Her son went to visit her at her house of 52 years. The sound in the bathroom indicated that the faucet in the tub was running and overflowing onto the floor. A series of events piled one on top of the other. A totaled car, candles burning in the house haphazardly, repetitive questions mentioned five minutes apart. The same questions over and over again. Hugging her granddaughter but not remembering her name.
And we knew it was time to place her in a safe, secure atmosphere at an assisted living center. Ruthie went on the tour and loved it! Lots of happy people, helpful people, energy, serenity, projects, cooking, dining, church, outings, friendship, exercise, tomato gardens; it all seemed like a country club paradise. And Ruthie told the man in the suit and tie, “I’m loaded, sign me up.”
She was “loaded” for 1970s standards, but assisted living centers easily cost $3,500 to $5,000 per month. And her lifelong savings would easily become diminished after 2+ months.
After her son did much homework and inquiring, he found out that Medicaid could kick in, depending on the facility and help after her bank account dwindled down to $2,500.
Her son, Terrence, made it happen.
Her last day at her home, suitcases packed. 52 years of living in the same house, lots of memories in this two-bedroom, one-bath house. Raising her two boys, middle school, high school, proms, watching her one son go off to college during the Vietnam War, watching her sons walk away from their strict Baptist teachings, One son, married twice. The other son married three times. Her husband of 22 years, walking out that door for another woman. One son ending his life. There were a lot of emotions in those walls, if those walls could talk.
And Ruthie teared up, this was her home, her safe place, her castle, and she had to walk away from it. She searched around desperately seeking her trinkets that were reminders of her life, pictures of yesteryear, cups, plates, clocks, all to be minimized now into one bedroom in this country club estate she would enter.
We all choked up, and I couldn’t help but reflect, all the times I’d sleep in her empty bedroom from nightshift because my little kids wouldn’t let me sleep at our home. And I’d wake up to a tomato sandwich and homemade vegetable soup and the famous Granny Ruthie’s tea. It’s hard to say goodbye and to start a new life that tells you that you are near the finish line.
She finally put her shoes and socks on — after we asked her to do so six times — and she took one more look in her family room, her favorite chair, her fancy living room reserved only for the church folk on Sundays. And she took her final framed photographs with her. Her pride and joy. Her two sons. One still attentive and alive, the other one gone forever.
We loaded everything up in the car and sadly walked away from that life.
Maybe one of the saddest things I’ve had to deal with. The truth is this is all too close to home, too close to my truth, one day.
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