Seemingly without pause, the years went by and one by one, her lifelong friends passed away. Privately, but only at my questioning was she willing to admit loneliness and grief. Hoping she’d reconsider my encouragement to create a new social life for herself I was repeatedly disappointed. Almost constantly alone, having none but her three sons and me as occasional companions, she clung to her former life refusing to admit even to herself, that she suffered from her isolation.
I was dumbfounded when she began refusing my social invitations. I couldn’t coax her to come with me anywhere, even if I offered to take her home at her first request. An attempt to entice her to fly with me to Vancouver to visit her cherished granddaughter, was an epic failure. My protests that I’d be with her and she had nothing to fear, landed on deaf ears. “No, Barb. Those days are behind me now. I don’t leave home anymore.”
“What? Don’t leave home anymore? But you’ve never been afraid of anything,” I complained. Her reply was defiant: “I have everything I need right here. This is my home; I’m happy here. I think maybe I’ve become a bit of a hermit, and I Iike it.”
Shamelessly targeting her vulnerability, I suggested again that it was time for her to move to an apartment in town. Getting no purchase there, I pleaded with her to at least consider measures to improve her safety. “You live way out here alone on a farm with no nearby neighbours. Would you at least think about getting a Security alarm necklace? Think of us, Mom. Would you want one of your kids to find you lying on the floor one day, unconscious, and injured? Please don’t put us through that.” I was surprised to get no push back from her; in fact, she replied “I’ve actually been thinking about that myself.”
And still, I probed no further. What else did she worry about? What were her fears? Delighted that we’d finally found common ground I couldn’t, and didn’t, ask any more questions.
When my husband and I began spending our winters in the warm, southern states, my brother and I were in regular contact, monitoring Mom. My weekly phone calls to her were always in the evening when I knew darkness kept her at home. One night, when my calls went unanswered, I contacted my brother in a panic. Agreeing that this was worrisome, he hopped in his car and drove to her home, twenty miles away, to check on her. Fearing the worst, I waited with my heart in my throat for him to call me. When he did, his voice betrayed exasperation: yes, she was fine. She had not noticed that her phone was off the hook.
Is this when it started ...... her mental decline? Were there other signs? Did I miss them, ignore them, deny them? Did I neglect her? What kind of child am I that could not, would not, see her truth?