Spring 2013 -- Doing the Best We Can
My aunt just died at a ripe old age. I'd been her Power of Attorney for 10 or so years because she was a childless widow and I was her closest relative. On her deathbed, my mother had asked me to watch out for her sister, be there for her, and take care of her if necessary, so I took this job very seriously, but doing it from 1500 miles away was somewhat of an adventure,
to say the least.
Now, I'm not a particularly organized person, so keeping track of someone else's bills in addition to my own was a recipe for disaster. Still, I managed to pay almost everything on time. I filed her taxes before April 15th, and I learned enough about Medicare Part D to enroll her in what I thought was the best plan. I was part of quarterly Care Conferences with the nursing home during which I got updates about her waning appetite (except for her continued love of dark chocolate), her failing eyesight and hearing, her occasional falls (never resulting in a broken anything), and her all-round grit. In between all of this, her medical team had to fine tune her meds for the dementia she started having shortly after going into the nursing home -- the dementia that made her say really mean things to me and accuse me of running off with her money and letting convicts live in her recently vacated home of 50 years. It was more than hard to see her grow so old and become the shell of the fun-loving, super-smart, big-hearted woman she'd once been. One part of me knows I did the best I could to be the loving, helpful niece she needed.
The other part -- the part that is always eager to be hard on myself -- believes otherwise. I should have made more trips to visit her. I should have brought more of her beloved chocolate when I did visit. I should have sent her Valentine, St. Patrick's Day, and Easter cards these last few years (even though she was blind). I should have -- well, you name it and I tell myself I should have done it.
Thankfully, though, as I become more and more aware of my self-critical tendencies, I remind myself to take a deep, grounding breath. In doing so, I am able to see more clearly what I did right, and that I did the best I could. In the process, I find that when I step back and give myself a break, it's easier to give others a break, too. My aunt certainly put me through my paces in the last few years of her life, but her last -- and maybe best -- gift to me was learning more about myself and how this awareness affects both me and ultimately those around me.