Posts Tagged ‘grief in the elderly’


The shrill ring of the phone slices through my quiet
and the somber voice on the line roots me to the ground.
“Annie is gone.”
His words echo through the wire.

Later, dread in each step,
we approach Glen’s tiny senior’s home,
Identical to those left and right,
the pain is still contained there,
not yet bleeding
through the peach-coloured brick
nor obliterating the “welcome”
in the sign that hangs.

A hesitant knock
beckons the shadow
of our old English friend.
Arms wide, he accepts our long embrace
then ushers us inside,
where classical music plays faintly
and lights stay dimmed.
Before we can ask
he begins to speak of her;
her sudden, cruel decline;
the agony of his helplessness.
He struggles to breathe evenly,
as he tells us, in disbelief,
that her first thought was of him.

”But what will become of you, Glen?” Annie had asked.
Her question lingers,
hangs in the air
like a mourner’s veil.

His eyes raw, his voice breaking,
he repeats her words, is
puzzled, in disbelief of
her bravery, the selflessness
of facing her own death
but fearing for him.

There is no reality here.

We are still life,
mere points of colour
like the figures on Annie’s tapestries
that surround us now;
each scene to remind her of her homeland,
months of painstaking needlepoint stitches.

She is gone but she is everywhere.
Glistening cabinets
display crystal birds
and delicate china ladies.
Just dusted?
The ever-present candy dish,
Newly filled?
Proud homemaker,
perfect hostess still.

On the bathroom shelf,
favorite perfumes wait,
perfectly aligned.
Her open cosmetics bag rests
upon the hand towel.
Just used?
Atop the polished bedroom dresser,
precious rings lay
upon a tray;
beside them, silver-framed photographs
are arranged with care.
Our family from a simpler time,
our scrubbed young sons in suits;
no family for Annie to call her own.
Glen rises,
says he feels such thirst
and walks into the kitchen.
“Do you like yogurt?” he asks.
Cups of yogurt, her last attempt at food,
are stacked upon the shelf.
”Please take some home,” he says.
But instead I stare
at the open door
where fuzzy fridge magnets still reside,
and I remember hours of amusement
for our boys so very long ago.


We are but marionettes
suspended in an eternity;
reading from a foreign script;
searching for understanding;
clutching threads of normalcy.
”I would try to make her a shake,”
he continues.
”Yogurt and ice cream
and maybe some fruit.
Mix it all in the blender.
She liked that.”

His hand shakes as he reaches
for a fresh tissue to wipe new tears.
And I am like stone,
sitting across from him
in a straight-backed chair.
Just reach out, I think,
do something to help
slow the shudder in his voice.
Instead, I turn my eyes away
and see, for the first time,
a framed picture of a young Annie,
flirting, hand on jaunty hip.
Tears rise at the flashed reminder of her spirit
and I watch as my husband
tentatively touches
his old friend’s shoulder.
He asks “Have you eaten?
Are you hungry?”


”I think I’d like a pizza.
There’s a Pizza Hut nearby
where Annie and I often go.”
Then he shows us the new leather jacket
Annie insisted he buy for himself
for Christmas…
mere weeks ago.
“It is lovely,” we say.

And I think how strange
to discuss the merits
of cowhide over lambskin
when life has been so altered;
to debate thick crust over thin,
to need to eat,
to dine amidst smiling faces,
and have no stranger recoil
from the shock and grief
that is worn like a cloak.
The drive back is dreamlike,
our talk of mutual friends,
innocent memories amidst
flashes of Glen’s disjointed thoughts:
”Must close some old bank accounts.
Have to write to Germany
about Annie’s pension. What about her jewelry?”
A few moments of quiet, then “They’ll make me move
to a smaller unit soon.”

And before
we can say any
of countless words
we want to say,
know we should say,
we are back
where death is too familiar,
returning Glen to his home of memories.
At his doorstep,
our solitary friend,
collar turned up against the cold,
a leftover pizza box
clutched in one hand,
waves a faint good-bye.
It has grown late.
Our long drive home is thick
with silent reflections
of life so long ago:
Glen, disillusioned and newly single at mid-life,
and Annie, so needing to love;
her mischievous eyes, the throaty laugh,
her bravado in facing illness and age,
her delight in the simplest
of life’s pleasures,
and her greatest joy:
her years spent as Glen’s wife.
And Annie’s question haunts me
as we journey home that night.
Just what will become of him?

Dedicated to the memory of Annie Stout 1928-2002











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