There comes a time. At least for most people. When their time has passed. When there’s nothing left to do. When they are alone.
I see it every week when I visit a friend who lives in a nursing home down the street from our house. It’s a nice nursing home. Six cottages. Each has no more than 12 residents. Most are in wheelchairs or use walkers. Many are hard of hearing. Some have a tenuous grip on reality.
Yesterday, when visiting my friend, one of the ladies, who’s in her late 90s, obviously wanted to engage me as I walked by on my way to my friend’s room. This lady is often sitting alone in the living area. I always say hello and perhaps have a brief exchange. But yesterday was different. I could tell she wanted to talk.
So I stopped. Clearly, she was unsettled. She told me she had tried to talk with her daughter but couldn’t reach her. She kept getting a recording. I suspect she had misdialed the number, but I can’t be sure. Eventually, someone at the home helped and she got through. She said her daughter didn’t have much to say. Apparently, the conversation was brief.
My acquaintance told me she has 11 children and lots of grandchildren. She said they were good people. But she wondered if she had done something wrong. She rarely hears from them. And is seldom visited. She repeated herself. “I must have done something wrong.” A sense of blame seemed to be weighing her down.
Some of her children live far away. Some are close. But I’m not sure it matters.
I assured her she hadn’t done anything wrong. And then I tried to make excuses for her kids, citing their busy lives. But the pained look on her face was unaltered. She then picked up a book and showed it to me. It contained the addresses and phone numbers of her children. She thought some pages were missing. I doubt there were.
I recall a few months ago when I first met this lady. She asked me, “What is one to do?” She just sits. Alone. And waits. To die.
Such is the predicament of countless old people. They just sit. And wait. Waiting for relief from the loneliness. Waiting to be rescued.
The whole affair yesterday reminded me that I don’t stay in touch with my mother as much as I should. Some people are really good at this. I’m not. I don’t like to talk on the phone. And we don’t share many interests. But those are just excuses I assume. Or perhaps they’re simply reality.
I wonder why life has to end this way for so many people. Alone. Waiting. Bored. Depressed.
Like many people, I hope to avoid this fate. I hope to die before I end up in such a condition. Yet I know it’s out of my hands. And that scares me.
The best part of being young is the inspiration and vibrancy one feels. And the camaraderie and communion with others. I think one’s 20s and 30s are the best of times. And the 80s and 90s have the potential to be the worst.
Not that they always are. Some people have their health and can live a fully engaged life for a very long time. But most can’t.
Perhaps there are no good answers. Perhaps it’s merely our lot.
But I can’t bring myself to submission. To accept a fate that involves merely sitting and waiting. I’m not sure what that will mean or how it will play out, or whether I’ll even have the choice should some traumatic event intervene, but I hope I have a say in the matter. And hope I make decisions consistent with the principles I value.
I never want to become a burden to my family.
I never want to value longevity over quality of life.
I never want to fear death.
I want to live each day and never want to find myself sitting and waiting. For nothing. Just waiting to be rescued.
That may mean I end up doing some crazy sh**, Vera. If that’s the case, do not be concerned. Try to remember the principles I hold dear. And that there is no stopping time.