Saturday, May 14, 2022

Feeling trapped

I've been painting fish for several weeks in my daily art project.  Since fish live in water, and since I am intrigued by the washy effects of wet-into-wet painting, I've been doing a lot of experimenting with making the fish blurry, as though seen through the water.

I've enjoyed this series, although I think it's about to end, because I have other ideas to explore.  But a strange thing happened with the fish this week.

We have been tied up in organizing a family transition, as my sister-in-law is going to move across the country from a single-family home on a multi-acre lot in the exurbs to a senior living center here in Kentucky.  We are her closest family, and it's time for her to come to where we can support and help her.

We visited four, count 'em, four places yesterday, which is at least one too many, if you're planning a similar emdeavor.  But fortunately, we found one that looked pretty good, and this morning we went back for a second look and more gory details.  I think this is going to happen -- as soon as the minor tasks of selling a house and moving across the US can be worked out.  Things will be better for everybody once it's done; just the doing will be hell on wheels.

So back to my fish.

I was going to be the get-it-done, voice of reason on yesterday's expedition.  I was familiar with three of the places we visited, because two dear friends, now dead, had lived there.  I had set foot in these three establishments dozens or scores of times.  I knew that my husband and his sister were emotionally fraught by this task, so I was going to be the one who would guide and evaluate with a slightly more objective and detached view.

But as the day wore on, I found myself un-detached, and unexpectedly feeling trapped and claustrophobic.

The fish told the story -- when I did my painting last night the fish ended up in a box.

And this morning, before we headed out for the second visit to the best place, the fish ended up in a trap.

I'm a decade younger than my husband and his sister, so I have known forever that it's likely I'll be the last one standing, the one who does the caregiving and the support at the end of life.  But something about visiting these places made me painfully aware that we're all getting older.

I have sworn that I will never enter an institution when I get old; instead I will die in my own home if it kills me (thus cleverly avoiding the issue of what to do with my studio and my stash and my collections of stuff that I intend to turn into art.  Let my kids deal with that after I'm gone.  And sure enough, just walking into these places -- even the best, most pleasant of them -- reminded me of why I have sworn this oath.

I think the place we have found will be the best solution for my SIL.  It will allow her to easily make friends in a city where she has never lived, thousands of miles away from her present home.  It will give her support and infrastructure so she won't have to lean on us for everything.  It will provide access to dozens of activities and lots of companionship that she could never get in a regular old apartment.  I'm not sure why I'm feeling trapped instead of happy.  (Actually, I guess I'm happy too, but the fish certainly aren't...)


  1. Change is hard work. This spoke to me. Aging is hard work. Daddy moved from assisted living to nursing home. He is 89. I live in Alaska. He lives in Georgia. Change was hard for him. Aging is hard for me. I am 61 and see the future. I finished a quilt top I started last week And I pulled out a UFO from 2006. Time to finish the UFO's.

  2. Spent many a time in these and alot to weigh. I think the hardest for me is going to miss my own cooking. No kids and the baby to all I get mixed anxiety on the perils of ageism and will I land in a good one or alone on the streets. It can be terrifying but it's one journey in our life we probably can't get around unless we're one of the lucky ones. I hope mine has an awesome activities director or I may have to step in. Good she has you.

  3. I remember getting Dad set up in assisted living, I thought no cooking, no cleaning, no laundry, no damned weeding - sign me up! But after paying attention to these places (thinking ahead), I'm not so sure. I haven't been to many of these places, but one thing strikes me wrong. They seem to think playing cards and bingo, or sit around and talk, is all us "old people" do, if their ads are any indication. What would I do without my books, fabrics, sewing machines, needlework, and other supplies? They don't seem to have space in the room/apartment for such, and communal craft rooms don't seem to be a thing. Besides, I wouldn't want anyone using my stuff without my approval. And I really don' t look forward to all the vegetables being boiled to mush. But I still would gladly give up the weeding.

  4. From time to time, the idea of the transitory nature of our lives comes boiling to the surface. I have (unsuccessfully) tried to de-clutter/de-stash/de---whatever after dealing with my parents' house; recently the wife of one of my cousins died tragically,suddenly, definitely unexpectedly on her way to book club at the library......a fresh round of cleaning and disposal. Whatever treasures I have are things that mean something to me---and my children will remember different things.

  5. These family relocating/transistioning tasks are so hard! Your description of "hell on wheels" is spot on. Having been the one to do this for my parents and m-i-l reinforces my thankfulness for still being in my own nest with my fabric, machines, and cats.