Have you ever had the sense someone was watching you – even in your sleep? I don’t think I will ever forget the night I woke with a start to a ninety some year old woman standing at the side of my bed at 3:30 a.m. peering down at me! Did I ever jump!!!
Why was she up in the middle of the night? What was she doing? Where else had she been?
As time progressed with Great Aunt, one of her most common activities was packing her belongings. For some reason, she continually thought she was moving. I would walk into her area of the house to find the pictures off the walls, blankets – folded and stacked, books, photo albums, jewelry… absolutely everything she could find piled or stashed away into drawers. I would unpack each treasure, rehang the pictures, and reassure her that she was not moving. This was her home. This was her family.
Remarkably, by the time I came back to check on her, the process would be repeated! How did she do it? What stamina! She was able to pack all of her things several times a day!
Pack – unpack. Pack – unpack. Pack – unpack.
I may be a bit slow, but it didn’t take too long before I realized we needed to make some changes. She needed less to pack, and I needed to unpack less!
We converted part of Great Aunt’s living area into a master bedroom accomplishing two things. One, she needed less space and fewer things deal with. Two, we were closer to her, providing better and much needed oversight.
The decision had been a very difficult one for me. In no way did I want to limit her; or worse, move in to her very own abode. Would she or the extended family think we were selfishly taking her space?
She adapted so well, we wondered why we hadn’t made the change sooner. The large amount of space had clearly become too much for her.
In a large family such as ours, seldom was Great Aunt left alone. Although Sunday mornings and a few other occasions, she had the house to herself. She had done well, until… we started coming home to tissue paper stuffed into the gas fire place (with the gas on), the stove top turned on high, water faucets left running. She was rapidly loosing the ability to function safely without supervision. It was after the episode in the middle of the night, it became clear that we needed to install a lock on her bedroom door, on the outside.
If I thought reducing her living space was difficult, the thought of locking Great Aunt’s door was worse!
We could no longer trust her judgement. We did not want to put Great Aunt or the household at risk. We did not want to send her back to the “home-for-the-elderly”. Our desire was to lovingly care for her as long as we were able.
The lock was installed. Because it was seldom used, it wasn’t an issue. She had declined enough that it was not offensive to her. In fact, when moving about her new more limited space, upon trying the door- she would just politely knock on the door, and close by, we would come to her attention. Once again, I was able to sleep without worrying about what the night might bring.
~lessons in grace~
loving when the loving is tough
pulling back when the desire is to give
restraining for ones own benefit
…all while honoring a life well lived