I think I have hit the wall. I’m seriously considering throwing in my beach towel and moving to the Villages in Florida. I’ll find a one-bedroom place that’s so small, even a box of tissues won’t fit. It’ll only have room for one of those little packages that you slip into a purse. A really small purse, like a wristlet.
If you listen carefully to people of a certain age who talk about downsizing, what they are really saying is “We are going to find a place where there is no room for the kids or anyone else to come and stay indefinitely.”
My mom used to say that company was like fish. “After three days, they both begin to stink.” The other day I heard a man say that about his kids. I just looked down and shuffled my feet. I didn’t dare tell him and his wife about my current situation.
Instead, I said something like "Well, grandkids are always fun. I get to babysit my 2-year-old granddaughter a lot."
“Yeah, but then you get to send her back home.”
"Well, not really. They are home. My daughter and baby both live with me." The words just escaped from my mouth, like the fizz that bubbles out when you open a soda can.
I actually heard them gasp as their faces froze, their mouths agape. The color went out of the husband’s face.
"Well, at least I won’t have to get one of those Life Alert necklaces in case I do something stupid, like get my arm stuck in the laundry chute again," I chuckled.
That’s actually what I was thinking about six months ago when two of my three adult children needed to move back in. Temporarily, they said. My oldest is up to his ears in college debt, and my daughter is a single mom who needs to get on her feet.
Yet, when I fell out of bed the other night my daughter slept through it, and my son said he heard a loud thump but nothing afterward so he didn’t think anything of it.
"I could have hit my head and knocked myself out. That has happened before," I reminded them, pointing at the scar on my forehead.
“Well, how did you fall out of bed, mom?” my son asked, with what I took to be a tone a tad judgmental.
"I realized I had a full glass of water on my nightstand, which is on my right side. I was afraid I might knock it over in the night so I tried to move it with my left hand and when I did, I knocked it over and onto my iPhone and iPad, which is exactly what I feared would happen. My reflex was to grab for the tipping glass but I was wrapped up in the sheet so only the top half of my body fell out of bed. My head hitting the floor is the thump you heard and what you slept through," I whined, showing the bump on my forehead to them both.
"See it? It’s to the right of the scar."
"I was really hoping to get more out of this whole 'Three Adults and a Baby' thing besides help with the trash and utilities. Maybe I will have to get one of those Life Alert necklaces after all.
"I can see it now. 'Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up and none of my kids will come and check on me.' That’s what I’m going to tell the operator when I press that little red button."
The fact of the matter, though, is this situation is hard on all of us. I know neither of them really want to be living with their mom and my “Senior Bachelorette Pad” is littered with diapers, juice boxes and toddler toys.
It’s also good. It’s allowed me to spend more time around them and witness what fine adults they have become and what a good mother my daughter is.
And they have realized that their mom is vulnerable and she won’t be around forever. That death is a part of life.
We witnessed that once again earlier this month when I had to put down my best friend and companion of 8 years, my beloved Chico, whose character qualities far surpassed those of many humans. I liked to joke that he was a German Shedder, not a German Shepherd which I believe to be the noblest of breeds.
I don’t know who wrote this but nothing describes him better.
“God said, ‘I need someone strong enough to work, brave enough to fight crime and find bombs, yet gentle enough to lead the blind, play with children and love a family. Someone with eyes to lift the spirits of a broken heart or the look that will strike fear in a criminal.’ So God created the German Shepherd.”
On a cool, golden sunlit September evening, I sent him back to God.
The degenerative myelopathy had ravaged his body quickly and as much as I wanted him to be with me forever, I just couldn’t watch him suffer. Even in his final week, he tried to guard my granddaughter, my house and me. In fact, I’m sure had he been alive the night I fell out of bed, he would have dragged himself to be by my side.
On Sept. 5, he told me it was time when he laid on his bed with his back to me and facing the wall. I think it’s the first time he took his eyes off me in 8 years.
I sat next to him and fed him his favorites, steak and popcorn, and reminded him of all the adventures we had had together. When it was time, my son picked him up and put him in the car.
Once inside the vet’s office, my son held me as I held Chico’s head in my hand, petting him and telling him what a wonderful best friend he’d been, how thankful I was to have had him in my life and how I will never, ever forget him. Over and over, I talked to him until he took his last breath. Then, I couldn’t stop the tears nor did my son stop holding me. I am so grateful he was there.
Life is awful sometimes but life is beautiful, too. In the end, it’s our memories that make it all worthwhile. The ups and the downs and the family and friends who help us through it. And of course, the pets who are our family.
You know, I don’t think I’ll move to that tiny condo in the Villages after all. There wouldn’t be enough room to make more memories, let alone have a dog.