My visit to Aunt Ruth, who is 102, was overdue. Her kids told us that she’s still amazing, but that there had been inevitable changes.
We decided to take an early morning flight to Buffalo, have lunch and a long afternoon with her and take an early evening bus to visit friends in Toronto for the weekend. (More about that later.)
Recently, her children (three sons and their wives) insisted that Aunt Ruth get a walker to get around her still elegant home, and they hired daytime help for her although she rages against the “all day” part. (The help is, of course, for their peace of mind.)
Aunt Ruth greeted us at the door. She was perfectly made up and elegantly dressed as always. She had a lunch of salmon and lentil salad delivered from the club she and my uncle belonged to for years, and everything was ready when we arrived. She would not allow us to lift a finger.
But the changes soon became apparent. Although she is completely “with it,” her hearing has deteriorated, and even with her hearing aids, we had to speak loudly and slowly. She told us that she can’t taste anything any more so now she eats only because she knows she has to. She can read for fifteen minutes, and then she has to rest for twenty minutes. She is happy to be able to knit, and has sent more than 100 hats for homeless kids to Michigan where one of her sons lives.
We sat in the den after lunch and she wanted to hear everything about our kids, our grandchildren, and us. She spoke about the past and how hard it was to lose two husbands. But she still has her sense of humor, so when she opened a package from Macy’s that contained two bottles of makeup, she laughed about whether, at her age, she should have only ordered one.
Aunt Ruth had been a pillar of her community, serving on the boards of many non-profits. Now, she has only two friends from her past. One is 105 and one is turning 100. Her phone doesn’t ring as much as it used to, (Note to self: call more often) and she doesn’t get out much. On our last visit, she said she was tired and wanted to not wake up one morning, but she will live until her time is up.
It was hard for her when we left. I think her tears, were more about missing the past than for our going. She thanked us over and over again for coming.
I’m glad we did.