What can I say? – Part 2 | Dear Diane

by Elouise

Your description of life after you got a vent is beyond painful.  I wonder what would happen if this letter—this epistle from Diane—were read from the pulpit in church this Sunday?  Or any Sunday?

For one thing, I would wince and squirm inside.  I know exactly what you’re talking about—not from the forgotten side, but from the forgetting side.  I don’t even want to think about what could happen when I’m at the point your friend reached.  Will I be another lonely senior citizen whose options are steadily diminishing?  Dependent not simply on caretakers, but on the intentions and choices of old friends who knew me back then, yet seem to have disappeared or forgotten me?

I’m taking your words to heart.  Yes, I showed up for you in Houston.  My only regret is that I couldn’t stay longer or move to Houston!  I agree with your assessment about post-vent realities.  Brand new relationships would be almost doomed to revolving around your ALS.

But what about those who knew and worked with you for many years?  Those who had memories of you as you are on the inside—just Diane.  I remember several showed up from time to time, and that you enjoyed their crazy, sometimes raucous and irreverent company.  I loved being around when they were there.  It was good for the entire family.  Yet by itself, even that wasn’t enough.

I’m most comfortable going with a friend to visit people with health issues, or elderly senior citizens who can’t get out very often if at all.  I’ve had nothing but positive experiences doing this.

Yet I get anxious when I even think about visiting people on my own–unaccompanied by a friend. Will I be intruding?  Bothering them?  Will I know what to talk about?  What not to talk about?  Will I be able to leave in time to meet my other appointments for the day?  Sometimes I tell myself that a handful of other people are probably visiting this or that person already, so I don’t ‘need’ to show up.

Besides, I haven’t known this person long enough or closely enough to feel entitled to just show up in his or her life at all.  Or even if I do know this person well, it’s better not to have everyone descend in a flurry of exhausting and perhaps disruptive visits.  I’ll just send a little note via email or snail mail to let them know I’m thinking about them.

Sometimes that’s exactly the right thing to do.  Other times it isn’t.  I struggle with this.

I can’t remember ever being part of a safe, open conversation about the struggle.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who has these thoughts and feelings.  Thank you for straight talk about your experiences on both sides of this distressing reality, though I’m not necessarily thrilled about being reminded of one of my ‘growth areas’!

Sadly, this is your last written piece for those you love.  Nineteen in all.  I’ve loved going through and responding to them.  Yet I’m still hungry for sisterly conversation with you.  So I’m not going away.  Just shifting gears a bit.  I’ll be back.

Love and hugs,

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 December 2014