Invincible Mary

It’s time for an update on the continuing saga of my friend Mary, the all-but-blind 83-year-old lady who is my newspaper-Scrabble buddy. You might remember that she calls me daily to compare our word results for the day. She always hopes that she will solve a word that I can’t, and sometimes she beats me fair and square. It brings her a little jolt of joy before she makes excuses for my failure. Actually, I love it when she wins but I must pretend a little despondency so she can gloat a bit in her heart.

I told you about how Mary lived happily on her own in a second-floor apartment until she had a bad fall. She was hospitalized and then in rehab for a month. She recovered and expected to return home to the same set-up, but her adult children had other plans. They moved her into a larger ground-floor place and installed her daughter there as her live-in caretaker. It sounded like a good idea, but it really didn’t work for either one, especially Mary. The two wound up mostly trying to avoid each other, or battling about everything. Mary whispered her anger and frustration into the phone each day, and I tried to be a good listener. It was the only thing I could do for her.

The family began the inevitable talk about what to do with Mother. They proposed that she move to Grace Presbyterian Village in Dallas, since she knew some of the residents there AND she would be allowed to take her beloved cat Caesar along. Mary dug in her heels and refused to consider it because she would have to give up nearly all of her belongings; she was very attached to everything from the piano to a thousand mementoes of her world-wide travels to art treasures and on and on. It was her stuff and she was keeping it, period. She finally did allow her son to put her on the Presbyterian waiting list with the clear understanding that if she didn’t feel ready when an opening arose, she would pass on it and happily fall to the bottom of the list.

Then a few weeks ago Daughter decamped in the middle of the night and headed for somewhere in the Carolinas. Mary thought she would be just fine on her own, until it turned out that she had failed to sign her new lease and the apartment wanted her out. This happened because with the combination of blindness (lost the paperwork) and a bit of forgetfulness, well, some of the details of daily life just escaped her.

Her boys took over. In the space of a few days they had Mary and Caesar moved to the Village, cleaned out the apartment, and had a massive yard sale with all of Mary’s treasures up for grabs.

In that first phone call (made on an unfamiliar cell phone) to let me know what happened, I could clearly hear the shock in Mary’s voice. She hardly knew what had happened to her, and she wasn’t getting her paper and her phone wasn’t hooked up and SHE COULDN’T DO HER WORDS. She was really shaken and I could do nothing but listen and soothe as best I could.

The last two phone calls have been better. Her space consists of just a bedroom, really, but she reports that it has nice windows where Caesar can sit and observe the outside world. She said he is happy and that’s the most important thing. Her paper and phone problems are solved, so she can do her words and call me every day just like before. The staff is very friendly and helpful, and she has met nice people at the table in the dining room. The food is good and plentiful. Her handi-ride bus will pick her up at this place and take her wherever she needs to go, and she’ll start with getting out to play bridge next week. She has stockpiled 90 bus ride tickets so she should be good to go for awhile.

Concerned, I asked about her youngest son, who lives in a care facility in West Texas and comes to Dallas on the bus to visit twice a month. She said that they will put a cot in her room for him when he comes, and she can buy his meals. He can’t go grocery shopping for her anymore, which was his joy, but there is room to walk outside and a shopping center nearby. This is good because K. loves to hang out at Walmart!

Yesterday she told me, “I think I’m going to like it here. I am really trying.” I told her she was doing great and I’m proud of her, of her strength and grace.

I know this wasn’t just a difficult thing for Mary to get through, but also for her kids. They had the strength to do what had to be done, but it couldn’t have been easy. I understand that they had to make their mother safe and cared for, whether she was willing or unwilling. Bless them, and her.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 5th, 2012 at 12:15 pm and is filed under Things to Think About. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Responses to “Invincible Mary”

  1. Martha Bailey on September 8th, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    I know how hard this is as my brother and I did it for our mother. Then Wayne did it for his aunt. I am so thankful for my brother as I think those without siblings have it harder. Help from the other side is good, too.

  2. Martha Bailey on September 8th, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    I know how hard this is as my brother and I did it for our mother. Then Wayne did it for his aunt. I am so thankful for my brother as I think those without siblings have it harder. Help from the other side is good, too.