January 5 – The Move

by Letty Watt


“Sometimes I prayed with every breath that my children would grow up healthy, and sometimes I prayed that we just had enough food to feed five hungry mouths. When we had more than enough I thought it was a miracle.”

My 91-year-old mother-in-law, Alleen, paused. “I don’t remember a time when I didn’t pray for a miracle in those years. Oh, Lord! And most of the time He answered.”

“Alleen, sometimes I prayed so hard for Katy and the boys that I was afraid I’d use up all my angel requests but I didn’t always recognize when God answered my prayers,” I replied, as we avoided the subject of her impending move to assisted living at Arbor House.

“But, oh Lord, I’ve prayed at night and prayed at day that the Lord let me stay at home and not have to move. I’ve lived here 60 years. You can’t make me move. This is all I know. I’m healthy. I can take care of myself. Why can’t I stay?”

This conversation we’ve had nearly every day for six months when we turn the discussion to assisted living. Now we are making the move.

“Alleen, I’ve been praying too. . .”

Alleen cut off my words. “But you are praying that I go and I’m praying that I stay. That can’t be good.”

For a while it was quiet between us as we drove to Arbor House and the new apartment that she’d soon call home. Then I began to think about God and how tormented he must be when people pray opposite prayers.

The street light turned red and I turned to her and said: “My experience is that God answers my prayers with his guidance, meaning I don’t always get what I pray for, but I do receive what I need.”

At that moment I was merely praying for strength and love to help her make this move.

At Arbor House I put the car in park and she mournfully turned her head to me and spoke: “I can’t believe you’re doing this to me.”

“Alleen, we (all of your children) only want the best for you. You are lonely and scared in your home and are afraid to cook. Please give this a chance. You might really like your new apartment,” I pleaded.

“I don’t see how I can.”

Then she put out her bottom lip and dropped her head in resignation. My heart sank even lower and I asked myself: Whatever have we done?

Letty is a writer by winter and golfer by summer and last year she become a mover. The first move was her daughter, hers came second, her son came third, and before the year ended she moved her mother-in-law to assisted living. She is looking forward to the adventures of 2015 and more stories to tell.


13 responses to “January 5 – The Move

  1. Oh! how I empathize with you! When I suggested Assisted Living for my dying husband (16 years my senior) his son replied “You just want to kill my father.” “No,” I replied, “I just don’t want to die myself.” He never got to Assisted Living…..I kept hanging in there….ultimately hospice came to the home until his death.

    • Our brothers, sisters, and cousins have been watching this transition and we’ve all decided to have some long talks with out kids about our futures. It seems many of us have a similar story, and it is heartbreaking. I hope you are regaining your balance and health now.

  2. We moved Mom and Dad to an assisted living place after Katrina damaged their home. They said they were there with the other inmates and moved home when it was repaired. After Dad died we moved Mom to another assisted living place. She eventually moved back home and ultimately died in her own home. She still wasn’t happy. You can’t please everyone. Take care of your own health and happiness. Praying for you.

  3. We’ve been fortunate to have enjoyed one good day, so far. Yes, dying at home is all we’ve heard for months. I can’t imagine the grief and anxiety that Katrina must have caused for all of you. I’m an old Biloxi, Miss fan, as we would spend our Christmas’ there playing golf; what a heartbreak to see the destruction and evident heartache.

  4. Letty, this was a beautifully written piece and speaks to so many of us about parents and our own futures. Thank you for sharing such thoughtful details.

    • Thank you Martha. I will continue to write about this as the weeks pass, with the hopes that my mother-in-law decides she is happy. In the end, it seems to depend on each person’s attitude or acceptance of the situation.

  5. What an impressive and moving piece, Letty! These are such difficult decisions to deal with during a challenging time of life. And so many more of us are facing hard choices as our parents or perhaps significantly older spouses begin to decline. Perhaps we’re pathfinders to some extent since prior generations on average did not live to such advance years.We can all learn from essays such as your as well as from readers’ comments. Thank you for sharing this!

    • Thank you Marlene. I believe you are right about being pathfinders in this future care of our population. We do all we can as adult children and then, just like with parenting, it comes down to the attitude and health of the person who needs the care as to how happy they will be. Thank you for sharing.

  6. I can definitely empathize with this… my mother and I are at the stage of having to figure out what to do with her parents (my grandparents). They’re both relatively healthy, but they just can’t keep up with maintaining their home anymore – they’re barely cooking meals and washing their dishes, let alone vacuuming and sweeping and taking care of their cat. But it’s a battle to even suggest a part-time companion coming to help out, because they can’t see that trying to do everything for them is breaking me and mom slowly.

    I never want to do this to my (future) children one day. I don’t want them to feel that they ‘owe it’ to me. I want them to be able to live their lives, and while I certainly don’t want them to shove me in a home and forget about me, I don’t want them feeling that they can’t start their own families because they’re too busy taking care of me. Which is what I’ve been struggling with for the past two years.

    • This is exactly where we were a year ago. Once we found the people to spend four hours a day with Jack’s mother and her 3rd husband, all they did was complain and told us they didn’t need the help. But they certainly needed our full-time care. Her husband died last September so she has been by herself but with full-time day care and even then not happy. I think mostly, they and we are not happy with our bodies and all of the aches and pains. It is just that family is there to complain to.

      We start week two tomorrow and things have improved slightly. We are looking at three to six months for adjustments and mostly attitude adjustments. I wish you luck with your grandparents, and know that you are most certainly not alone.

    • My parents didn’t want to do to their kids like they had been done to by my mom’s parents, especially since all of us lived so far away from them. The upshot was that they were so independent of us that they’d be in the hospital and we wouldn’t know they had been until they were home, or they’d be really sick and we wouldn’t hear until they were better. I’m not sure how my sisters took this but after a while I began to feel like I was no longer a part of the family. Of course, it all might just have been driving home a point I’d already felt only not so definite. They died within three months of each other, both pretty much sicker than I’d suspected.

  7. I remember when my parents started having health problems. Suddenly I was going with them to doctor’s appointments and making sure instructions were followed. There was an inner part of me that protested. I wasn’t ready for the switch. It’s hard making decisions for your parents. It’s a hard life change. Thank you for sharing this story.

  8. Thank you Susan. I have two other close friends constantly on the go with their aging parents taking care of doctor appointments and errands. They are nearly worn out. We, too, did that but now Alleen is at least eating three meals a day, sleeping safely at night, and we are relieved.

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