Assisted Living 101: final thoughts

Did I mention at the beginning of this that so many people think “nursing home” when they hear the words “assisted living”? (Yes, I did.) The truth is that no one wants to be sick, disabled or senile and in need of a nursing home.  The truth is that no one really wants to be old, but the alternative is to be dead and that’s not great either. If we grow old without being sick, disabled or senile we will be blessed. Some of us will need to have good nursing care and a nursing home will be the safest place for us. Probably all of us will need assistance at some point. Who will assist you?

Before that time, we hope to take care of ourselves and be independent as “young elders”. It takes courage to ask where we best belong, and where we fit in. It also takes courage to deal with one’s pride and go live in a place where others might need us. Mom’s apartment at Water’s Edge is designed with aging in mind, but it is just like a nice apartment anywhere else. The basic plan here does not leave her feeling like she is an invalid, in fact, she feels like she’s on a cruise.  What would improve her experience here would be having more people closer to her age.

We have been meeting other tenants at meal time. Marjorie, Eleanor, Ken, Emil, Violet who is going to be 103, and the three Dorothys. Underneath the aging exterior, all of these individuals have interesting stories and quirky personalities that can come rushing out when you start conversing with them. This particular brand of assisted living has been good for them. They have family nearby but are really safer and happier here than they would be elsewhere. It is a good place.

Will Mom feel like she belongs here? She doesn’t know but is willing to give it a try. She has the option of returning home and living with family if she needs it. I will end the way I began. There is not one right way to do this aging thing – everyone’s situation is different and there are lots of variables to deal with. But I have learned that it is good to do the dealing gracefully, thoughtfully, and without fear before it is an emergency.

Aside: Today we met Ken who is a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel of 27 years. When he could no longer play it, he donated his digital piano to the chapel at Water’s Edge. After we had lunch at the same table, he invited us to come learn how to operate the instrument. (Mom has always loved having a piano around to play when the urge hits…) Interesting people… see what I mean?

20180116_07055439711029.jpg
Outside the door, each tenant has a name plate and a small shelf where they can place some object. For now, it’s a china doll, but eventually it will be something red, I think.

Sitting in it…

Today in church was awkward.  Not that it hasn’t been before.  I often am hit with this feeling of being an invisible sponge-like being, hoping to pick up on whatever God has for me, whatever I have asked him for. I have friends there, good friends actually, but I’m gone frequently and nobody really knows if/where I belong in the faith community.

I appreciate being able to sing, to listen, to enjoy church in a way that leaves me free of feeling critical, disappointed and upset. I go to a good church. But, wow, when I feel awkward it’s difficult. I question my presence there. I feel alone. Isolated. It’s so easy to sing the last song, pick up my stuff, and be gone.  No one stops me.

God stops me. I can’t get past the part where “the church” is a major player in the story. SHE’S THE BRIDE AT THE WEDDING (excuse the all caps). I must not only try to identify with her, I must try to be her. I have a clear picture of what that “church” means – it’s not a denomination, a particular group, a specific behavior or costume. But it’s real. I find evidence of it across the board, in different cultures, in unlikely places, at odd times, the invisible church is there. identified by mutual love of Jesus (THE GROOM, excuse the all caps).

Anyway, today being one of the awkward days, I sat in it. I know the devil (who wants to be a major player but doesn’t get to) would have me feel estranged in that environment and to wallow in the feeling and draw conclusions from it. Feeling awkward is not fatal. It can happen to me and I survive. I can fight back and seek out someone else who looks awkward and persist in conversation with them until we’ve both felt included in something bigger than ourselves. We’ve made small steps toward community.

I give the “feeling” of discomfort up to God, who reminds me that feelings are fickle. Next week I might feel incredibly part of it all, connected to everyone. Church is complicated. Church is necessary. Church is part of a bigger plan and I don’t always “get it”. But I will sit here, learning, until I do. But today was awkward, just sayin’…

20160313_135111.jpg