April 13, 2008

I Was in Pismo Beach Last Night,

watching television at the motel near by uncle's house. The staff at this place has started to know me by name, since I go up there every month or two. I wonder if this is a good sign.

I'm beginning to make peace with my grandmother's impending death ("impending" means sometime within the next five months to five years, I think; or whenever she loses interest in the small pleasures of life).

I did drop by my uncle's place for a few more hours today to hang out with my grandma, my dad, and my stepmom. The aunt and the uncle took a day off, to photograph wildflowers along the Central Coast and play with their nice dog.

I'm very grateful that my grandmother is getting an amazing level of care from good people; what she receives is not simply love, and not merely the lap of luxury—it is a combination of those two things that nearly no one can get, for love or money or anything else. Grandma has her own room, painted in the colors of her choice. She has her own bathroom, decorated and tiled those same colors, with every possible amenity for a disabled senior. She has a walker and a motor scooter. She has an easy chair and a television with close-captioned programming on it, a reading lamp nearby and an electric throw blanket. She can eat in her recliner, or at the table; her choice.

She is taken for drives whenever she wants, and my uncle/aunt pack her scooter in the back of the van, retrieving it at any stop.

She does seem to be bored, and somewhat isolated because of her deafness; she's also very vulnerable to colds these days. She is very comfortable, however, and lives in a house filled with laughter and smiles and light from the many skylights my uncle has installed.

I've always been culturally and emotionally cut off from my aunt and uncle, but I'm developed an appreciation of them—really, a sort of awe—over the last year. They are accomplishing something extraordinary.

It's uncertain what will happen to my parents in ten or twenty or thirty years. I can handle it if one of them needs me to do this same thing, but not if both do. And, of course, I have no idea who's going to take care of me when I need Assisted Living or worse. I should probably either (1) get rich, and/or (2) start kissing up to my nieces and nephews, hard. I, after all, have decades in which to convince them that the most fun one could ever have in life is to be obtained by taking care of a dirty old lady with a fondness for rock 'n' roll and clever turns of phrase.

The biggest concern is the fact that getting older seems to require a rapprochement with TV. As I said, I watched some last night, and the choice at that point appeared to be (1) network crime fiction with unrealistic lab setups, outlandish plot contrivances, and dreadful dialogue, or (2) "true crime" case file studies written with an eye toward redundancy, idiot-level vocabulary, and assiduous subject-verb disagreement.

My grandmother seems to hang out a lot at The Hallmark Channel, where I was not impressed with the quality of the performances. Not to sound snobby . . .

I wrote her a note: "what are you watching? Is it interesting?"

"No," she replied. "It's just television. Just entertainment." But she wrinkled her nose, so I don't think she was that entertained.

If it weren't for the internet, I'd be tempted to support physician-assisted suicide. I mean, I know that sounds dreadful. But even when we were kids, my grandparents were able to gobble up tremendous amounts of television. I loved it at the time; they let us stay up later than either our parents or our other grandparents did, and they allowed us to watch more "violent" shows (think Bonanza).

But I suspect my capacity is nowhere near my grandmother's.

Posted by Attila Girl at April 13, 2008 10:59 PM | TrackBack

I would have assumed that your retirement years were all worked out and that they'd look like an extended cabin trip!

If a bunch of folks in their 80s live together, surely they can take care of each other, even in the absence of dutiful children/nieces/nephews?

Oh, wait, would you-know-who still be naked in his 80s?

hmmm. Never mind.


(seriously, I worry about the same things. About how much I DON'T want to take care of my dad. About how, not having kids or even a spouse, I'll be alone in my olderness. It troubles. Fortunately, we are young and spry and such foolish concerns are decades away. Tra la!)


Posted by: Rin at April 14, 2008 11:24 AM

Perhaps the first two waves of baby boomers will work something splendid out by the time we have to deal with it.

FWIW, my parents are still doing fine, and they both turn 72 this year. I think it's only when one hits the nineties that one needs people available around the clock.

And you-know-who still looks fine naked. Once he hits his late fifties, though, I'm going to insist on boxers and some kind of shirt.

We could solve the problem if we all married him, you know: then he'd have to buy us all a house.

Hm. You-know-who-else is a doctor. And we do have one person who's been trained as a nurse. So all we really need is a large enough compound to keep the level of geriatric homicides low at the Olives-and-Old-Lace hippie/libertarian quasi-Boho retirement home.

Posted by: Attila Girl at April 14, 2008 02:32 PM

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