I drove out to visit my Great Aunt Anne today. She is 88 years old and is still living on her own. For that last few years, her situation has been less than ideal, but workable. However, these days it’s not going well. She’s essentially stranded in a suburban ranch house with nothing around but neighbors and a private day school. She does still have a car but can’t drive anymore because her driver’s license expired and she knows that the DMV won’t give her another one. She’s right too, her macular degeneration has gotten so bad that she can hardly see. It seems to be a moot point anyway, as the last time she tried to turn on the car’s engine, the battery was dead and she doesn’t have the problem-solving skills to figure out how to get it charged or replaced.
There are other signs that she is struggling more with living on her own than she used to. In the past she was always thrilled to see me and would chat on for hours about the past, the mistakes she made in her life, her hatred for President Bush and why she doesn’t believe in god. This time, we chatted for about half an hour before she turned the TV on because it was time for “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” It was shocking to see how much she has withdrawn into television.
The saddest moment of the visit was towards the end. I had my coat on and was fishing in my pocket for my car keys. As I grabbed them I said, “Okay, I’ve got my keys.” This phrase sent Aunt Anne into a panic and she said, in a wobbly voice that sounded near to tears, “Where are my keys?” She began patting her pockets and started walking around the house. She said, “Honey, please help me find my keys!”
I asked her if she was planning on going anywhere and she said no, but she still wanted to have her keys. Eventually she found them and flopped into an armchair with a thump. I leaned over, gave her a kiss and said, “I love you Aunt Anne, I’ll talk to you soon.” And then I left.