Sunday, August 28, 2016

That Time of Year*

Not surprisingly, literature abounds with images and themes of aging. Aging is presented in literature as something to be celebrated, something to be avoided, something unavoidable to be lived.  That about covers it.  

For instance, Shakespeare has multiple sonnets on the theme of aging (a favorite of mine is Sonnet 73).  And one of his most powerful play focuses entirely on the ravages of aging: King Lear.

While I could focus this whole blog on literature as it deal with aging, where my thoughts take me on the subject of growing older is more personal.

Over the past several decades, I have been the primary responsible party for various members of my family.  The first family member who named me the "person to contact" was my step-grandmother. She had married my grandfather and enjoyed a brief marriage, as he died after they had been married 7 years. I visited her in the retirement home where she lived, and when there were special opportunities, she turned to me. For example, when a photographer came to the home, she could have her portrait taken with a family member. So she asked me...and I sat along with my son for a portrait with Grandma Mary.  When she suffered a stroke some years later, she was asked who should be called--and she said "Donna."

So I transitioned into being effectively her "power of attorney" family member. (She had no such document, but had named me.) As I slowly took over some of her affairs, I discovered that she had stopped paying the monthly charge at the nursing facility where she was. And I discovered that she was really "broke."  For a few months, my husband and I paid her monthly charge. But when it became clear she would not be returning to her room where she lived independently, I did all the work which got her on to Medicaid, a program for indigent people.  

When she died, immediately after the funeral the family was gathered to celebrate and remember her life. In addition to her step-family, she also had nephews from her birth family. The subject arose--who would take care of settling Grandma Mary's affairs--and again, someone said "Donna."

Some 20 plus years ago, my mother died. While she and my father had moved to a retirement village and were independent, her death meant that my father needed someone to turn to in every day circumstances.  So, he confided some of his deep grieving, and when he began to think about remarrying, I heard about his hopes. Thankfully, he did remarry.  

But as my father and step-mother have grown older together eventually they have had to live in two different levels of care, in the same facility. And once again, I have been named as power of attorney for each of them.  Given the care that nursing facilities render, that means every time there is some untoward event--a slight fall, an inadvertent nick--I get a call. When it is more serious--a trip to the hospital--I also get a call.

Recently, it has occurred to me that I am now the age that once was seen as old age and I am still being the "responsible party" for people older than me.  It has been a long haul--from the time I was first named by my step-grandmother (I was about 34 years old) until now, when I am 71.
*Sonnet 73 
by William Shakespeare

That time of year thou may'st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day,
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by-and-by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consum'd with that which it was nourish'd by.
   This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
   To love that well which thou must leave ere long.


Jayne said...

As someone who won't have a "Donna" (or anyone, save maybe a nephew) to see about me in my older age, I think it is lovely that you have stepped up to be "that person" for members of your family. It is not necessarily a role any of us would relish, but it matters. Kudos to you, dear friend. Know that it is appreciated more than they could ever articulate. XO

Anvilcloud said...

It's interesting that you have assumed this role so often. It makes one wonder when we will need this kind of help. Never would be good.

NCmountainwoman said...

I have loved that Shakespeare sonnet since I was very young.

We were the "responsible party" for the last five years of my M-I-L's life in a nursing facility. We have carefully planned for our last years in carefully worded documents and a trust officer plus long-term-care insurance. We've made a down payment for a full-service community and will move there in another five years of so. The monthly assessment will cover whatever assistance we need from independent living to skilled nursing facility.

Ginger said...

Wow, what a service you have given to these dear ones! I recognize so much of what you describe from my own care taking of my parents, who are 88 and 90 years old. It's a privilege and a blessing. I think I shall be writing a bit about that this week.

Marie Smith said...

You have a generous heart, generous with your time and talent for people in your life. May each of us have such a generous heart in our lives when we need her.

Ginnie said...

Your blog entry is the third I've read this morning concerning aging! I
know it's one of those inevitable facts of life but I still find myself fighting it (and I am 83 !) You are to be commended on your loving care.