She called them “The Bulletin Boards of Life”. She explained that these bulletin boards are literally everywhere– littering our lives or better yet– waiting for each of us to open our eyes to see them. Her name, for the purpose of this article, is Marion. She had a nickname which was nothing close to her given name. She used each name differently, allowing her to know the direction any request she received came from. She could spot junk mail or address correspondence based on the name on the envelope. This resonated with me. I changed to my given name for professional reasons and gave up my nickname for everyone except my family, old co-workers and for the comfort of whomever calls me by it. I was never good at remembering names without back stories. Getting to know a person holds for me far more importance than name-calling and presupposition. This woman was filled with “table top wisdom” and her willingness to converse made my work easy.
Marion kept her graceful stature within the generation of my senior. She lived in a community known for high-end retired population. The range of living arrangements were from independent senior living 55 plus, to assisted-living, to nursing facility 24 hour care. Years ago, she moved in as a widow into a single-bedroom condominium. Her move was cross-country with high hopes of starting a new life having more of her needs met with less effort. She was well-versed in the amenities along with the short-comings of the community. She was happy as a part of her community.
We met following her second husband’s death. This second marriage was built in a stage of life where marriages are rarely welcomed with open-arms by family or with reality for building a long life together. Her husband had been married twice before therefore between them there was a lot of history. She had outlived her first husband by many years already. Her sights on marriage were not of a young bride. She experienced a marriage that provided bountiful career benefits, but was filled with disappointment and hardships. Marion wanted companionship filled with differences of opinion, with thoughtfulness, etiquette and respect in togetherness. She had no expectation of grandeur. She wanted a loved-one in the home, a loved-one to share meals, a loved-one’s presence in solitude and silence. Her dream came true for a short and abundant five years.
Her dream was solid in reality. They both had families–his bigger than hers. His children stalled on their agreement of her addition to the family which this loving couple respected. The marriage happened. Begrudgingly, the children came around when Marion agreed to a prenuptial agreement. The wedded jumped into bliss with both feet. Marion moved into his larger home in this community. Travel plans started nearly immediately. The treasures filled their home. She gladly shared their world-wide itineraries whenever I made a simple request of wonderment.
When my role entered her life, Marion was attempting to process through the supreme loss of her husband. She was seeking balance of the harsh and unkind findings from his children. She found out about legal paperwork directives for her life she had never imagined. The paperwork reclaimed her livelihood originally stated in the prenuptial. She explained to me her husband’s love in the embrace of life’s simple pleasures evidenced through their quiet, practical humor of aging embedded in their brilliance of life-long learning. She talked of his cognitive decline, her caregiving, and then his transfer to nursing care when his needs were beyond her capability–a loving wife released her loving husband into the care of professionals. Daily Marion went to his bedside. She sat in his line of sight. He was alert and unable to speak. Months went by with holding hands, gentle pats and massaging his arms and feet, one-sided dialogue and music. Marion shared their togetherness–never leaving or giving up her role and responsibilities of being a loving wife despite his state of being, until his death. His children checked in, yet continued with their lives always having a reason for their absence.
Following this husband’s and father’s death, the paperwork revealed the prenuptial was changed. The care discussed and agreed upon between husband and wife was not at all what showed up in the will. I listened to Marion’s panic which was clearly sensible because her home, her bank statements and her future were evidenced to not be as planned. A plan that began prior to this marriage, signed before the wedding was now cancelled. She explained in detail what seemingly was going to be her demise if not fought.
We walked together through her fight. Having a companion whose role is to listen, allowing clarifying options and providing stress relief techniques while gained in an hour, can last a lifetime. Gathered insight from both of us by reciprocated trusted dialogue provided futile ground of research. It clarified questions and options that may not surface if one person is pondering or ruminating over such a huge dilemma. Unfortunately, during 2020’s unprecedented pandemic, our relationship and meetings were immediately cancelled for safety concerns of this community of elders. I get it. Marion got it also. We closed this relationship the best we could, acknowledging that the great work completed was beneficial for the continuance of life-long growth, including beneficial outcomes. Time can be an advantage, especially when one feels they are being taken advantage of. Dialogue helps. Conversations awaken. Confidentiality is key, so that worries of chatter never take root.
Thank you, Marion. May your life be as originally planned. All the best.
“WE must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” John F. Kennedy