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Thread summary:

Club activities: cardiac episode, substitute family, common interest, support network, helping out

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Old 11-12-2007, 07:31 AM
Location: Home is where the heart is
15,400 posts, read 25,830,715 times
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I'm the Club President of a civic group that is very active in Virginia--hundreds of members, lots of activities. This is a group like Rotary Club or Kiwanis Club. We have a member named Ralph who is unusually devoted to our organization.

Ralph is retired, a single man with no family--our organization IS his family. He goes to club meetings all over Virginia at least 4-5 times per month. He's always at the parties and the conferences. He's the guy who always helps out. I think he's in his 60's. He's kind of nerdy, kind of homely, and lately he's been increasingly grumpy (I think it's because people take advantage of his willingness to help out). People like him, but he isn't Mr. Popularity. He isn't the good looking young guy who always gets invited to parties--he's the hard working retired guy who people call when they want someone to organize the parties.

Saturday I went to the district conference and learned that Ralph had unexpectedly had a cardiac episode a few days before. He called 911 and eventually ended up in a hospital 20 miles from his home. He had a triple bypass later that day.

Since I am the president of one of the many clubs he pays dues to, I went to visit him in the hospital yesterday. To my dismay I was the first person to visit him, and he had been there for four days. Four days! The only person who seemed to care was his "heart attack buddy," another single elderly man who was in the same boat. The heart attack buddy had at least contacted Ralph's neighbor to make sure his mail was being collected. Apparently "heart attack buddies" are paired up by the hospital for people who do not have families.

Ralph was surprised to see me. Apparently this was his third episode, and he had never had visitors before. He had been in the same hospital 6 months before, and some of the clubs sent him cards--but that was it.

Oh. My. God. I do not want that to be my future.

I stopped by Ralph's house to make sure everything was ok (and to get him a few things). The neighbors asked about him--they seemed like nice people, but they were simply too busy to care more than a minimal amount. They had children and jobs and their own families to worry about.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but I do not want to live my last years alone, without close friends who have the time of day to visit. I want to live in a neighborhood of people who are in the same boat with me, and who have plenty of time to spend with me.

Like Ralph, I'm the sort of person who volunteers and joins clubs. I always thought that was a substitute family. But this has opened my eyes--clubs are extra curricular activities only, a very small part of most people's lives.

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Old 11-12-2007, 08:43 AM
Location: Indianapolis Indiana
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I was warned a long time ago never to confuse friends and family with people in clubs, organizations or with whom you share a common interest.
Unfortunately we had a situation where, like Ralph, we found this to be true.
I was also once warned that people will never fail to disappoint you.
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Old 11-12-2007, 08:44 AM
Location: Old Town Alexandria
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Good post. I had an uncle- nice man and all -but he never married-no kids. Worked, worked worked all his life since he was 20 at the same job- It was a good job, he had work friends-but-

At his funeral were distant cousins (who never visited, sent the occasional Christmas card as they did with my Dad) but that was it- In all about 10 people at his funeral. And that was only because as family, they were obliged to.

It isn't just the person, how they look, it is selfishness and busy-ness on the part of others; it is important to get out and get some sort of support network. My therapist told me this when I separated- Many people lose the will to thrive/live when they are alone, especially when elderly.

P.S. I had tons of friends in a sorority-lol- they lasted 4 years in college.

You have brought up an important issue, I have been wonsdering this myself, I do not want to be an island all my life, it is a sad thing. Thanks for the post.

Last edited by dreamofmonterey; 11-12-2007 at 08:46 AM.. Reason: add
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Old 11-12-2007, 08:53 AM
Location: DC Area, for now
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Yes, it does make you think. You are a kind person. The reality is that neighbors are accidental and community is not a strong part of most people's lives in the personal way you want. Your friend sounds like the kind of nice, old reliable person people all too often rely on and use but don't particularly like.

On the other hand, my father stayed in a bad, unhappy marriage, essentially paying his wife to stay with him, because he didn't want to die alone. When he did die, he was alone. When he had his heart attacks before then, he drove himself to the hospital. It didn't appear that his wife was either available or cared very much. She married someone else in a matter of months after he died. I would rather be in your friend's position than have the ickiness that my father chose. Most people die alone whether they live alone or not. I think part of the problem is that people don't even know you're in the hospital when you live alone. It's part of the mobile society we have created.
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Old 11-12-2007, 10:10 AM
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I think that people who are in couples and have family ties, be they positive or not, are fairly oblivious to those of us who don't.
And some people simply outlive their connections, or don't live nearby and people no longer drive, etc.
People do die alone. I think it's exaggerated what a tragedy this is supposed to be, like it's proof that no one loved that person. Maybe the person was loved, maybe not, but we're all alone at the end, regardless. Having worked in AIDS hospice, I do think that people are withdrawing from this life as it nears the end, and are likely in the spiritual/emotional space of leaving/letting go. Most people who are seriously ill are not cogent or anything in the last days or hours.
I often see "No service will be held" or some such in obits. I plan to have that for myself. It's not like dying should be some sort of show for how popular you were or weren't.
However, I am still glad that the original poster visited Ralph. That was a real kindness, and I'm sure much appreciated. You know, life can be lonely. Things can turn out that way, no matter how you live earlier. I think people get overly sentimental about the dying part, although if someone is ill and living (like Ralph), I think a visit is a real gift.
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Old 11-12-2007, 11:24 AM
Location: Home is where the heart is
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I don't mind the thought of dying alone, but I don't want to go through the invalid portion of my life alone.

