I got back yesterday evening after a few days with my aunt, who lives near Oxford. I was going last Thursday but to be honest I was tired and it was so hot and there was no breeze at all and I just couldn't face a couple of hours in a tin can driving up there.
As it was on the Friday I had a call about 8am from my aunt saying that she was going to call the paramedics as she thought she might be having a stroke. As it turned out she was right, but luckily it was only a mini-stroke and they didn't need to keep her in as I was going to be there for the next 5 days. She was very tired, and I think it is partly from being rather dehydrated because of the recent burst of really hot weather - for England this summer at least. She has never been a great one for drinking during the day and I think this has caught up with her. She has been advised to take 75mg Asprin daily to help to avoid a repeat and I made sure that she drank and had soups etc to keep her fluids levels up.
However I refuse to make her into an invalid when she can still manage on her own, though maybe it is time she gave some serious thought to moving, or at least adapting the house so she can live downstairs. The thing is that my aunt doesn't realise how fit she actually is for an 88 year old! She was a games teacher and a professional gardener; in her younger days she played county grade hockey and it is only in the last few years that she has begun to have a few more problems with doing things. Her once perfect 1 acre+ size garden now has weeds, or is a wildlife sancturary depending on your point of view. I told her that I am trusting her to be sensible, but I am not going to stop her doing things she enjoys ... within reason. No aunt, you can't get the step ladder out to get the apples from the top of the tree. What will be, will be. If she goes I hope it is with a bang; suddenly, quickly and final. She would loath the very idea of being dependent and having to rely on others. If she were 38 it would be another matter, but she is 88. There should be no stopping her doing what she wants to do.
It is the same approach that I took with her sister, my mother. I intervened when necessarily and eventually took over doing the garden and most of the house work, but despite severe arthritis I wasn't going to stop her doing things. Although her death 23 years ago was a great shock to the rest of us, for her it was the perfect time to go and over the years I have taken great comfort from that. The arthritis was starting to impact on her life, her ability to walk, to hold cards to play Bridge with her friends, and to embroider and sew. She went out with a bang, though she was only 68, which is compared to her older brothers who died when they were 90 and 97, and her 88 year old little sister.
I suppose that is what we all want. I dread becoming a burden to others, and I dread the idea of lingering. When my time come I want out of here as soon as possible - no pussy footing around, thanks. I also dread the idea that I could die before my aunt, bearing in mind the age her brothers lived to and that I have Stage IV cancer. In many ways I know that she is lonely as her siblings have gone, and there is no one to remember the joy of growing up on a farm in the Cotswolds in the 1920's and 30's. Many of her friends have gone before her. When Uncle Gil died at the beginning of last year it was in some ways impressive that he was 97 years old, but also so sad that few attended his funeral because few were left to mourn his loss. Age is irrelevant to death. It does not matter when it comes, it matters if it is the right time for that individual. I have come to see that living in this moment is SO much more important than living without noticeing that time has gone by, or appreciating that my life is progressing forward, one day at a time.