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The Times, They Are a-Changin’

July 30, 2013

And, on top of all the other life-altering events going on in my world these days, there’s the matter of my only sister, who is on her way to an assisted living facility tomorrow after two months rehabbing in a nursing home. She lived with my family and me for years after her husband left her, and again after he died in 2007. At the age of sixty-seven, she is twelve years older than I and has served as mentor, confidant, therapist, even marriage counselor for the majority of my life…..or, as we like to say, she raised me to age five, and then came back when I was thirty-five to finish the job.

Unfortunately, she fell here at my house in mid-May and fractured her pelvis in two places, which didn’t require surgery but took a lot of painful therapies in order for her to regain function. Her downhill course began a year-and-a-half ago, when she had a total hip replacement for severe arthritis. For some reason, her emphysema—which had been stable for several years—worsened dramatically, and her lungs have never recovered; she’s been through bout after bout with pneumonia and is now on oxygen 24/7. She has also had other physical and mental health issues which, when combined with someone who lives with bipolar disorder, have led to some explosive situations.

But it was her repeated falls which were her undoing, rendering her unsafe to live at home anymore. Now she is going to a care facility which will assist her with medications, bathing, and getting around, in addition to the other activities of daily living which we have had to do for her for some time. As of tomorrow, other people will assume the responsibilities that have belonged to us alone, at least up until the last fall: they will have to clean her room, fix her meals, do her laundry, pick up after her when she tosses things on the floor, and make sure she gets to her doctor appointments on time. And unlike us, they’ll be paid to do so.

And that makes me sad.

We’ve been through a lot together, my sibling and I, and yet it never once occurred to either of us that things would end up like this. No, we just assumed that she, my husband, and I would all grow old together and sit on the front porch, talking about old times while our great-grandchildren frolicked in the grass. Now here she is in the twilight of her life while my husband fights for his, and I feel like I’m just standing around with my thumb up my kazoo, watching my world crumble around me and having absolutely no power to stop it.

My mother used to say that the only constant in life was change. I just wonder why it has to happen all at once.

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