Sue Ann sighed as the car turned into the gate way of the Mountain View Retirement Resort. Her son had brought her there a month previous to convince her it was time to move to a place where she would get attention needed in a pleasant environment.
This was one of Sue Ann’s better days. The past year had been terrifying! There were times when she’d wandered away from home on her usual morning walk to be found in unfamiliar places without any recollection. She wanted to get back to her little cottage with flower gardens she lovingly tended. A crowd would gather and with the help of police they’d piece together from fragments of information she’d remember general location of her home town. Sometimes it took days to get her back to a supportive environment where neighbours could keep an eye on her.
Her only child David was an executive of a multinational in a city on the coast, it was several hours drive away. He was well able to care for his Mother and had pleaded with her to join him in the city where he’d be better able to see to her needs. Increasingly frequent police contacts about his mother troubled him greatly. But while she’d love to be with him fear kept her from accepting his invitation.
She’d never accepted her daughter in law and the atmosphere was charged whenever the two women got together. It was distressing for David to walk the tightrope between them. Each watched to see if he valued one above the other which made life unbearable for him at times. But he loved his Mother and did his best to see to her needs juggling his work, his wife and his mother’s interests like the conductor of an orchestra.
Sue Ann was aware of the fact she needed help. Her occasional lapses into confusion were not threatening, but embarrassment when found in unfamiliar circumstances made her fearful of the time when perhaps she’d not wake up from that confusion. During her lucid moments she’d throw herself into her gardens and fellowship with her small circle of friends.
This had been her home for over sixty years. Her husband had carried her over the threshold after they were married, she’d raised her son here, she’d seen neighbours come and go and it was the depositary of all her happy memories. She’d nursed her husband here until his death. There were too many cords binding her to this place and to leave would be to cast it all behind and start over. She was too old for that and the very thought frightened her.
But she’d realized after increasing bouts of confusion something had to be done. David had been pleading for her to visit Mountain View Retirement Resort with him and look it over. He’d checked out several retirement facilities.
He had to find a place that carried some of the features his mother enjoyed. It would need a view of mountains, an abundance of flowers, caring staff and people who had similar interests. This retirement resort had those features and it was closer to the big city than her present home. He would be able to visit her more easily here.
The disposal of furnishings and sale of the home had been a traumatic experience for Sue Ann. She’d cried until there were no tears left to shed. David had taken time off to be with her through that experience and the local Doctor’s sedatives had helped her cope.
Those were the memories Sue Ann processed as they drove through the gates of Mountain View Retirement Resort.
Attendants materialized at the window of the car as it pulled into the entrance way. They were cheerful and attentive trying their best to make Sue Ann comfortable on her initial exposure to staff. But Sue Ann was suspicious. Why were they so solicitous? Why were they so cheerful when this was such an unhappy experience for her?
The attendants understood this. They’d been dealing with mature age residents for a long time and were expert at sensing the mood of their charges.
Registration and orientation were tedious events for Sue Ann and she trudged sullenly behind a nurse as she led her to the apartment. Sue Ann quickly scanned the room as they entered. It was just as she remembered it from that initial visit and had everything she could possibly need at her disposal.
I guess I won’t have to clean it! She thought to herself. She walked to the balcony and glanced at the mountains in the background and the little flower garden below the walkway from her balcony.
“What’s he doing in my flower bed?” She pointed crossly at the gardener weeding. He looked up and waved.
“You don’t have to clean or do the gardens here Mom.” David gave his mother a hug.
“But I like gardening!” Sue Ann glowered at the Nurse.
“You will find some small gardening tools at the bottom of the walkway from your balcony. You can use them if you like. Other residents like to potter around in the garden.” The nurse smiled encouragingly.
Sue Ann processed that thought and then brightened.
The nurse checked the room out to see everything was in place and then left David and Sue Ann to spend the afternoon together.
“I think you’ll like this place when you get to know the people better?” David looked at his mother anxiously to see her reaction.
Sue Ann thought it over for a while before answering and then smiled. David had certainly provided her a nice place to spend her last days and it must be costing him a lot of money. She didn’t have to clean, she could garden if she wanted to and there would always be someone around to see she was safe when she lapsed into one of her confusing periods. She nodded her head.
“Thank you David. I think I’m going to be very happy here.”
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2014 All rights reserved”
The photo image belongs to Lendlease Buderim Gardens
14 thoughts on “Sue Ann”
You hit on something everyone has faced or will have to deal with at some point, even if not exactly on the grounds of a nursing or senior home. Aging, change, acceptance, adaptation, surrender, memories. The 60 years and the threshold cross are touching.
Very touching! It’s sad both to see and to anticipate.
Beautifully written, Ian, about another new chapter at the end of life…this is actually something we’re dealing with with my step mother in law…she has dementia and my father in law is still going strong at 91. She won’t move out of her home and I don’t think he’s at the point to insist. So he’s looking into having someone come in 3x a week to take care of her and give him a break. It’s heartbreaking to see a loved one lose their memory and not be able to take care of themselves anymore. She has the mind of a 5 year old now…anyway, you did a great job and I like the fact that Sue Ann was content in the end…
I’ve seen those circumstances at close hand a few times. It does leave a sadness as you remember times shared in the past when that older generation had all the vim and vigour and a keen mind. Not only would one be sad to watch it, but there is also that hidden fear it may well be personal experience in old age.
This brought back memories to me of when we had to move my mom from her home to another place. It was very hard for my mom to make the adjustment but she eventually did. I have been thinking a lot lately of my own near future and where I will go if I should be alone. As always sweet Ian you have done superb touching the readers hearts and feelings of empathy with your writing. Hugs
I think we all have a little fear we will prove to be the statistic needing higher level care as we grow old. Keeping the mind occupied with selfless deeds for others and intellectual pursuits helps along with good diet and constant exercise to lessen our chances of need for high level services.
As one approaching this point in my life I empathize with Sue Ann. Of course she is one of the lucky ones with the resources for a beautiful place. So many have to face places which are, quite frankly, pretty grim. You let us in to Sue Ann’s internal conflict well making this sad story a convincing read. Jane
Thank you Jane. I’ve watched relatives go through this with apprehension, and have visited places in which the eyes of those glancing at me as I entered the building showed a complete lack of hope or joy. Even with loving children who care it is not a situation I look forward to with jrelish.
Written with great insight as usual.
Thank you Barb.
Wonderfully done Ian. I fought this battle, more than once. You captured all the conflicting emotions from both the mother and her son.
It is just as horrible for children to watch their parents age as it is for the parent to go through such frightening experiences. There is the dual concern for parent, and realization that it could be your future too.
Ian you so beautifulyl capture the fear of change. A change that must be heart wrenching when so many chords have to cut. Thank you.
I’ve watched that happen with a few elderly people. They need a lot of help and understanding as they go through that frightening experience.