My father retired in 1993 after thirty-five years with the company. While he had been highly regarded at the office, Pop was not a man of vision when it came to planning for the remaining days of his life. My parents, had paid off the mortgage, and were pulling in some retirement money along with Social Security. They expected to turn to dust in their house.
That plan worked well for a dozen years. There were friends to visit at hospitals and homes. Church activities held a prominent place on their weekly schedules. They played Scrabble and created needlepoint works of art to sell and give away.
Then health issues began to pile up. Mom had strokes – no one knows how many – and her speech and gait were impaired. Parkinson’s was diagnosed, and a heart issue made surgery necessary. Pop developed carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists, so needlepoint was no longer possible. His vision was deteriorating, so driving was no longer his privilege. He had an emergency colostomy which was then reversed six months later. And a kidney was removed.
I flew from Minnesota to North Carolina for occasional visits and for all but one hospitalization. In 2005, I flew in to be with Pop for a week-long hospitalization. I had just gotten him settled back into the house when Mom had a heart event, and I returned with her to the same hospital for another week.
At the conclusion of each of these hospitalizations, the doctors conferred with us saying, “You can’t live at home anymore. It’s not safe for you there.” This was something akin to opening your mouth and saying “blah blah blah.” Mom and Pop could hear the sounds, but the words could not be understood. Their lives were centered on that house. They loved the place. Couldn’t imagine not living there. ‘We can’t live in our house anymore? What’s wrong with it? Where are we going to live? We don’t want to live anywhere else.’