Traveling with Dolly

Recently I participated in a discussion about eldercare, a growing issue especially when families are separated over great distances. If you take into consideration the new climate within the airline industry, it can just make the issues a bit more “challenging.”

For most of my middle age adult life I did a lot of volunteering with various organizations. One program I volunteered for: Becoming a buddy for individuals living with HIV.

I come from a rather small family and my relationship with my maternal grandparents was generally, to use the word politely, strained. As the years passed, my grandfather developed cancer and I was unaware that by that point my grandmother had developed agoraphobia. Eventually my grandfather passed away, and I made the decision to care for my grandmother. So I sublet my apartment in New York City for a year. Did I ever expect her to live till 97 years old? Certainly not.

About our first year of living together, I will politely use the word “strained” again. Oil and water were now living together under one roof, and I was being advised by my grandmother that, “I was going straight to hell in a hand basket” rather frequently.

The day I finally realized that I was no longer caring for my grandmother, but for a child that I somehow had adopted, the relationship took a complete turn around. She actually learned to use the words “Please and Thank you”.

I first had to slowly work with her agoraphobia, reintroducing her to the backyard. Eventually we would take Sunday drives, increasing the time away from the house. These excursions eventually turned in to long weekends and 7-day trips.

Along the way, I met my partner (now going on 16 years) and we would pack up everyone and vacation in Provincetown, Mass.

During the final years of her life, she blossomed into a most hysterically funny and fun woman. She loved the Tea Dances in the afternoon in P-Town. There she would be in her wheel chair doing the shimmy and shake, while trying to pinch the bottoms of those persons dancing around her.

I had to laugh hysterically, on one of these trips. I went to get some drinks for the group of us, and only to return to find someone had introduced her as being the oldest lesbian in town during Lesbian Week. She was surrounded and just having a blast, everyone telling stories, just having a great time.

I am glad to see the increase of the “over-all multi generational family travel,” in whatever manner the family decides to get together. In my case, I am thrilled to have made the initial decision to be the caregiver to my grandmother “Dolly.” I met a most remarkable woman, and watched her learn to laugh and enjoy life again.


One Response

  1. This is the most warm and wonderful anecdote I’ve read in a long time! Thank you so much for sharing. I intend to be a regular visitor to read about your adventures with Dolly.

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