Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sheila Stoll: Sometimes age trumps independence

My family recently came to visit. I knew that along with a heartfelt desire to have a good time together, there was another reason for their visit. I am now the oldest member of the family — and they were doing the obligatory status check.

A few years ago my brothers and I were faced with my mother's increasing incapacity. She lived alone in a big house, and after my husband died in 1994, I spent increasingly long periods of time with her, which was a good arrangement for both of us in that we were both alone and we got along very well. My brothers had families and jobs thousands of miles away from where our mother lived. I had no material ties to my home in Central Florida, no job, no husband and no other family nearby. As time went by, it was clear that although she was entirely competent mentally and physically, everyday chores were becoming increasingly difficult. I was able to take up the slack. My two brothers came to visit and help out when they could.

Then in 1998 I met and married Darling Husband. Suddenly I had a life again. We planned to go away in the summer, partly because DH has property and family in his homeland of Switzerland. Of course my mother encouraged us to go and enjoy, but I was worried about leaving her alone for the hottest months; her neighbors would go back to homes in the cooler Midwest. She would be alone. Could — or should — she drive? What if she fell? Would she see her doctors when she needed to? She had spent summers with my brothers in the Midwest for a number of years. She had driven herself in her Mustang convertible and always had a good time. Could she still do that? I consulted my brothers. The conclusion we arrived at was, not so much.

We had weighty discussions about whether or not she should move to an assisted living facility as neither brother had enough room to give her a permanent room of her own. We visited a number of facilities and it became clear that it would be an ordeal and certainly not what she would choose for herself if there were any viable alternatives. She knew that we were all worried. How could she not know? As a temporary measure, she flew to the Midwest and one of my brothers set up a bed in what was really his wife's study. She needed surgery a month later and she didn't survive.

Now, when my children and younger brother visit, I know they are all looking carefully to assess our capabilities. They know that DH is now 80, has a heart condition and after-market parts installed, and that he's a decade older than me. They also know I'm a bit impaired. They check to see how things are going with us. So, naturally, I put on a tour-de-force performance. I had prepared meals in advance and effortlessly served up dinner for a dozen people several nights in a row. The house was pretty clean. The plants were watered and thriving, and I was, in my own eyes, still Super Mom. But I know well that they are in the early stages of thinking about what to do about me. After all, it's inevitable that things will change and probably not for the better.

And yet I am so fortunate: How lucky I am to have DH! We take care of each other. And I have a loving family concerned about my well-being now and in the future.

We have a neighbor who is not nearly so lucky. She is alone and always has been. An independent woman without close family, she has always gone her own way, happy to make her own choices and support herself and pleased to never have had to depend on others.

She has been friendly, busy and apparently fulfilled. She's older than both of us. We have always chatted in the parking lot and on occasions when our paths have crossed. She was recently told that she has macular degeneration, which will result in blindness. She is afraid. I would be too. She owns her condo and likes her independence, but she recently wrecked her car. Happily she was not injured and no one else was hurt. But now she can no longer drive and will increasingly have to depend on others. There is no one she is close to who can help or advise her.

She arrives at our door distraught. We can take care of each other but we can't take care of Ginny, too. She never thought about being old, a potentially fatal mistake. We know we're lucky, but we don't have any answers for her.

Sheila Stoll is happy to hear from readers but cannot respond to individual queries. Write her at PMB No. 309, 7904 E Chaparral Road, No. 110, Scottsdale, AZ 85250.

Sheila Stoll: Sometimes age trumps independence 05/25/10 [Last modified: Monday, May 24, 2010 2:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. What you need to know for Thursday, June 29

    News

    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    See that thing in the water? No? That's the point. It's that time of the year when stingrays are often lurking in the sand, often not visibly. Remember to do the stingray shuffle if you're out at the beach this weekend. [JIM DAMASKE | Times]
  2. Pinellas beaches seeing fewer injuries from stingrays, but the summer is still young

    Environment

    FORT DE SOTO — Rebecca Glidden leaned back in her lifeguard chair, watching behind sunglasses as families splashed in the water at Fort De Soto's North Beach.

    A Clearwater water safety supervisor demonstrates the stingray shuffle. Pinellas beaches are reporting relatively few injuries from stingrays so far this year, but they anticipate more as the summer wears on. Officials are reminding beachgoers to do the shuffle when they enter the water and keep an eye out for purple flags flying from the lifeguard towers, which indicate stingray activity. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  3. Weeki Wachee River advocates agree to work to resolve issues

    Local Government

    WEEKI WACHEE — Degradation of the Weeki Wachee River is a complex mix of circumstances, with a variety of jurisdictions holding the authority to fix the problems. That has made finding solutions over the years more about frustration than success.

    A boat and kayak drift into one another as they share the narrow passage near Rogers Park on the Weeki Wachee River in March. Advocates fear too many vessels are damaging the river.
  4. Despite change in Cuba policy, cruise ships sail on

    Tourism

    TAMPA -- It's smooth sailing for cruises from Tampa to Havana, with the first of Carnival Cruise Line's 12 such excursions launching today, two months after Royal Caribbean's initial voyage from Port Tampa Bay to the island.

    The Empress of the Seas cruise ship docks at the Port Tampa Bay Cruise Terminal 3 in Tampa. President Donald 

Trump's new Cuba policy may not hurt cruises to Havana at all. In fact, it may help these cruises. CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times
  5. Lien forgiveness program aimed at blighted properties in Zephyrhills

    Local Government

    ZEPHYRHILLS — The city will begin offering a new residential lien forgiveness program in an effort to encourage improvements to properties and home ownership.

    City Manager Steve Spina said it is geared to foreclosures and properties for sale.