Back On Our Feet

My dad, Harold Longenecker 1 month before he broke his hip.(March 2013)

“I found him in bed when I came to visit this morning.” Kathy, my dad’s case manager was on the phone, calling from his apartment during her once-a-month visit. “Usually he is downstairs waiting for me. I think he may have broken his hip when he stumbled and fell  in his room this morning.”

It’s easy to miss the changes when you see someone almost every day. It was a comfort for me to have another set of eyes on my Dad him as he gradually declined, but still able to live in independent living, just five minutes from our home. He was living alone, as my mom had died four years earlier.

We were in Florida on vacation when the call came, just two weeks after my retirement began. I had a good retirement income, and a bucket load of dreams just waiting to be realized when we got that call, which had us cutting our vacation short and scurrying back to Illinois.  I arrived in time for his surgery the next day. Two days after that, we moved him into rehab at a nursing home.

“He’s going to need Assisted Living,” the therapist said when she evaluated Dad two days later. “He will need 24/7 care for now.” She said it matter-of-factly in a nice enough way, I suppose, but I had an immediate antipathy toward her. Did she have any idea how she had single-handedly upended our world with those six words?

We always knew my dad would live with us when he could no longer stay in his simple studio apartment. My dad had been in ministry all his life and financially, he’d done the best with what he had, which for many of those years had been precious little. Now he was almost out of money and this person was telling me my dad needed 24-7 care for now and probably assisted living after that. He would most likely be with us the rest of his life, however long that would be. We knew it would come to this point, but not now, not so soon after my long-anticipated retirement – not this way.

By this time, I had lost all of my siblings. It was just my husband and me, trying to figure out how to manage. Our plan was to move him home with us, use the money he was paying for his apartment to hire a part-time caregiver. when the time came. We figured we had a couple of years before we needed to put this plan into action. Well, my husband did. On the other hand, I was in denial.

I was just settling into this expedited timeline when I got another life-changing phone call, informing me the company I had been with for 25 years was filing bankruptcy the next day. For the foreseeable future there would be no income. This was money my husband and I had planned on living on for the next ten years. There was no assurance we’d see any of it. A bankruptcy can do that. We became just another creditor.

As we were trying to figure out our next move, my sister-in-law suggested we get someone to live with us. Maybe there was someone out there who would want to help my dad – and us. That seemed a little unlikely to me. After all, they would want to get paid and that was the presenting problem.

One morning as I was driving to the rehab center, exhausted, worn out and discouraged, I stopped at a small park along the way. Out of the blue, I received an inspired idea. I believe now it was God answering my plea for help. Maybe I could find someone who needed a place to land, and if they didn’t have to pay rent, it would help them get on their feet. Maybe that someone would exchange a place to live for 10 hours of elder care per week.

But how would I find this person?

God proved he was right there in the middle of the looking. In Montana, my sister in law suggested I put a note on Facebook. From Arkansas, a mutual friend saw the message and suggested I get in touch with a home school group in our area and spread it through their network. Here in Illinois, I contacted a friend in the home school group here in our area. She had just happened to come back into my life after many years.

Soon after she sent it through their network, an email message came from a woman who was not in the home school group, but on their mailing list. Although I did not know her, her name was familiar to me. She suggested a woman in her early sixties who needed to move closer to her job and was in search of an inexpensive place to live while she got back on her feet.  We were in the right place. Did I think it would work?

Christine came to interview. She had cared for her mom and dad before their deaths five years previously. She loved older people. As an added blessing, she was a woman of faith who had attended the church up the street where my dad attended each Sunday. She said she would be happy to take him to church, which meant my husband and I could begin attending our own church together, which gave us some time out of the house together each week. Loving and kind, Christine tenderly cared for my dad and we trusted her completely.

She stayed with us until he died eight months later. My dad loved her and she dearly loved him. In fact she was the one who was with him the night before he died, putting him to bed, giving him his goodnight kiss for me. The next morning when we woke up he was unresponsive. He entered heaven twelve hours later at age 86, fourteen months after his hip fracture.

In recent months, he had often voiced his yearning to be with his Esther. And quietly and peacefully, his desire was fulfilled.

Christine needed a way to get back on her feet.

We needed a way got get back on our feet.

And I guess you could say Dad at last got back on his feet and joined my mom, never to stumble again.

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