It was the Spring of 1988 and Linda and I were looking forward to celebrating our tenth anniversary that Fall. We were living in Redondo Beach in a cute rental home about five blocks from the beach. My career was in one of its start and stop phases and I was looking for something that would give us a bit more security than what I was doing at the time.
One day we got a call from Linda's mom, Doris, who had moved to the Atlanta area after Linda's father had died a few years earlier to be closer to her son and the grandkids. She shared with Linda that she was lonely and not happy living in the Atlanta area for a number of reasons. After the call we talked and decided to bring her out to California to live with us until we could figure something out. Going on thirty-six years later, she is still living with us.
In 1988 we moved back to the Chicago area, I got a job with a major consumer electronics company and we bought a perfect house for our needs. A traditional colonial with an apartment attached for Doris that gave her a living room, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom of her own. It was really a perfect set up for us at the time and it all worked out well.
Long story short, we eventually moved out here to Palm Desert and bought a place here where Doris has her own room and bathroom where she is comfortable and we are able to help her. She has been able to take care of herself but we have taken over the cooking for her as she was a bit shaky in the kitchen. All this was not a problem and we moved on with our lives.
Her health has been mostly good for someone who just turned ninety-six in November. Bad knees, a bum hip, and a couple of heart scares but still doing fairly well. Last Monday she had a regular doctors appointment with her primary and it was discovered that her lungs were starting to fill up again with fluids due to her congenital heart condition. Additionally, based on her lab work, her kidneys were starting to fail too. A few other things have popped up and the doctor decided, based on Doris' desire to not be taken to a hospital for treatment, that it was time for her to be put under the care of Hospice.
On Wednesday the Hospice person came and interviewed her, went back to the office, and determined she indeed needed their services. That afternoon a nurse came and started the procedure. She was wonderful in explaining all that they would do and how they worked and when she left Doris was spinning but comforted in knowing she/we would have some help with her.
By Thursday morning when she woke up she had gone from a vibrant, if not slowed down senior, to an complete invalid. We had a full day of deliveries, nurse visit, and packages delivered and Doris was not even close to her normal self. It was like she decided overnight that she didn't have to do anything ever again. We were shocked at the transformation.
Friday we sat with her and explained that she still needed to do all the things she had been doing and for the rest of the day she was back to normal. This weekend she has once again moved into the I can't do anything phase and it is a struggle to get her through the day.
On the one hand we want her to be comfortable and secure but we almost wished Hospice had not filled her head with things. It's a tough call and we don't want to seem selfish or put upon because that is surely not the case. She is on oxygen 24 hours a day. She has a medicine mist treatment twice a day to help with her breathing, We had to give her some morphine yesterday to settle her down because she was struggling to breathe. This morning she was not able to get out of bed without help and she was complaining her knees wouldn't work.
It is sad to see her going through this to be sure. She is torn between having had enough of life but being scared of what lies ahead. That part I get completely. Religion is not a part of our lives so the end is the end for we nonbelievers and that is scary. Who knows how much longer we have with her, it could be months or days, we just don't know. All we can do is help her as best we can and give her the support she needs to get through the day.
As I have been saying for many years, death is undefeated, but that doesn't make it any easier.