Saturday, June 25, 2011

Help Aging Parents: When Life (and Death) Get in the Way

When parents need us, we are there--if we can possibly manage it and are committed to helping them age well.  And so it is today, that a dear friend, Edie, was laid to rest in NY.  She was almost 101 years old and she did age well.

My day has slipped away from me and I will post on this blog tomorrow also. But tonight I want to take a few minutes to write a bit about Edie--a fine, can-do, petite woman I knew through the Woman's Club--who I grew to love and admire over the years. Then, using Edie's example, I want to add a bit about how family contributions help old/older people age well.

You may have met Edie in previous posts: quoted for her wisdom about old peoples' driving and cited for her always-in-order, stylish appearance among other things.  She was intelligent and well read, and her good eyesight enabled her to read, as well as write a note on a January letter to me (dictated to her daughter, who then printed it out so Edie could add the note) in her very legible, somewhat shaky, handwriting.
While Edie lived here in NY all the time I knew her (with a daughter who has health issues and her daughter's husband), she was close to both daughters.  A year ago around Mother's Day, Edie's far-away-living Tennessee daughter came to NY to take Edie back to live the rest of her years with her and her husband--a mutually-agreed-to move, from what I can tell.
The far-away Tennessee-living daughter is Edie's youngest. She came to NY periodically.  On those trips she and Edie shopped for clothes at Talbots--one of Edie's favorite stores and obviously another option for clothes suitable for old women. She also went to Edie's hairdresser's and left money to continue Edie's weekly hair appointments.
We know how important hair is in looking "put together." While clearly looks aren't everything, they are a major part of a first impression.  And Edie's first impression was yes old, but well-groomed and nicely dressed.  Additionally, the weekly hair appointment got Edie out of the house and into real life at the hair salon with all the gossip and friendly chatter that involves.
Another plus was the fact that after she stopped driving at 90 something, another family member or friend drove her to the beauty salon each week. More contact with others, more socialization, more stimulation--all of which as we know helps people age well.
Once in Tennessee, Edie's younger daughter, a teacher, became caregiver during her nonscheduled working hours. She arranged for someone to be at home with Edie during the day while at school.
I'm sure many of us are familiar with the routine. We put our life on hold until the end of a long day and then take care of our own responsibilities. Papers needing to be graded awaited Edie's daughter at night.  So once the night was hers, she began another kind of work. But she wouldn't have changed that for anything, she says.
I began writing about old people and change in the last post. While change is difficult for most old people, Edie seems to be an exception.  The fact that it was a mutually-agreed-upon change, was no doubt a big factor. Edie also liked the gentler pace of Tennessee.
While Edie lived with her NY daughter and husband for many years, we all knew about her yearly trips (in her 90's) to Tennessee as well as to Texas and California to see her grown grandchildren. Shortly after arriving in Tennessee last summer, Edie's daughter and husband drove her to Texas to visit one granddaughter and her family. More stimulation, more social contact. "Can you imagine we're driving all the way to Texas?" she wrote me.
Edie's was a life well lived. She was a member of that remarkable generation--widowed relatively young with two daughters, always upholding her end while moving everyone forward in the most graceful, positive way.  And her family happily gave back, which was almost unnecessary until she approached 100 and finally needed them What goes around, comes around.

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