cut them a little slack. Don’t forsake them, they need to see you, touch you, and embrace you.
I remember this from a Sean Connery movie – The Rock – (and you know I love Sean), when he saw his grown daughter for the first time. He said “You know…you’re the only evidence that I exist.”