Sunday, July 8, 2012

My Mother and Gray Gardens

This photo shows "Little Edie" Beale standing in front of Gray Gardens. The book, the movie, and the play "Gray Gardens" are based on the true story of her and her sister "Big Edie". Their home was called Gray Gardens, and they insisted on living there even though the house was deteriorating around them. They couldn't be persuaded to leave. Yesterday, my mother compared herself to them.

We had a family get-together at my niece's house to have dinner and talk to mom. She's living alone in the house she and her husband Dave shared for sixteen years. Dave was in a nursing home until Medicare ran its course; now he is being cared for by his son at his house. Mom is not able to keep up the maintenance of the house or the yard. She is paying people to do work around the yard. She is paying the taxes on the house. Dave is no longer contributing to the upkeep of the house. She needs to move to a senior facility where she can still be independent yet maintenance is provided. We have found one for her. She has friends who live there and love it. However, she refuses to leave the house. Yesterday she remarked that she is going to be "like that old lady who let the house fall down around her".

My sisters and I do not know what to do. We don't understand her attachment to the house. Before she and Dave got married, he lived there with his ex-wife. His ex-wife divorced him and moved to Florida long before he and my mom got together. Yet much of his ex-wife's things remain in the house, including pictures on the wall that Dave wouldn't let Mom take down. Mom said the other day she came across a kitchen utensil that had belonged to the ex and she felt like she was being haunted. Last Friday night there was a storm and Mom's power went out. She called me with panic in her voice, saying she was afraid to stay there alone in the dark. My sister, who lives close to Mom, went over and stayed with her. She says when she arrived, Mom was sitting on the porch and was afraid to go into the house alone. So why does she want to stay there?

Mom says she still wants to go to church and her art classes. We have offered her several possibilities to provide transportation. The senior facility we have in mind offers transportation. We have offered to drive her ourselves. We think she would be happier in a place among her peers rather than alone in the house. But she won't go. We don't know what to do. She is in a position financially to afford a place where she would be safer but seems to be determined to do anything she can to stay in the house. She listens to us, but the discussion always ends the same way; she wants to stay where she is.


Bearette said...

I had aunts in a similar situation some years ago (but they had dementia). They stayed in their house as long as my mother could keep up with their care. Then they had to go into assisted living. I think people just get very attached to their homes, and to independence (even if their husband's ex's things are scattered around the house.)

judy in ky said...

I must admit I get very attached to my homes, too. So, we will just have to be patient with her, I guess.

Pam said...

Oh good luck with this Judy, - family and friends have been in this position also and in all cases has only been resolved when the person has a medical crisis ie. fall, stroke or heart attack and the hospital pretty much makes the decision for them. So sorry to hear things are not going as smoothly as you'd like.

judy in ky said...

Yes Pam, this does seem to be the way of the world. My mom once said she would "let God decide for her" and I guess we will wait until that happens. We would like to make things easier for her, but she doesn't see it that way.