We've been keeping pro/con lists as we try to determine where our permanent retirement home will be. For the last few months, Dahlonega, GA seemed to be the winner. But now the scales have shifted--Hot Springs Village in AR just got a huge weight on the pro list.

Why HSV? Well, that's where my parents lived, and they loved it. The ended their lives surrounded by friends--and until this weekend I didn't think that was so unusual. Now I'm starting to think it was a special trait found in few places, and that HSV is very good place to be.

My parents were nerdy bookworm types who kept to themselves. We never really socialized much with our neighbors, and I can't recall them going to parties very often when I was growing up. All that changed after they moved to HSV. My mom joined a choir and a card playing club. My dad joined a lawn bowling group. They did a lot of activities with the neighbors--and it was a common occurence for that activty to be something like "let's all go to the hospital to play cards with Verna." HSV has a medical facility on the grounds, and a shuttle to the major hospital in Hot Springs, so it was easy to make a hospital visit a neighborhood excursion.

My mom had recurring lymphoma for 3 1/2 years. She was hospitalized 5 different times, once for 5 weeks. People from HSV were always stopping by. It was no big deal, just something people thought was a normal thing to do. I guess that's how I got the idea that it was a normal thing to do, too. When she died, lots of people came and my dad didn't have to cook for a month. For the first few weeks after she died, people called him almost every day, just to see how he was doing.

Then, there was a 6-month period when life returned to normal. My dad kind of kept to himself (that's his way). Then he got lung cancer, and when he was hospitalized people started visiting just like they did with my mom. This one guy liked action movies (and apparently his wife did not) so he would stop by to watch movies with my dad.

I guess I thought this was a normal way of life--too many Christmas movies, I guess. I always thought that people who were forgotten and alone at the ends of their lives were loners who liked it that way. People who volunteered, joined clubs, tried to be social would have plenty of friends with them at the end (Maybe that was a message I got after watching one too many episodes of A Christmas Carol or It's a Wonderful Life...)

Recently, I had amended this idea to: this is a normal way of life in a retirement village. I realized that in the "regular" world people were too busy to care, but I thought that all changed once you surrounded yourself with fellow retirees. Now I'm amending it further: maybe this is just a normal way of life in HSV, a place that may be more special than I realized.

Until now, HSV was at the bottom of our list--we didn't want to feel isolated out in the middle of Arkansas. Plus, the summers are hot and the insects are fierce. But maybe it's the isolation that makes it such a warm place--people HAVE to become a giant family for each other.

I dont know, I'm sorta thinking aloud here. This is too recent, I'm still processing a paradigm shift that occurred after visiting Ralph. It will be ineteresting to see how it all turns out.
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Old 11-12-2007, 01:06 PM
Location: Lovelock, NV - Anchorage, AK
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My husband and I were driving by a church where funeral services were being held, it's was a massive amount of people there. the gentlemen that died was a prominent business owner.

As we were passing by I expressed to my husband that when I die there won't be a large number of people there but the people there will be quality people.

He then told me that my best friend would be too busy to attend he didn't mean anything bad about only that she is so busy.

So I called her and ask, not only will she attend she started crying at the thought of it and we started visiting more and more and we talk at least once a week now.
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Old 11-12-2007, 02:17 PM
528 posts, read 2,231,866 times
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Originally Posted by normie View Post
Recently, I had amended this idea to: this is a normal way of life in a retirement village. I realized that in the "regular" world people were too busy to care, but I thought that all changed once you surrounded yourself with fellow retirees. Now I'm amending it further: maybe this is just a normal way of life in HSV, a place that may be more special than I realized.
I wonder if retirement villages in general are that way, or perhaps HSV is a special place. Sounds like they have some wonderful folks there !
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Old 11-12-2007, 08:09 PM
Location: Forests of Maine
30,687 posts, read 49,469,539 times
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As adults my wife and I have never lived in any one place for more than three years, always being transferred to new locations, and never meeting anyone or making friends with anyone who was not also just in the location for more than a three year tour of duty.

Now in my retirement, we are seeing that we know, nobody.

We had our 25th anniversary, alone.

My wife has had three heart attacks, and for each one I have called her sister, and I have gone to her bedside each day that she has been in the cardiac ward. But what else to do?

My siblings will not break away from their lives to concern themselves.

So here we are, living in our retirement. And as we age and eventually die, what else is to be done?
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Old 11-13-2007, 08:57 PM
Location: Lake Norman, NC
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I often think about this as well. We too have moved frequently; eight times in our 23 years together. I guess that may be the main reason why we haven't put down roots and established a network of close friends in the last few years.

The bright side is that I'm married to my best friend. As long as we have each other, we're in good shape. I don't look forward to what will happen when one of us passes.
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