My neighbor, Holly, was amongst the crowd on the old woman's lawn. Holly's oldest child #1Son was there with her, as were various other neighbors. The paramedics were not hurrying, and I had not heard any sirens. This was either good or very bad. I chatted with my co-worker while things continued to happen at her house. The paramedics entered the house with a stretcher. I braced myself, as the next sight could be her covered form.
But no. They brought her out, more or less sitting up, clearly alive and conscious. Unhurriedly, they put her into the ambulance. After a few minutes they drove off. No lights or sirens, just drove away. I quickly finished my conversation with my former coworker and intercepted Holly as she crossed the street with #1Son.
Holly's plans for that morning had been to take to old woman to an eye doctor's appointment. But when Holly went outside to deposit some garbage on the curb, she noticed that the blinds were not up in the old woman's house. The revelation shocked me. I have come to watch the old woman's house with great regularity. I am concerned for her. But it never occurred to me to watch the drapes or blinds. I always looked for the lights at night, the position of her garden hose, if the garage door was open. Something as simple as the blinds. Holly was right, she opened them by 9:00am every day like clockwork and closed them again after twilight.
Holly had investigated, and found the old woman wasn't answering the door. Fearing the worst, Holly summoned the ambulance and the old woman's family. It turns out that the old woman had fallen next to her bed getting up this morning. She had no LifeAlert and couldn't reach the phone at her bedside. Luckily for her, Holly was not only on the ball but actively thinking of her that day. Holly is the neighborhood gossip, she watches all that happens. I find that mildly annoying, but at this point I can do nothing but praise Holly's watchfulness, even if it is for gossip's sake.
They think she is dehydrated again. She was sitting on her little stool yesterday, cleaning weeds from the cracks in her sidewalk with a little trowel and a flat-headed screwdriver. It was hot and humid all day and she sat mostly in the sun. Holly tells me that the old woman has been showing signs of increased confusion and that her wits seem to have deteriorated from a year ago. Holly tells me she is nearing 90 now. I had thought her younger.
Later that same week, there has been activity. I watched her son load up her favorite recliner and some small tables into a trailer. I think she must be in an assisted living facility now. Not a true nursing home, but close. I haven't been able to speak to Holly since the old woman was taken away. I see the old woman's children come and go from the house, getting the mail and such. I think that perhaps this time she will not return.
Aging and death are all an inevitable part of life, but I cannot help but be a little sad. The old woman had run that house on her own for years, nearly twenty of them since her husband died. I know its not in her best interest to live alone anymore. Clearly, she's to the point where she needs someone to look after her, lest she suffer on the floor for days after a fall. But to witness the inevitable changes makes me sad.
We come into this world with nothing. All of our lives we gather things and people around us. At some point we peak. We have friends and families and the material we desire, often much more than we need on the possessions side. Then we age. Friends and family slowly dwindle, death and distance taking its toll. We begin to consolidate our possessions. But what we have we cling to fiercely, as it represents our independence. Then we become feeble, in the body, in the mind, or both. We die as we were born, without that which to call our own, taken care of by others.
I wish the old woman well. I hope that where ever she ends up, she is happy. I doubt I will see her living alone in that house again. It has been painful to watch her change. I fear for myself, I fear for my parents, my friends and my relatives. I know these changes will come for all of us.
But in that there is also a drop of wisdom. In that I can see this: Live happily, and try to regret nothing. I must enjoy all the time I am given. To let the fear eat me up inside will waste this brief consciousness I have. So for the old woman, for myself, and for those I know and for those I love, I push on. With a smile.
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