A new home, the end of life.

10 Jul

Today my grandparents moved back to Buffalo from Florida, where they’ve lived the past 27 years. My grandma is 83 and my grandfather, 87. The place they moved into is lovely, and it should be, for how much they’ll pay per month to live there: $4,000. So now they live in a two-bedroom apartment with big bay windows overlooking a forest and pond. The windows bring in a lot of light. They’ll eat three meals per day, all tasty, all prepared for them with no clean-up afterwards. There are yuppy-sounding activities to do such as Wii bowling and yoga and also the more traditional senior kinds, Bingo and matinee movie showings. Books fill the second-floor library, even including the latest editions of magazines such as National Geographic. My grandma asked immediately if they had any art classes, and they do, every other week. She paints watercolor and is good at it, too. Art books fill one whole shelf in the library, and when I showed her, she was excited, especially about the two on watercolors. The place is clean—sparkling even—and the staff is friendly, not the cheesy fake friendly but the genuine kind.

My grandparents lived independently far past the age many do. They are lucky. They had 27 years of blissful retirement living in a 2,000 square foot home in Melbourne Shores, where they could walk in one direction to the ocean or in the other to the Saint Lawrence River. They always believed in giving, my grandma holding the philosophy that people don’t need you but you need people, and so made many friends. My grandpa, Sheldon, got a fire company up and going in Melbourne. My grandma made improvements to the beach. But recently, it got to where they needed more help than they were getting in their big Florida home. They needed assisted living, needed to be close to family, not 2,000 miles from them. My grandma, who was never good with cooking food to begin with, began accidentally making my grandpa sick from feeding him old food. Sometimes she left the burner on the stove on. It was becoming hazardous. Though physically strong for her age, she is forgetting things now. Things need to be explained again and again. My grandpa is the opposite: frail, yet sharper mentally than some men half his age. I guess they each make up for what the other lacks.

But even money cannot gloss over the sadness that is a place where people go to spend the end of their life. You can write out fancy menus and provide an exercise room and big bay windows, all designed to make life exceptionally comfortable and yet still stimulating, but that doesn’t hide anything really. The people you see there are nicely dressed, hunched over, frail, many with walkers, a few with wheel chairs. This is the best money can buy them to spend the last years of their lives. If these people are anything like my grandparents, they lived full, happy ones. My grandfather held a very good job as a manager at General Mills cereal company in Buffalo. My grandmother raised three daughters and did antiquing on the side. For her 60th birthday, she went skydiving. That’s just the kind of person she is. Life is shrinking now, smaller and smaller, but at least now family is only a short drive away. At the airport, my brothers and I held up signs, “Welcome Home Granny and Grandpa!” My grandma gave me a big hug, and it wasn’t hard to see the tears in her eyes.

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One Response to “A new home, the end of life.”

  1. Grayquill July 11, 2011 at 4:57 am #

    I hope you have adopted that core value of service, I know I would like to adopt it a bit more. Aging does make the world smaller – good post.

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