Monday, August 06, 2018

Traveling the last miles alone

I have an elderly neighbor who is going through some changes in his life. Before he lost his wife a few years ago, they kept the roads hot. The loss of his wife took the wind out of his sails, as the old saying goes.

These days he spends his time in his recliner with the TV tuned to the channel that shows Westerns 24/7. On days when the temperature is bearable, he sits in a swing in the shade of a hickory tree in his front yard. It’s a good place to watch life go by.

His only family is a daughter who lives in Texas. He doesn’t talk to her much these days. She knows his health is declining and a while back she tried to convince him to move into an assisted living facility nearby. “There will be people your age there, and the staff can help you keep up with your medicine,” she reasoned. 

His pride and a stubborn streak as wide as the Mississippi made him resistant to the point of harsh words. Since then his phone does not ring as often as it did before the spat. He told me this recently as I sat with him on his creaking swing. 

He has two older dogs that are always by his side. He pointed to the nearest one and said, “I could never leave my dogs. They are the only family I have here now,” he said. 

He pointed out correctly that the assisted living places wouldn’t let him keep his dogs. 

I could tell he was down. 

The next day, I sent his daughter a text and told her about my visit. I asked if she’d like to talk to him if he was agreeable. She was thrilled because she’d been trying to call him for weeks, but there was no answer. She assumed he was still angry with her. 

When I walked over there, he was in his living room watching "Gunsmoke." The volume was loud enough to rattle glasses on his coffee table. I asked if he wanted to walk outside for a moment. 

Once outside, I told him his daughter had been trying to call him. He looked surprised. When I looked at his phone, his ringer was set on silence. His old phone had died a few weeks earlier, and he hadn’t figured out how to make the new one ring. 

Pulling out my phone, I dialed his daughter’s number and put the call on the speaker. When he heard her voice, he beamed. “Hey baby, how you doin’?” It was like they had never quarreled. 

He smiled as the call ended and sat up a little straighter in the swing. 

I know the call was just a reprieve. There is no getting around the fact that age is robbing him of his health, his hearing, and his mental acuity. At some point in the near future, hard decisions will have to be made. 

There are no manuals for aging. There are plenty of books and talking heads on the TV that can offer advice, but people have to travel the last few miles of their life journey alone. 

Many of us will take those steps if we live long enough. 


  1. You did good Rick...real good!!

  2. So glad to see light shown on a real, timely subject. My own hubby and his long-distance daughter share a tug-of-war relationship themselves.

  3. As children we like to think we know what is best for our parents. As aging parents we must do what we feel is right for ourselves. I hope they work out an acceptable Compromise.

  4. This is so sad. My heart goes out to this man and I am so joyful and so deeply touched that you took the lead and called his daughter. He is obviously hard of hearing and has no idea how to use the new phone to make sure the ringer is up to the highest. I don’t know the daughter’s situation but I wish she would visit him. I wish she would get 8n the car and drive. It sounds like he does not have dementia but he is depressed. We have , here, meals on wheels which is a service that brings food to the people who can’t cook much for themselves plus we have Gateway...a service that sends out people to the elderly to see how they are doing and to keep 5abs on them. I wonder if there is anything like that near you.

  5. You are a good neighbour, Rick. Unfortunately, old age is where we are all heading some day soon.
    Those modern electronic cell phones can be life transforming for old age if you can remember how to use them to talk face to face with family members or they can be detrimental if they forget how to use them. I still like to keep my land line telephone.

    A very good story today.
    Hugs, Julia

  6. So true that age does rob us many things. Thankfully I do have a large family that takes care of making sure I'm never truly alone. Glad you could be there for your neighbor when he needed it. We do need to look out for those around us.

  7. Ahhh my friend, I will say this is the best post you have made. That probably is not true (exactly) but it is REAL! I am at the 80 mark in years. I am healthy still have my wife and sons near. BUT, but any of my friends could have my name slipped right in there. You done good, no you done better than good! I know I could be that old man one day. Just to say this one hits the ball out of the park!

  8. I meant to say: Many of my friends could have their names slipped right in there.\\(I need a proof reader!) ;-)

    1. Anonymous3:41 PM

      jack59 said it all for me!! (You made me cry.)

    2. Anonymous3:41 PM

      Sorry, I meant jack69.

  9. If we hadn't lived so close to Dad in his last days, I would have wished he had a caring "Rick" living next door. You're a good man!

  10. So beautifully written. Brought tears to my eyes as I've just returned from visiting Mom. She has my sister living with her in her own home which is such a blessing. So many elderly are like your neighbor. He's so lucky you stopped by and took the time to care.

  11. Thank you all for your kind words.
    I got a note from his daughter today and she is coming this week to see her dad.
    I know he will be tickled to see her.

  12. Well done. I loved this, although it was bittersweet because my husband has dementia and the future that looms ahead sometimes is hard to think about. One day at a time. So glad you reached out.

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