I take her arm and walk her to the car. She weighs so little now that even I can support her easily. She leans on me as I open the car door. She sits awkwardly, unsure of how to adjust herself so she is facing forward on the seat. My husband reaches in from the other side and pulls her toward him.
It takes both of us to secure her seat belt. He holds the strap across her body while I fumble for the clasp where the buckle end goes. Finally we are all situated and back out of her driveway.
She is silent most of the trip. I can only imagine what she is thinking. Our destination is two hours from her home of more than 30 years. We are meeting her youngest daughter, who has made appointments for her to visit two assisted living facilities.
She agreed to this visit last week. In her more lucid moments she knows that she can no longer live alone. But the loss of her independence must be unbearable to her. For as long as I have known her, she has been physically strong, mentally alert, and the proud matriarch of her family. So much loss – in so short a time. Her heart must be breaking.
“I’m as nervous as I can possibly be,” she finally admits.
We emphasize the positive. You’ll be so much closer to family. There will always be someone there with you. They take care of everything. They’ll make sure you get your medicine on time. You won’t need to cook. You won’t need to clean. She says nothing more.
She is anxious to get out of the car when we finally reach the meeting place. We are parked around the corner from the door to the convenience store. We get her walker out of the trunk.
“Let’s walk inside and use the restroom,” I suggest.
She looks at the door and then looks at me. “It’s too far to walk.” I help her get back into the car and drag her walker to the front door while my husband drives her over.
Her daughter is there. We go inside together. We settle her into yet another vehicle for the second leg of this road trip. We kiss her goodbye and assure her we’ll see her later that day.
I turn away, hoping she didn’t catch the tears coming to my eyes.