Until a few months ago, my mother-in-law lived alone in the Brooklyn apartment building she’d owned for 40 years—“alone” only in a manner of speaking.
Over the years, her sons or daughters occupied two or three of the other apartments in the building; now, one son lives above her and another lives next door. Both look in on her several times a day.
At 97, Mama’s sense of humor is still sharp. Up until recently, she knew to the penny how much money was in her bank accounts. So when she forgets that she’s asked one of us the same question three times in 30 minutes, we all understand. She uses a walker to get around and still never misses a shower, wedding, or other family event. A few months ago, 40 of us celebrated her birthday at a Chinese restaurant, at her request.
As her frailty became more obvious over the last year, we hired an attendant to look after her during the day. At night, one of her sons would usually have dinner with her (often, Mama cooked the meal herself), or her daughter would come by with groceries and prepared several meals for the week. We created a rotating schedule so that one of us stayed with her over the weekends.
But still, we worried. She’d nap much of the day, she kept the lights off (her thriftiness is a family legend) and she seemed to lose the zest for life that was her hallmark. Another hallmark? Her stubbornness. She adamantly refused to move in with any of us, despite the fact that several of us have homes perfectly set up to accommodate her. Continue reading