She has been having some health problems for the past few months, and my mom recently had to make the decision to have her try out an Independent Living Community.
It’s not Assisted Living… she is completely living on her own, taking care of herself… but she has people overseeing her medication, making sure she’s getting to the dining room for her meals, and just generally more aware of her than in her previous apartment.
As I helped my grandma unpack her clothes, hang everything up in her closets, plug in her television and computer (yes, she uses the Internet!), set up her toiletries, and try to make herself feel at home, I realized that all of the worry and anticipation and concern I was feeling for her must have been exactly what my parents were feeling when they dropped me off at college.
Going somewhere new can be a scary thing. You’re forced to go outside of your comfort zone. You need to learn to adapt. You need to adjust.
I went off to college about 3 hours away from home. I had never before been away from home – or my parents – for more than a few days.
While most of the kids moving in to college with me on that Fall day in 1998 were waving good-bye to their parents with a sigh of relief, I was begging mine not to leave me.
I distinctly remember making them (along with my sister) stay over at their hotel one more night. I wasn’t quite ready to be alone yet.
And that’s how my grandma felt today. When it was time to go down to the dining room for lunch, I could see in her eyes that she wasn’t quite ready yet to be alone.
I knew that feeling. I’d felt that feeling.
Yes, there’s something to be said for letting people go off on their own and find their own strength.
But there’s also something to be said for easing someone into a transition with care and compassion.
So I stayed with my grandma for lunch. I sat with her and another lady and chatted about the weather, the news, history, the food, family… we ran the gamut of small talk.
And I could see my grandma loosen up as time went on.
So when I finally left her in her new room after lunch, I could see how much more relaxed she was.
In the parking lot I looked up to her window and saw her smiling and waving down at me.
I got home later to an email from her (see, I told you she uses the Internet!), saying, among other things, “After dinner, in the lobby, a woman was playing the piano. All the old songs I grew up with. Some of us were singing along. I enjoyed it so much.”
It made me feel so happy… just as I imagine my parents felt the first time I called them from college to say I had a great time with a new friend, or that I was excited to join a new club.
Moving can be a challenge. New things can be hard to get used to. And whether a family member is going off to college or moving to an Indepent Living Community, we want to know that they’re OK and adjusting well.
And sometimes the difference between a rough transition and a smooth transition is just an extra night at a hotel or a lunch companion and some small talk.