I was driving to the airport with Ralph this afternoonto pick up one of our kids flying in for the holiday and a car swerved around me. One of those jerks going about twenty miles an hour faster than everyone else. At least that’s what I told myself, but it is possible that he was swerving to avoid some bad driving on my part.
I am not the greatest driver in the world—which would not matter except that for the last twenty-five years I have lived in my car commuting at least an hour each way to work, driving kids to school and various far-flung activities. Even the grocery store is a 20-minute schlep each way.
All of which is to say, I had an anxiety what if attack. What if I was in a car accident, or fell on the sidewalk as I am prone to do (broken ankle three years ago, split chin three weeks ago), or ate bad lettuce, or was infected with Ebola.
Usually I worry about myself in these scenarios, i.e. how my life would be affected. But this time my worry was a little different—
What I was out of the picture and Ralph was still here?
[Ok I know this is ghoulish and I am laughing at myself as I write, but holidays bring out my paranoid streak and I need to get the Christmas gremlins out of my systerm. If you don’t feel like humoring me, I understand. Feel free to stop reading here.]
I have set up some plans, one kid with power of attorney for financial matters, another for health issues. However, there is the issue of daily life. If I were not around, Ralph really could not live on the farm alone. He can take care of himself about the same way an 11 year-old boy can—lots of reminding before and cleaning up after. But Ralph is not ready or willing to have a paid keeper. [Odd to think, and I am a little ashamed to admit, that the decision will be easier down the road when Ralph’s condition has deteriorated further and there is no pretending that he can do for himself.]
Our closest kid lives a seven-hour drive away. None of our kids is equipped to have him move in at the moment. Maybe with financial help from the others, one could rearrange his or her living conditions to include Ralph, but as the sibling who cared from my mother in my home, I know how complicated it can be—and she didn’t have Alzheimer’s. I don’t know if I wish that on any of them. On the other hand, I can’t imagine Ralph in a facility without space to roam or his dogs to pet or his cigarettes to smoke.
And his level of anxiety at the idea of any change in his lifestyle (not to mention grief over my absence) would go through the roof.
So the answer is obvious: I have to drive and walk and eat and breathe with much more carefully so I can live forever.