Saturday, after the funeral, I sat and talked with my Uncle Robert. Aunt Betty passed in the fall of 2015 leaving Uncle Robert in an empty house. He stayed there for a while, then moved in with my mother and father for a few months. I thought this arrangement was great. He’s my father’s twin brother. My mother loves him. They have more than enough room in the house that once housed them, my grandmother, and four kids. But, of course, he had to get his own place which he did a few months ago. I’m a think outside of the box kind of guy. Why couldn’t he have just stayed there?
Uncle Robert is adjusting to the “new normal”. People are giving him all kinds of advice. I suggested he try to find a senior center to hang out in. He’s active with his church. Maybe he could volunteer there. People have suggested he get a pet- hopefully no one who actually knows him. My parents and he are far from pet people. He describes a dog as “a kid that never grows up” No, no pets for Uncle Robert. He referenced Genesis to me “When God said it wasn’t good for man to live alone, he didn’t make a pet for him.”
As we were talking I thought of my mother-in-law. She’s in a retirement center. She’s five minutes from Tywana and I. I could literally walk to her place in about 20 minutes. There are all kinds of activities. There are lots of seniors. But, she is miserable. She’s just waiting for “the good Lord to call me home”.
What my Uncle Robert and my MIL have in common is both were married at a pretty young age. Both shared a lifetime with their spouses, never having lived alone. Now, here they are rapidly approaching 80 and having to cope with a situation they have never coped with.
As we were driving home, Tywana and I were discussing this. Something seems wrong to me. I don’t think it was supposed to be this way. In other cultures, adult children live with their parents. In ancient cultures, the wisdom of the elderly was cherished. We wanted them around the young people as much as possible. Tywana has acquaintances who are Vietnamese. They don’t have retirement homes in Vietnam. Elderly parents are expected to stay with in the homes of their adult children (or vice versa- depending on your point of view). In our culture, if you’re not out of the house by mid-20s at the latest, you’re a “loser”. If your parents move in with you, well, that’s OK. But, it’s not expected.
Tywana’s mother made it clear decades ago that she would never live with any of her children. She sees it an imposition. My grandmother lived with us from the time I was early in elementary school until she passed when I was in college. It was an amazing experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything and I know my parents wouldn’t either.
I don’t really have a point here. Something just seems wrong to me. My mother has said she doesn’t want to live alone. I know there are times when medical issues make it necessary to get outside help for someone, which might include them having to move to a facility where they can be cared for. But, I just don’t think it’s good for people to be forced to live alone.