Since the launch of my blog, I have been asked a few times “why did you choose Leaving The Door Open for the site name?”
For me, it fell neatly into a few categories. First, I wanted a well-known phrase for readers. It was possible it would be easier to remember and I was also leaving the door open for readers to wander in as well as to share their own stories.
In addition, it’s a phrase about being open to change or reconsideration; which ties into my relationship with my own mother Ginny which I explored in this previous post.
And finally, it has quite literally been a significant “aging parent” issue for my sister Hailey and I since Ginny lives alone. Here’s the story that started it all.
About 2 years ago, Hailey (mom’s primary caregiver) was going on a long vacation. She would not be available for any emergency visits etc. I told her “don’t worry about a thing” and arranged to have my sister-in-law Betsy (who drives Ginny twice a week) take on more hours and then I would drive over to pick her up for a stay at my house. I live about 2 ½ hours away.
On Hailey’s first vacation day, however, all hell broke loose.
First, Betsy had difficulty reaching Ginny by phone to set-up the schedule for the next day. After repeated attempts, she called me explaining she couldn’t reach her.
I began calling. Nothing. Between us, all these calls happened between 5:00 and 7:00 pm. There would be no reason for her not to answer. No safe reason anyway.
Then, at 7:15 p.m., I was forced to call Hailey. I needed the phone number of Ginny’s friend Lois who lived in her apartment complex. In all my planning, it never occurred to me to ask for this.
I got it and immediately called Lois, apologizing profusely for bothering her at this hour but could she do a wellness check on Ginny? She has a key to her place.
“Oh sure” Lois replied. “Let me get up there and I’ll call you back in a few minutes.” She took her cell phone with her and called back explaining that she was now knocking on the door and both of the windows. She reported that no light was on.
When she told me she couldn’t use her key to get in because the storm door was locked, I was angry. We had told mom not to lock that outside door for this very reason. A key is no good if you can’t access the inside door to unlock it.
Lois called the police. They were going to have to beak that door down. That is until it suddenly opened. Ginny was standing there, confused.
“Lois, what are you doing here?”
The police were called off just barely before arriving since Ginny was ok. She called me shortly afterwards.
“I’m sorry that you were trying to call. I didn’t have my hearing aids in and didn’t hear the calls.”
The phone in her bedroom has a large red light that flashes with an incoming call. Since we called probably 15 times between the two of us, she should have seen that light at least once moving around the apartment. She was adamant that she was not asleep either, but that is really the only explanation, although to fall asleep for the night around 5:00 p.m. seemed early. We’ll never know.
I can understand Ginny’s irrational fear of another night visitor (see previous post), but her inside door has two locks. When I got there a few days later, I stressed how important it was to leave the storm door unlocked. The chances of needing to get into her home were far greater than the threat of a burglar getting in. She nodded, but it meant nothing. She continued to lock the door.
It became a sad game. When we left her apartment, we would stand to the side and wait to hear that click of the lock. We heard it 90% of the time.
Then, there was a storm in Clearwater that knocked the power out in Ginny’s immediate area.
Betsy wasn’t aware of the outage but grew concerned when she was unable to reach mom. (Ginny only has a landline which went out in the storm. She has a basic cell phone for emergencies, but she never remembers to turn it on.) Betsy drove over for another wellness check. The following are texts between us:
It would be great if you guys could talk your mom into not locking her storm door at least at night. I was knocking for a long time yesterday and was about to give up when she finally came to the door. She couldn’t hear me because she didn’t have her hearing aids in, plus she may have been sleeping. I was worried something was wrong. It was crazy that her power was out so I couldn’t call her.
I totally understand. We have been super frustrated by this because we have asked her not to do it, but she continues to do it anyway. We’re going to have to come at this from a different angle….like remove the lock from that door. Thank you for not giving up and I’ll talk to Hailey about this too.
I’m happy to help! I tried to tell her yesterday to please not lock that door explaining that I was worried when she didn’t answer. She replied that she understood but don’t know if it helped.
She knows she’s not supposed to do that and she can see why, but it’s whether she just plain forgets or her fear overrides our requests. I don’t know. Thank you so much for trying. Dennis (my husband) just told me that he thinks he might be able to make it so it doesn’t lock even though she THINKS she’s locking it. I would have to get her away while he worked on it. We have to do something.
After the storm, Hailey tried one other tactic. She wrote NO in capital letters on a piece of green paper and taped it right above the lock. To compromise, we also pleaded with her to only lock it during the day, but to unlock it at night in case of an emergency.
Dennis did take a look at the lock on her storm door during our next visit. He could see that it was possible to achieve his goal, but ultimately opted out of making the change. Although the need was born from pure frustration and logic, it was deceptive and we chose not to do it. The battle will continue for leaving the door open.