I have a great aunt...well, let's back up. Technically, she'd be my step-great-aunt. She's my stepfather's aunt. But my mom and my stepdad have been married since I was 4, so it's not a distinction I've ever really made. Anyway, I have a great aunt named Agnes. I wish I knew more about her life, actually, but the pieces I do know amuse and inspire me--she went to college at Stanford and became a nurse, even though she was born in 1912 or something on a farm in rural Oregon. It sounds like she sort of always did just about whatever she wanted. She apparently married a real asshole and that sucked for a long while, but he was dead before I was born, so I don't have any first hand knowledge of that part.

The part I do have firsthand knowledge of is her in old age. And she was a pistol! I remember once, after hearing I'd been sick with an ovarian infection, she wrote me a letter counseling me about safe sex and including the memorable phrase, "I, thank God, have never had VD!" Keep in mind that she was nearly 90 when she wrote this and you can begin to see how funny she was. And she valued education really highly, and having no children of her own, spread her wealth around to help a bunch of us in college. She sent me money every month for quite a while when things were tight, and I couldn't have made it through undergrad as well as I did without her.

She's been in an assisted living place for two or three years now, because she's gotten weak and because she doesn't see well and sometimes gets confused, etc. And this morning, my mom sent me this email:

Agnes had to be moved to a nursing home 2 or 3 days ago. She fell a couple of times- didn't break anything though. She fell in the night and was slightly dehydrated when they found her in the morning, but she's alright that way. She just is too weak and dizzy to stand up on her own. I think she had some small strokes too because the right side of her face droops, she only talks out of the left side of her mouth and it takes for ever to get a sentence out - but it's not garbled. Also when I saw her yesterday she didn't seem to be moving her right hand. I didn't ask if she could though because I didn't want her to obsess about it. Anyway, I'm taking Thurs & Fri off and packing all her stuff up (nothing heavy though) so George and who ever he can find to help can move it to storage this weekend. We need to get her out by the end fo the month which is Sun. or it will cost another $2000. When I visited her yesterday the only thing she seemed to want to talk about was you. She wanted details on what you are doing - in college and what your future plans are. Then, it took her a while to get it out but she said to tell Grace we love her. If you could send her a card - maybe a just thinking of you kind and let her know what you're doing. If you have any photos of you and Mark and the dog maybe you could send her one.

My guilt, she is enormous. I didn't see her when I was home for Christmas. I told myself it was because I didn't have time, or because I had a cold I didn't want to spread to her, but really it was because she's old and she's sick and I don't deal well with that. The place she was in depressed me, and I don't deal well with that. I don't want to remember her the way she is now, so I didn't go visit. And now it looks like I won't get the chance. Subsequent emails from Mom confirmed that she doesn't have much time--and why would she? She's over 90 years old.

It's completely my fault that I didn't see her when I had the chance, and I accept responsibility for that. My question is this: if she is asking/thinking about me, what can I do for her now? Obviously I can send a card/letter and some pictures, but is there anything else?

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April 2012

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