Sunday, December 26, 2010

Old Age

Emil and his great-grandmother have a smoochfest

The boys and I went with Cameron late yesterday afternoon to take gifts to Grandma and have a visit with her in the nursing home. When we arrived the old folks who hadn't gone out for the day (they've moved her into the dementia ward now, which has more staff and fewer residents) were dozing in easy chairs in front of a rerun of Bonanza. We woke Grandma up and she recognized Cameron although didn't know who he was. If that makes sense.

She raked in a shitload of new tops and a couple pairs of slippers, and was quite pleased. Grandma has always loved her clothes and that is one thing that hasn't changed. We hung out in her room for an hour or so and then left when it was time for her to go to the dining room for supper.

I woke up in the middle of last night, remembered all the other residents sitting together at the lodge in the afternoon, and thought "Where are their families?" It looked like these old people were simply out of sight, out of mind, while the youngsters they raised and the grandchildren they spoiled were all off doing their own thing now and not giving a second thought to these people they owe their lives to.

Of course that's not the case and I was being harsh in the wee hours of the morning, when shadows and light can be stark and unexpected (I really hate the middle of the night sometimes; there is no sugarcoating anything, then). Many families had probably taken their elders out for the day or had already visited, or had other celebratory obligations or live too far away or were travelling, or have come to the realization that it just isn't such a big deal to their old folks so they might as well do their own thing ... Christmas is just another day, to these residents, and they prefer their settled routines and are more comfortable being left to them.

Also, it is not easy to see your loved one, or the others, living in an institutional environment. They may be happy enough and very well looked after and even treated with kind affection by the staff and other residents, as is the case at Kelvindell Lodge, but it still gives you a regretful pause when you go there. I felt like shedding a tear as we were leaving, even though I know there is no better place for Grandma right now and I'm grateful she's not further away.

You mourn the past that is long gone—the better times—and you dread what the future may bring.