I came to visit, now I live here. How did that happen?
It could have been the pinched nerve, the fact that, on her own, she ate and drank so little. It could have been the cortisone shot in her back for the nerve pain, or the oxycodone the back doctor prescribed for her. (Her friend, I’ll call him Eli, said she took too many at once. That could have happened. The only thing she dislikes more than pills is pain, and she will keep taking pills until it stops if no one is watching.)
So she fell. Eli took her to the doctor, who sent her to the hospital. He didn’t call any family members or friends to tell them where she was. I learned because I called daily. One day, she said she had fallen. The next day she said her leg was swollen, which worried me. The next call was from Eli to say she was in the hospital with a blood clot. I guess he called me because I called her every day. I had a short visit planned for later in the month, but I changed my plans. I got an earlier flight and several more days to stay.
When I arrived I found a woman who was a shadow of that irrepressible force of nature that used to live here. Pain, memory loss and weakness were bullying her into a corner. She was tinier than she’d ever been. Her hair was always thin but she’d never let it look that way. Now it was long, straight, uncombed. One leg was twice the size of the other, the skin was dry, scaly, and had angry red patches. Eli and another friend were attending to her, making sure she got her medications. Good, dependable Eli. He was often a difficult person to be around and I did not enjoy his company, but he was always here for her.
I thought I would stay a week, maybe two, to help her get back on her feet and stronger again, to help her recover. The next day changed my life.
Eli stopped by. That was not unusual. He had a key to the house and would come and go as he pleased. He sat with her at the tiny kitchen table that was set back into the lovely bay window she’d had installed in the house many years ago, one of many well conceived and beautifully executed improvements that transformed the tiny two-bedroom “shack in the woods” into a beautiful and roomy home in an exceptionally beautiful and private setting. Eli was insisting to her that they had “something to discuss”. Then he took her back to talk in one of the bedrooms and told me they needed privacy. When I asked why, he did not insist, but proceeded to dictate to her the terms of the new will that she wanted. He told her to write it down. Everything that would have gone to her grandsons would go to him, and he would be the executor. He generously threw in a bequest for me which I vehemently refused.
How do you describe they way it feels when trust dissolves? It is a physical yet invisible wrenching, deep in that space beneath your heart, a rolling in your gut, a numbness. Then the lawyer came. The lawyer Eli had called to re-write the will. Fortunately, he left after speaking to her briefly, arranged to return the next week. I contacted the family.
The next day I was helping her pay some bills, and saw her checkbook. I saw checks she had written to Eli and my blood froze. This “friend” had regularly been accepting her entire monthly income so she was living off of her savings. Then, coincidentally when she became seriously ill for the first time, he dug into her savings and “accepted” half of it. He was always there for her when she needed it, when no one else was there. Shame on us for letting that happen, for accepting the convenience of his friendship so easily. He was paid well.
This was the beginning of what will be a long story.
You can read more from Ellen by visiting her blog at http://pli2447.wordpress.com/