I know…I know…photo’s a little fuzzy, and I apologize. I’m in different location and I don’t have access to others. That said, I wanted to put something up so you could meet my Mom. I’ll do better–promise.
Here she is, Doris Barlow Kelly, seated at lower right, with the rest of her family all about (I’m in the middle, in the back.) She couldn’t know what lay ahead. It wasn’t all bad: At 90, she was voted “Sweetheart of Greenwich Bay” by fellow residents, for her sunny, uplifting manner. (Sorry about the photo quality…it’s old and hardly professional, even if a “pro” took it –note Dad’s whacky, cock-eyed tie–that’d never happen today.)
My mother was a hoot…”independent” was the word we’d all most attach to her, but that didn’t stop us from trying to make her otherwise.
I remember it, as if it were yesterday. We’d all read and heard about a savage crime that occurred to an elderly woman in the tony, insulated community of Little Compton, Rhode Island. Who was the perpetrator? None other than the man she hired to paint the interior of her home. He’d bludgeoned her, in a savage attack, the details of which were front and center in the state’s newspaper, the Providence Journal.
Oh, police got him, but the news sent my nerves a-jangling.
For, my own Mom was a criminal’s dream. She was forgetful…super-trusting, and naïve, beyond compare. The signature moment that told me she could no longer live alone was when I came up to her home in mid-summer, during a period of intense drought, and found she’d hired two strange men to prune her bushes.
Now, nothing had grown that summer and nothing needed pruning. Frankly, they were taking her for a ride. When I pulled up, I saw one smirk to the other, as if to say: “The gig’s up.” I thanked them, paid them, and sent them on their way, adding “her family was moving in with her today.”
Because I feared for her safety, I convinced my siblings the time was ‘now’ for us to move her into a facility.
Against her stiff protests, we moved her into Greenwich Bay Manor. I had to stay away from her the first week because she was apoplectic with rage. By the second week, she’d settled in and even decorated her interior corridor door, a sure sign she’d begun to accept her new address (apparently, decorating the door is a rite of passage for new residents.)
Now, everything was going along swimmingly. She had friends…she had nutritious and delicious meals prepared by a chef…she enjoyed her surroundings.
And then I got the call….You know, the one where the older person says: “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” She’d apparently tripped over the hassock which I’d stupidly let her keep, trying to make her surroundings as familiar as home. Only problem? She wasn’t home and her space was much more cramped–hence, her fall.
I called 911; the ambulance came; it shuttled her to the hospital; and I met her there.
Doctors repaired her broken hip, and then they sent her to Kent Regency Nursing Home for rehabilitation. In the third week of her stay, a fire broke out on her wing, during the night, and the woman whose hip demanded total bed rest got out of bed to help firefighters ‘save’ patients’ lives by directing them to safety.
Should she have been doing that? Obviously not. But being one who always took life by the horns, her behavior was predictable.
Fellow patients laugh, to this day, as they remember Mom, all 5’1″ of her, standing there, looking semi-official, except for the blanket wrapped about her to ward off a freezing cold night (it was February), telling others what to do.
Firefighters apparently didn’t notice; they had all they could do to keep hose nozzles free from ice blockage on that dreadfully-cold night. They didn’t have time to distract an old woman from what she perceived was her duty to command in an emergency.
Yes, I kept trying to protect my aging mother from life’s vagaries. The upshot? My protective actions almost killed her.
On the other hand, they provide fodder for her journalist daughter’s stories. Not a bad legacy for anyone.
Here’s what led up to our decision to ‘incarcerate’ her (I couldn’t make this stuff up!)…
Now, have you got your own Mom or Dad stories when you had to move them out of their familiar digs to assisted living or other? Did they hate you at first, too, and then you realized: I should have done this long ago…they’re so much happier. Comment section is below.