Yesterday MaryLou and I went to a ‘free lunch’ to hear about a program that provides in home services to senior citizens who cannot perform one of basic the activities of daily living (things like bathing, dressing, hygiene, transferring, walking, eating, shopping, cooking, managing medications, or managing finances). Well, it is true, there is no free lunch. It was a sales pitch for a kind of insurance program: you pay them lots of money and they provide a case manager who will see to it that you get the services you need in your home. Or so they promise. As the guy talked, I kept hearing this voice in my head saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
So we left the lunch feeling mopey, and wondering about how we will cope with those days when they come – the days when we can’t manage on our own, those days. Both of us are realistic and pragmatic enough to know that those days will inevitably come. We both have seen each of our four parents weather those days. And we were there for them. But … oops, we forgot to have kids! So, we know we have to figure something out, we need to have a plan, a backup plan, and a couple of contingency plans. At some point we will likely move into a condominium or town house, maybe down the road (way down the road) into an independent living senior community. But that is about as far as we have gotten in our planning. That and to say we – we as a society – we need better options and alternatives for the graying population who are moving ever more steadily into our golden years.
As I pondered the pragmatics, I eventually (OK, fairly quickly) found them too much, and so I retreated to philosophy and stories. And it occurred to me that the long and the short of it is that all that really matters is love and the love that we give and receive. The rest can be dealt with somehow, someway. And then I found myself thinking about how along with the vicissitudes of aging, so many of us fear death that great unknown. And THEN I remembered this story:
There was a 90 year old couple who died in a car crash after having been married nearly 70 years. They had been in relatively good health even the last 15 years mostly due to the wife’s insistence on healthy food, including liberal doses of bran and daily exercise. When they reached the pearly gates, St. Peter took them to the mansion which was to be their heavenly home. It had a beautiful state of the art kitchen, living room with a gianormous wide screen TV, luxurious bedroom, bathroom and spa. They oohed and aahed about their accommodations, and then the man asked St. Peter how much it was going to cost, and St. Peter, said, “this is heaven. It’s all free.”
Out behind the house was a lovely swimming pool and expansive gardens. The man asked St. Peter about the maintenance costs. And St. Peter said, “this is heaven, it is all taken care of for free.”
Then they went back into the house and the man looked in the refrigerator. It was stocked with all of his favorite foods, wines and deserts. The man reluctantly asked St. Peter where the low fat and low cholesterol foods were.
St. Peter laughed and said, “you are in heaven. That is the best part. You can eat as much as you like of whatever you like and you never put on weight and you never get sick. This is heaven.”
Hearing that the old man went into a fit of anger. He threw his hat on the floor and stomped on it shrieking. St. Peter tried to calm him down, and finally asked him what was wrong. The old man looked at his wife and said, “This is all your fault! If it were for your darned bran muffins and low fat yogurt, I could have been here 15 years ago!”
And so the story goes. Kind of makes the next life look pretty good. But who knows? There really is no way of knowing what comes next. And yet, we do all have our beliefs and hopes. Here’s hoping that the best of all our hopes and beliefs do come true. And here’s hoping that when we all get to ‘those days’ the days were life here is a bit more demanding than our abilities, here’s hoping that we are able to find and manage the resources to life with dignity and grace.
Anyone have any plans you are willing to share?