Preparing for the ‘Senior Jail’ Chapter 2

Carol and Carol Voss hold hands | Photo provided by Carol Voss

For 34 months, Carol Voss nursed her husband through an illness that ended with his death on June 19. Now after more than 60 years, she is on her own. Over the past couple of years, she turned to Facebook to describe her confrontations with aging, with sickness, with death, and the interminable bureaucracy that faces grieving family members. Using social media as her diary, she openly shares her fears, her gratitude, her random observations and her wicked humor.

With her permission, Voices of Monterey Bay is sharing passages from her Facebook page in diary form. The following is Part Two of a three-part series (read Part One here).

By Carol Voss

Aug. 2 On my mind is to tell all of you that if you have the luxury of time to face the reality of the impending death of a spouse as we did, check with the legal beagles and bean counters to get your estate in order. Even with all the ducks in a row, the simplest of stuff can be crazy. Know the SSNs and addresses of all your kids who will now become beneficiaries. The paperwork is unreal.

Aug. 4 — Things might be moving too fast, which is good and bad. The senior jail has three openings at the end of the month. Now the house needs to be put up for sale which most likely will not sell overnight, and then be emptied out with estate people who may or may not think my shit is worth their time or effort to deal with. Maybe PG&E can just start a fire or blow up the place and save us the trouble.

Aug. 6 Progress! A friend who manages the thrift shop for a local hospital came out this morning and we thinned out a ton of my clothes (there’s another ton or two to go), all my movie videos and cassette tapes, jigsaw puzzles, lots of books. There’s still many more book shelves to go. It was emotionally exhausting but very, very satisfying. We’ve only just begun but it is a good sign!

Aug. 6 — It was three years ago this week that we took our cross-Canada trip on the Via Canadian train prestige class from Vancouver to Toronto with our dearest friend Molly Green. And on that Monday he went to the doctor to be x-rayed for his terrible cough and night sweats. And then the world changed …

Aug. 9 Son and daughter are signing dear old Mom into the senior jail. The goal is to be moved in by Oct. 1. Life is going to be very interesting between now and then, I am sure!

Aug. 10 And so it has begun — picking at the carcass of a 3,000 square-foot house full of stuff as the kids begin to take things they want that I am not going to be able to cram into the 600-square-foot cell in the senior jail. I keep thinking of the wisdom of Thoreau — simplify, simplify, simplify. Onward. The journey continues.

Aug. 12 — On my mind is the reality that as an 82-year-old recent widow I have to relocate to a safe and secure venue near to family and friends where we were born and raised, and Carl was still here when we wrote the deposit check to the Atrium in San Jose — Brookdale as it is called now.

Aug. 17 August 17 seems to be sorta like the Ides of my life. I was born on June 17, our daughters were born on May 17, Carl accidentally cut off his middle toe on August 17 and my left breast departed my body on August 17. And today I got the keys to my new kingdom.

Aug. 17 Musing on the incredible amount of stuff we all have in our houses and where the hell is it going to go when we have to downsize. Who among our kids gives a shit about it or have a place to put it if they get it. Look around your digs and ask realistically who might want something, who has a place to put it, who cares? Estate sale might find someone but my best guess is it’s dumpster time. Reality!

Aug. 19 — This downsizing effort is becoming more and more attractive as I see my kids take stuff that means something to them and put them in their homes — and it doesn’t make me sad at all. We had a great life and amassed far more than we should have, enjoyed it, and now it is time to let others enjoy it. Glad we could do it. But it is definitely stressful to manage the distribution, so to speak.

Aug. 20 — Okay, someone is coming here tomorrow to deal with the “transition moving” to the senior jail in San Jose. Our son is the point person, for which I am incredibly grateful. Because you know what? There is no way in hell that I could deal with any of this right now. Our son is a genius and a godsend! I am beyond blessed!

Aug. 21 It’s sorta nice to get old, widowed, semi-senile and have your kids take over and get you outta here and into the new digs.

Aug. 27 — The juggernaut is speeding up; son says it looks as if I will be moving to Brookdale on Friday the 13th. That’s a tad worrisome date but I guess I just cross my fingers and go with the flow.

Aug. 30 — Looks like two weeks from tonight I will be in my new digs. Gotta think about this a bit …

Sept. 1 — Tonight’s muse is that, as Carl would put it, I have been sitting here in my anxiety cocoon chair on my frigging ass and letting our wonderful caregivers wait on me. Two weeks from now I am going to be in the senior jail cell by myself.

Sept. 4 Based on the flurry of emails between my son and the jail and our daughter and people delivering stuff to my cell, I think the planning and logistics have exceeded Ike’s plans for D-Day in ‘44. And he didn’t have internet and iPhones!

Sept. 5 Just to clarify about my move to what I snarkily call my cell 383 in Brookdale Senior Living in San Jose … Carl and I are natives of San Jose and lived there all our lives until this 20-year hiatus to Prunetucky in 1999 to be near his beloved Point Lobos and our subsequent years as volunteers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the gardens of La Mirada and the Steinbeck Center in Salinas. I am going back home — our two daughters are there as are many lifetime friends. Carl and I planned this move together with our kids the week before he left and I wrote the deposit check to Brookdale on my birthday when he was still aware. This is not a hasty decision but my family has just made sure it would happen as quickly as possible, which is fine with me. Yes, it may seem fast, but what am I waiting for?

Sept. 6 — Bid a sad adieu today to our Rosa who has been cleaning our house every two weeks for well over 10 years. I will recommend her to whomever buys the house.

Sept. 10 In the medical field there are three words — asymptomatic, idiopathic and iatrogenic — all of which mean we don’t have a f-ing clue what’s the matter with you. At about 6 a.m. I woke up very weak and shaky and unable to walk — and thinking I was having a hypoglycemic attack like I had three or four years ago. So by 8:45 a.m. I was … in the ER and at 2:45 I was sprung after batteries of blood and urine tests, chest X-ray, CAT scan of abdominal area and needle bruises galore which showed no medical anomaly culprits. In addition to possibly being dehydrated, the anxiety issues seem to be a good part of the problem so we are trying a low dose of Clonazepam. I stopped the cannabis tincture a month ago as I thought correctly that it tended to raise my blood pressure. At any rate, we avoided having to make any changes to the moving plans and all systems are still go. Just one more strange interlude in these upside-down days.

Sept. 11 Since June 4 we have had the luxury of full-time caregivers for Carl and then at his and our kids’ insistence, I have kept them until the grand exodus to the senior jail this Friday. William has come for one shift and Lupe the other shift. So tonight is William’s last shift and Lupe says she will stay Friday morning until we decamp. They have waited on me hand and foot but come Saturday morning, I will wake up in 600 square feet of jail cell all by myself. I haven’t been by myself for 62 years! It’s gonna be a whole new world but I think I can handle it, I hope. Keep your love and support and prayers coming.

Next week: Making a new home at the Senior Jail.

Have something to say about this story? Send us a letter.


Carol Voss

About Carol Voss

Carol Voss is a retired assistant hospital administrator. She and Carl Voss were married in 1957. They moved to Prunedale from San Jose in 1999.