Thursday, August 19, 2010

The small matter of The Home...

Lately I've lapsed back into my preoccupation with what will happen to me when I'm old. The other day, in the midst of a conversation that had nothing to do with either of us, I pointed out to My Beloved that he and I will likely end up in nursing homes at an earlier age than my parents will because we have no one to look after us.

It popped out of my mouth and crashed to the floor of our family room like a lead weight. The hard, real truth of the statement literally drowned out all other sound for a few moments as it clattered around, coming to rest right between us.

And we just sat and stared at each other, unblinking, until My Beloved made a joke (implying that I would be headed to Shady Acres long before him), and balance was restored.

'Cause that's what we do. We speak of big, scary, grown-up things and then immediately use jokes as brain bleach to wash those recklessly flung words away. 

But in all seriousness, I really believe that my mom and dad would be in a nursing home right now were it not for my sister and me. We do what we do because we adore them, of course, but the fact remains that we are the reason they are still able to stay in their house. We drive, cook, clean, advocate, listen, soothe, support and entertain. They have us to rely on - and they always will.

My Beloved and I, on the other hand, have cats. Not quite as useful to the elderly, really.

Anyway, all this has been rolling about in my head again lately. And it reminded me of last Christmas Eve at my in-laws when, to my surprise and delight, a bottle of white wine appeared on the dinner table before me.

Wine. WINE! This never happens at their place. Like, ever. The drinkers, not surprisingly, are on my side of the family.

I waited an appropriate amount of time before grabbing the blessed bottle by the neck and strangling out a glass of liquid holiday Valium. And then another. And maybe a third, I can't remember.

I do remember I was tipsy by the time dessert rolled around. And the only one in the room who was, since the bottle of wine and I were apparently having an exclusive relationship that night.

And that's how I found myself slightly drunk on my mother-in-law's couch on Christmas Eve, begging my 10-year old niece to promise she'd visit me in the home.

Not really my proudest moment.

Fortunately she merely looked at me with a little grin - like I was a silly old aunt meant to be giggled at - and slyly told me that she would come visit me when I'm old as long as I continue to have my Christmas cookie party every year.

Clever girl.

I realize I'm only 40, and that with luck (and perhaps more exercise and less chocolate) I'll have a few decades to plan for the nursing home years. But closing the door to a life with children has opened the hatch to this new, alien place and I'm still having trouble finding shelves and closets for my brand new set of random thoughts and general concerns.

It's very strange to have gone from a mother-to-be to a woman planning her 80th birthday in just a handful of years.


Mrs. Spit said...

I understand your problem. I think it's why I cultivate relationships with teenagers. They might be willing to help out later on. . .

loribeth said...

I understand too. I know there are vast numbers of people living in nursing homes who HAVE children who never or seldom visit, for whatever reasons, so having children is no guarantee you won't wind up in one. But the odds are certainly better than if you have no children at all, right?

I hope that our two nephews will think fondly enough of us to look in on us now & then and maybe invite us over for holiday dinners, etc. -- but I'm not going to count on it. :p

Illanare said...

I understand too. It scares me witless at the moment!

areyoukiddingme said...

Well, to give some personal anecdotes on this matter...I have an aunt and a grandmother-in-law in assisted living. My aunt never married, was very kind and generous to us as children, but very busy, and was very successful. She lived with my other unmarried aunt in the family home until that aunt died after hip replacement surgery. A couple years later, she sold the house, gave away the contents and moved to an apartment in a multilevel care assisted living facility. She could have had her pick of relatives to live with, but she likes her independence. She has very severe osteoporosis, but is otherwise healthy. Her mother died in her 80s, her father was almost 100. I don't think she much regrets arranging her life this way. Plus, whenever any of us are in town (random times throughout the year), we make sure to stop by and visit. On the other hand, my GMIL is in assisted living because she can no longer live on her own, and she will not leave her hometown to live with either of her children. She hates it there at the nursing home, but would rather live there than anywhere else (except her home, of course). Her son (my FIL) lives 6 hours away. Her daughter lives 6 hours in the other direction. She just turned 90, and is mostly healthy. Visits from relatives around where I live are rare - in fact, I'm pretty sure I've visited her more than most of her grandchildren (I take my daughter to see her, when I go an visit my family who live an hour and a half away). Visits from her daughter's children are more frequent, though.

What I recommend, though, and what I'm shooting for (as much as possible, without really compromising my health) is doing what my grandparents on my mom's side did - dropping dead with no notice!

Anyway, I guess my point is that you may not want anyone to care for you. You may not need anyone to care for you. You may not have chosen to live with relatives anyway. You can't really predict the future, and so this should be something that you joke about rather than worry about.

ApronStringsEm said...

I can completely relate to this post. Hubby & I have had a running joke between the two of us. When we were first looking at places to live (before we were even married), Hubby had pointed to a set of apartments that ended up being "Senior Assisted Living" apartments. Back then we had laughed about it, but now we know that it'll probably be a reality.

Since deciding to live Child-free after IF, we've been more aware of Assisted Livings. In fact, we've come up with location criteria for these places.

1. Must be close to a library or bookstore.

2. Must be close to a movie theater.

3. Must be close to reliable and accessible public transportation.

At this time in our lives, we both figured that it's best to live with what we've got instead of what we don't have. Well ... at least when it comes to the Childless aspect of it anyway. (But trust me, I still have those days ... )

Kami said...

I love that you asked your niece to take care of you.

As Loribeth said, there are never any guarantees. A friend in my IRL support group has been back home quite a bit to take care of an ailing uncle who had no kids.

I also remember a This American Life story where this older couple were excited to simplify their life and move into a retirement home. She couldn't wait to have more time to do nothing. Flash forward several months and she is just as busy but instead of mowing the grass she is volunteering and playing bridge. Or something like that. I don't remember the details, but it was a happy story.