Assisted Living, Assisted Life

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I think of my aunt. She can barely walk and is kept alive at her Assisted Living apartment only by the nurses and help my mother is able to afford. When I ask her how she is doing, she has a new standard reply: “I’m just sitting here. I don’t know why, but I’m just sitting here.” 

My aunt talks about how important it is to know who you are and how you can lose yourself in a place like she is living. The Assisted Living facility is a first-class place, but it is still a facility. People come and go from her room and she doesn’t know who they are or why they are there. Downstairs is the nursing home. My aunt talks about downstairs as an evil place you are taken to die. She says that she is never going downstairs.

My aunt is easily confused and can no longer manage the basic functions. She can not find the mute button on the TV nor can she focus on listening to a TV program. She needs to be told what to do each step of the way. But when I talk to her there are moments of her old self. Once we can get past her hallucinations that “people are listening and the place is bugged,” then we can have a sort of normal conversation.

My aunt never married and always lived with her mother, my grandmother. My grandmother is long gone. She died eleven years ago yesterday, March 4th. I get sad when I think that her light is no longer in the world. She just sparkled.

My aunt never had my grandmother’s energy or joy, but I always liked talking to her. My aunt and I would talk about things in the world and it was fun. She loved to poke fun at Republicans. She knew all about world events. She had her favorite TV personalities like Charlie Rose. It was always interesting to talk to her. We were liberals together in a family that is mostly republicans. She would always ask me: “Are you still a democrat?” or sometimes, “You haven’t become a Republican like your father, have you?” And I would always assure her that I had not.

Now that the worldly person she once was is gone, what is left of my aunt is the shell of a person living out the last stop of her life. There is no place for her to go. She will die where she is. I miss her already the way I miss my grandmother.

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