It’s been a year since I visited Aunt Ruth when she was almost 100. And I have just come home after visiting her at almost 101.
I expected her to have changed over the last twelve months. (Don’t we all?). For the first time, I didn’t stay with her, not because she didn’t want me to, but because my cousins knew she would want to do more for me than she could or should.
She was using a walker when she opened the door. But her hair was perfectly coiffed, her makeup expertly applied, her smile broad and her eyes sparkling. Her home, still impeccable, the dish with cashew nuts on the coffee table, as always. The only sign that an older person lived there was her walker and the stair lift in the back hallway.
She settled into her favorite chair in the den and made sure I was comfortable. And then we talked. And talked. She wanted to know everything about my family, my work and what I thought of the world. We talked politics and she proudly announced that she had mailed her absentee ballot. Her charm was intact, but I couldn’t deny that she had aged significantly over the past year.
After an hour of non-stop chatting, she seemed to tire, and needed a nap so she could take us all out to dinner. We (three cousins and I) had a wonderful evening with her. The hardest part was the difficulty she has getting in and out of the car, but once we were seated, she was truly engaged.
Yesterday, we brought lunch to her before I had to leave for the airport. We got her to talk a bit about the old days and we had a lot of belly laughs. There was so much love around that table, yet a sense that this could be the last time we were laughing together.
When I was alone with her for a few minutes before we left, she let down her guard and told me, “It’s hard to be so old.”
Aunt Ruth is very tired, and I think she would welcome not waking up some morning. I wish that for her also.
Last year when I left, her eyes filled with tears, and I promised to come back.
This year we both cried.