Dispatch from assisted living

 

Two sisters, a lifetime of memories

My friend turned 90 earlier this year, and after relatively good health throughout her life, the problems began.  She was on her own, in a house she’d inhabited for over 50 years.  Never married, her only sibling, her sister, also single, had died a few years before.  Suddenly, my friend was being told she had to move to assisted living.  There was no other choice.

My friend often attaches sketches with her letters. She made a living as an artist for an advertising agency for a time.

We’ve been pen-pals for five years now, after a mutual friend who long volunteered to take these two great ladies shopping each week generously introduced us.  And through my senior citizen friends, I’ve had a searing, honest, realistic glimpse of aging, and loss.  The surviving sister’s mind is so active; she’s a voracious reader, and an accomplished artist who long ago illustrated newspaper ads, with a playful zeal for life.  The loss of her sister, naturally, has taken a immeasurable toll.  Imagining her in her house alone without her after their lifetime together has pained me from afar.

This stove is original to the house. It’s one of a lifetime of memories my friend had to leave behind.

This week, I’m sharing with you a slightly abridged letter I received from her recently, just a few months after her relocation.  It’s unusual to hear that anyone wants to go “into a home,” although it seems from an outsider perspective–from a younger person’s perspective–far preferable to living along.  The phenomenon of “aging in place,” not leaving one’s home, sounds so tantalizing, until you realize that it comes with an enormous price of isolation, not to mention the safety and health issues.  (My friend seemed more likely to eat candy than real food in her last years on her own.)

I share this letter in the spirit of helping us all understand the immeasurable emotions we face as we confront loss and aging… from the perspective of one articulate woman whom I’m honored to have as a friend.