Life Transitions


This vacant factory in Galion, Ohio specialized in serving the life transition industry, until it transitioned out of business.


       A common hope for life's events and situations is one of permanence.  We hope certain situations or circumstances do not change.  Intuitively I know that all things do change. That does not mean I have to like it.  A person needs to stand up to some changes, and fight.  But there is a difference between standing up for what is right, and avoiding change simply because we do not like it.  Did the folks who worked in the vacant factory pictured above resist the demise of their place of employment?  Did they question how could a business, based upon the ultimate and unavoidable concluding transition in the cycle of life, actually fail?  Questions such as these come to the fore, in all our lives, from time to time.

         Role-reversal is another form of transition - specifically that between parent and child as the parent gets closer to their appointment to meet their maker.  There really is no preparation for this.  We all know it is coming, yet live day by day as if ignoring this truth, because nothing is accomplished by being morbid. Maybe the transition will be relatively swift.  Maybe we are in no position to play an active role in someone's transition and someone else takes the assignment in this vast play.

        Now the part has been offered to me!  There is no option, and avoiding it would clearly be a case of not accepting responsibility.  Besides, my conscience would not tolerate shirking of this duty of love and family obligation.  There is a primordial hardwiring in each of us to care for one another.  In the absence of dysfunctional family dynamics, this is as it should be.  Yet it is not an easy role to assume and no amount of reading, or movies, or anything else, can fully prepare one for the part.  We are thrust upon the stage woefully unprepared!

        My mother is in her mid-90's, and has been living on her own in a town over two hours away.  Dad passed away several years ago, as did my older brother.  She adapted well to her new solo life.  I was amazed - but not wholly surprised, how quickly and comfortably she took to that transition, even though she had stated on occasion that she would lose her purpose for living upon my father's death.  Mom has always been resilient.

          Slow weight-loss was the first indication that not all was as advertised with regard to my mother's living situation.  The previous summer she daily walked over a mile around her neighborhood.  This was to stay fit and stimulate her mind.  She always had eaten like a bird, and her slight lean stature had been the norm for years.  But the continued loss of weight, visible during my monthly visits, became concerning - as did a diminishing of her mental acuity.  When questioned about these observations she claimed she was fine, and that her doctor had given her a clean bill of health.  There was nothing to worry about.  Still, I was worried.

              During a visit a month ago, the progressive decline became unavoidable to merely accept as normal.  Mom was weak and frail, beyond what one would accept for a person in their nineties and living on their own.  Mentally she was like trying to reach someone in a thick fog.  It was obvious she had not been eating nutritiously for a long time, in spite of her declarations to the contrary.  Twice during our visit she collapsed, but I was able to catch her before she actually fell.

        A good meal, water, plus a protein drink helped stave off disaster, but the long drive home was worrisome and filled with guilt.   I fully anticipated my mother not living through the night, and if she did, she would still be sitting in the same chair when we came back two days later.  Neither scenario occurred.  Neighbors came to her aid, helped her eat, and gave her a walker to use.  The old mom was more evident when we returned.

        The ultimate transition had not occurred, and we would not be needing the services of the type of company in the photo at the top of this page.  Nevertheless, a big change had taken place in both our lives.  The child would now become the caretaker of the parent.  The learning curve would be very steep.         

         Many things fill one's mind when confronted with trying to manage a life in transition, no matter what form it takes.  In my case it was trying to convince my mother that she needed help, then firmly telling her that it was going to happen.  Another challenge was that she would have to pay for it herself, for we were in no financial position to do that for her.  This required the discussion to be a bit more delicate, for my mother would have to agree to it.  

        Where does one start?  Recommendations from the neighbors was one, and also from her doctor.  Over a period of days the plan went from in-home assistance several days a week, along with home meal delivery, to moving into an assisted living facility.  A week earlier any of these options had been met with a staunch refusal as my mother resisted change.  Who wouldn't?  All one can do is try to accomplish a few things each day.  Untangle the finances and gain access to them, schedule appointments to deal with the legal ramifications of managing someone else's affairs, along with making sure daily care was maintained.

        My wife counseled focusing on only what I could do at the moment.  Good advice, but my brain kept trying to wrap itself around all contingencies, while dealing with my guilt for not being able to be there all the time.  Twenty-four hour vigilance was not required, but emotionally I felt differently.  It quickly became psychically and emotionally overwhelming, and yet I had to press on.  

        There were several occasions when I was sure the services of the company in the photo would be required.  The delicate dance of maintaining clarity while dealing with the real prospect of finding a loved one expired upon entering their home is not pleasant - in fact it is exhausting.  Yet that prospect hung heavy and close for days on end.  It has never completely lifted, and will not until the eventual transition to another plain occurs.  All of us are aware of this on a variety of levels.  The trick is to not get enveloped in these morose thoughts, which is easier said than done.

        For my story, and my mother's, the final chapter has yet to appear, even though we all know how our life-story ends.  The plan for her is a new life in a new place - a care facility near where my wife and I live.  The house, contents, car, and everything else will have to be dealt with, and all that will happen in due course.  It is change, it is transition.  All anyone can do is the best they can, and try to look at it as a privilege and not a burden.





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