Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Traveling Woman

My 92-year-old aunt has been having hallucinations for the past several days. She sees a man in her room, sitting in her chair, wearing a black suit, and he won't leave when she tells him to. When we tell her that we don't see the man she is pointing to, she gets angry with us, because after all, there he is sitting right there, what is wrong with you all?

Last night, she refused to go to bed. She refused to get out of her chair because that damn man was just going to make himself comfortable there, and how dare he come into her room and act like he belonged there. And so she sat well into the midnight hour, ignoring the entreaties of the home attendant, who offered to hit the man over the head with the quad cane if he showed up, if my aunt would just get into bed. My mother was beside herself, her voice quavering as she said, "I don't know what else to do." But then she had the idea of offering my husband to go over and chase the man out of the apartment. My aunt brightened, liking the idea.

So at almost midnight my husband pulled on his shoes and a jacket and went over to my aunt's apartment. He didn't engage the man, though. He just sat with my aunt, exchanging rambling talk for close to an hour, not mentioning anything about the man. At last my aunt was tired enough so that my husband was able to coax her into bed.

But at around 5 a.m. this morning, the home attendant found my aunt on the floor next to the bed. She had tried to get up on her own and had fallen. The home attendant called 911. My aunt has now been in the ER all day. Her son is there with her and so is the home attendant. We still don't know if my aunt will be admitted. My mother has been on the phone with me at work for most of the afternoon. She is worried sick about her big sister and feeling rather fragile, so I am heading over there now.

Curiously, when her daughter was still in the house, my aunt's hold on the corporeal world seemed stronger. Since her daughter left, she's been drifting, here but not here as her pacemaker keeps ticking away. Her daughter is now in an outpatient program to get sober and will soon be settled in permanent housing. I think my aunt has finally released her to her own life.

Last night she told my mother, "I'm ready to travel now." At least that's what my mother thinks she said.


  1. okay this may seem out there but I'm of the mind that there may very well have been a 'man' in a black suit in the room that only your aunt (and maybe some others who just weren't around) could see.

    life and death are mysterious things and the veil between the two worlds can be very thin - especially when one is 92 and particularly at this time of year.

    thoughts of comfort for your aunt. i hope the presence doesn't fill her with anxiety.

    she will travel home to god when the time is right - i just pray the passage is smooth - and that her family supports her in whatever trip she wants to take.....

    hugs to you dear friend and comforting wishes to your family.

  2. IT sounds to me as if she is ready to travel. Why is getting old so very hard?
    Your husband is a blessing.

  3. mouse, i agree with what you say. i do believe my aunt is seeing that man, even though we cannot perceive him. a few months ago, she saw her late husband all the time. they would have chats, even, and for her that was comforting, even amusing. but this man she doesn't seem to like at all.

    she came home from the hospital tonight, and appeared very fresh and serene as she settled down for bed. i think her day was more interesting that most, that her trip in the ambulance and the commotion of the emergency room were a mini adventure, since she wasn't actually feeling ill. she sustained no apparent damage in her fall.

    she's 92; one needs to be prepared for anything. and yet.

    i so appreciate your comforting words. they mean a lot.

  4. Ms. Moon, i suspect you're right about the traveling. she's certainly getting prepared. And yes, my husband is a rare one. A blessing and blessed.

  5. I'm glad she didn't hurt herself when she fell.

    Oh, it really does seem so very hard to be old. I hope your mother isn't spending too much time worrying. (Or you, for that matter.)

  6. ellen, i do worry about them both. i think my mom is concerned about becoming as incapacitated as her big sister. she would hate that. but she grows more frail. it is hard. we do the best we can.