Q: I am a 79-years-young woman living in my own home with my 84-year-old husband, "Jack." Jack was an avid gardener who enjoyed tending our large yard full of roses, fruit trees and a variety of flowers and vegetables. During the past year, however, Jack's health has deteriorated and he can no longer do much around our home.
I have tried to take over some of the gardening but haven't the time or energy to keep it up to Jack's standards. Otherwise, I feel we're doing well. I still drive and keep house and enjoy our great-grandchildren. I used to keep my home to very strict standards but in recent years have realized that a few dust bunnies are not a crime.
Lately, my daughter, granddaughter and even our oldest great-granddaughter have been trying to push us into moving closer to them, into a smaller home with less yard and what they believe would be less work for me. Unfortunately, this has led to harsh words exchanged between my daughter and me.
When my granddaughter agreed with my daughter, I told them to stay out of our business and let us run our own lives. When my granddaughter said the family was only trying to plan ahead and prepare me for when I would be alone, I yelled at her and told her they didn't have the right to force their opinions on me.
Recently my husband's doctor told him he can no longer drive, and he was given a walker. We have not told our children because we dread that they'll force us to move, or worse, force me to put Jack in a home. I do not believe this would be the best choice at this time.
We do not want to be a burden to our children. I believe I am able to take care of my husband, my home and my life without our children and grandchildren interfering. How can I get them to understand this without creating more bad feelings?
I know they read your column. Can you help them understand that I have the right to continue to live in my home as long as I wish, and the choice to move should be mine - not theirs? I'm sure many older people out there are going through what we're going through and could use your wise and valued support.
"Grace" in Eau Claire, Wis.
A: I'm sure many older people are experiencing what you're going through, and in the next few decades there will be even more. That's why I'm going to be direct with you. You are "79 years young," and your husband is 84 and failing. There's an old saying, "You can fool Mother Nature, but you can't fool Father Time."
You may think you are able to keep up the house and the property, but from your description, your ability to do so is eroding. It does not automatically mean you must make drastic changes in your lifestyle and place your husband in a home. However, it does mean that it's time to review your options.
While downsizing might have its advantages, you could also consider finding someone to help you with housekeeping and gardening a couple of times a month. A home health care professional could also help you care for your husband in the surroundings you both love.
On the other hand, moving closer to your children could provide you with a place that would be easier to keep up and also give you extra money to make your lives more comfortable. Please try to keep an open mind and not be defensive. If your children did not love you, they would not be as concerned about you as they seem to be.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips.
Universal Press Syndicate