by A Modern Day Notebook Story
By Kseniya Kreyman, BH Wealth Management staff writer
When I first met Ernie, it was a few weeks before Christmas. I had just walked into the nursing home and was stomping the snow from my boots. Ernie’s cheery voice greeted me as he rounded the corner outside of his room. Dolores, his wife, had her frail arm wrapped around the crook of Ernie’s elbow. Her short white hair was combed back in soft, curly tufts. Gold hoop earrings hung from her ears. She was wearing a red fur coat that reached her ankles with a pair of white gloves in hand; he was in a brown, tweed suit-jacket, his thin hair combed over to one side. They looked festive. A beautiful picture of longevity. “We’re going on a date!” Ernie announced as he passed by me, waving his walking stick. Dolores’ smile lit up her face; her rosy cheeks glowed.
Their 70th wedding anniversary was coming up, Ernie would later tell me. Seventy years together! I would exclaim and he’d chuckle. How did you stay together so long! You must have been so young when you married! Dolores would tell him to take his medicine and he’d smile mischievously, eyes twinkling. There’s going to be a party, he told me. We’re renting a big room, lots of people are coming. The mayor is coming!
They were one of the few couples at the nursing home. Most of the rooms had only one resident; most of the residents were elderly woman who’d buried their husbands long ago.
A few months after their 70th anniversary, Dolores began to decline. All-of-a-sudden, forgetfulness overtook her mind. Her memory became disjointed, confused, scrambled. She was no longer able to do her hair, wash the dishes, or remind Ernie to take his medicine. Soon after, she was moved downstairs to assisted living. I saw her daughter once. Mom thinks I’m her sister, I heard her say sadly. Ernie suffered the most. Dolores wouldn’t let him touch her, refusing to believe he was her husband, convinced instead that he was her father who’d passed away long ago.
During this emotional time, families rally to spend time with their dying loved ones. Things like bills from assisted living are the last thing anyone would want to think about. It’s a matter of fact that people these days live longer, and as we age, our health is not something we can guarantee or predict. Long term care insurance provides peace of mind for the future.
In the coming months, every time I’d see Ernie, he’d offer me his mischievous smile and ask me if I was behavin’. Then he’d go downstairs to see Dolores, to give her her morning coffee, a cookie, and read her the paper. Maybe today she’ll remember, he’d say.
Though a sick spouse or aging parent may become an emotional and financial burden to their family and loved ones, Dolores passed away at peace and surrounded by her husband and family. A long life, well lived.