This past weekend I went to Lake Tahoe, Nevada for the first time. We have friends who lived near us in Palm Springs who also have a house in Tahoe. They sold their California home like we did this past year and we discovered our new Arizona homes are less than a mile from each other. We got together as new neighbors before they headed for the cool Lake Tahoe weather — and they insisted we come visit them.
We finally did it! I was a little apprehensive because although we’ve been friends for years, we don’t have a “stay with them in their home” type of friendship. I’m close with the wife through our school parenting days, but our husbands have only met during formal school related events.
Anyway, it turned out to be a memorable, fun, amazing gorgeous weekend of hiking, boating, eating, touring and building on our friendship. I can’t get over what a perfect weekend it was.
Until I got the phone call.
The unknown number came in while we were on their gorgeous speed boat. The day so far had included a morning hike, mooring the boat for lunch — in front of their private country club’s lake house — a $10 million house that had been renovated as a restaurant and place to hang out on the lake. Access to it is through their golf membership — although it’s miles from the golf course. Next, we toured Emerald Bay and then anchored at Rubicon Bay, which had turquoise blue water, warm enough for a quick dip. I’m not sure where the next stop was going to be.
We pulled up anchor and were racing through the water to our next destination when I answered the call. It was hard to hear over the roar of the boat’s engines, I was breaking up to the person on the other end. I finally heard that my dad had pushed the button on the device I insisted he wear around his neck. They said they called him and he wasn’t answering. Then the phone went dead. After three attempts, I got the rest of the story. Dispatch was on their way to my dad’s house.
I tried calling my dad. The phone was answered but it was pure static and garbled. I tried again. No answer.
My friends told me to wait to call until they got me to a place with more bars for cell reception.
I was shaking. I felt so helpless. What could I do for my dad while racing around in an exotic boat on Lake Tahoe? How quickly could I get a flight to Palm Springs? Why had I moved away from him? Maybe my brother was right after all. My brother has been insisting that I move dad to Arizona to be closer to me. Dad is turning 90 next year and my brother said that he can’t live alone because of his age. That’s when I insisted my dad get the “help I’ve fallen button” to wear around his neck. I also hired a friend to stop by and see if he wants her to run to the store or do anything for him.
Up until that moment, I disagreed with my brother. My dad lives in a senior community near Palm Springs. He golfs three times a week, has friends (who are currently out of town), takes ukulele lessons, drives his golf cart around, and he started a new hobby of remote controlled yacht racing last year. He’s happy. He’s active. He’s engaged.
If I were to move him to Arizona, what would he do? Sit in my casita and watch TV? Or alone in an apartment with no friends? Wait for me to play golf with him at the surrounding super expensive golf courses — instead of his current situation of getting out to play a few holes at affordable rates whenever he wants? I honestly think he’s happier in his own environment. And I believe he can make a decision about where he lives. At least that’s what I thought until I got the call.
Back to the boat….I called my dad when we were in an area where I got better reception. Dad answered. He said it was a false call. He had been working on the misting cooling system on his golf cart and accidentally pressed the button leaning on something. He also said he called the company to tell them it was a false alarm, but they put him on hold! He said dispatch had come and was ready to haul him to the hospital, but they figured out he was fine.
I can’t tell you how relieved I was. And I don’t think it’s time to take him out of his own home and active lifestyle. Not yet.
What are your thoughts about leaving aging parents in their own homes versus moving them to live closer or with you?