That Kind of Gal
Annie and I went down to Windsor the other day, to visit Pauline, who just turned 92 on the 14th. We brought along Dozer because when she still lived up on the mountain, we used to bring him over to her when we visited, and he always made her smile. “But he’s so ugly,” she would exclaim, lauging, as Annie and I both tried to ensure that the Doze couldn’t her.
We found Mama in the big reception room where Laura and Isabel had performed their Celtic music last March. She was sitting with her friend, Moira, and was obviously in good spirits, recognizing us from across the room, and trying to stand as we approached.
Though frail, Pauline carried on lively conversation with us, asking about various issues to do with the mountain. Had we seen Celia recently? How was the farm doing? Was Happyday Farms still doing the farmers market? At one point she carefully stood up, walked across the room into the entry area so as to view a clock, and returned, again, very carefully, but still able to do it.
JT visits her regularly and has told us that Pauline’s physician, my first cousin, Mary, has informed her that Pauline is experiencing increased symptoms of heart failure. Whereas it is unnecessary to be specific about what this looks like, indications are that at 92, she is coming close to the end.
Being in an assisted-living complex in Windsor, carefully researched for its warm and dedicated staff, relieves us of having to worry that her medical needs will not be met. Mama is in good hands. She has someone to seek her out, and deliver her medication to her, as needed, and she has help doing things that are no longer possible by herself, such as bathing.
We feel very certain that she has the best care that a family can provide for an elder who needs continuous monitoring. The environment exudes professionalism and warmth, from the meticulously maintained premises, to the flowers and artwork strategically placed to enhance the attractiveness of the facility.
I feel comfortable in the knowledge that all of the above is in place. As each of us must ultimately face the demise of the two people responsible for one’s life, I have come to grips with this reality, and feel comfortable in the knowledge that when the time comes, I will accept the news calmly, both on the outside, and more importantly, on the inside.
There was much dialogue amongst the siblings when it was deemed that Pauline could no longer live by herself. Two schools of thought presented themselves: one expressed the opinion that Mama should stay in Willits, with family members in attendance to care for her on a rotating basis. The other felt that she needed more care than non-trained family members could adequately provide.
I was firmly in the latter and having personally done Pauline’s day-to-day care, as far as firewood in the winter, weed-eating in the spring, and watering in the summer, from 1996 until October of 2012, I had no reservations saying that I was ill-equipped to provide elder care. Bringing in firewood was one thing; keeping track of medication, and bathing Mama, were two elements that I was unwilling to take on.
Take me out and have me shot, if it will make you feel better. I refuse to assume the role of Meursault, from the book, The Stranger, by Albert Camus, who was ostensibly convicted of murder, not because he was guilty, but because he was callous in describing the death of his mother.
Pauline, the matriarch of our family, has lived a long and fruitful life; no one could ever match up to her accomplishments, when it comes to instilling lasting values and morals in her children. No one could ever surpass her industry or her stamina, or her ability to withstand the hardships of economics; she is the ultimate survivor.
For now, we visit, we smile, we chat and we wait. When the time comes and we gather to speak of Mama’s accomplishments, I hope you have plenty of time. The list is quite extensive and covers a lot of material. She is just that kind of gal.