The Engineer Dances with Aunt Rene

After moving to the assisted living facility, Aunt Rene began to collect empty boxes – and salt packets and bananas and empty envelopes and napkins, but I’m focusing on the boxes right now. A new resident would move in, and Aunt Rene would be a good neighbor and offer to take the empty boxes off their hands. Deliveries were made to the kitchen or housekeeping staff, and Aunt Rene happily took the boxes from the hall to her room.

I asked her once, “Aunt Rene, what do you need all these boxes for?”

“Well, Darlin’, you just never know when you’re going to need a good box,” was her answer.

Like most people who are moved to a nursing home or assisted living facility, Aunt Rene refused to believe it was unsafe for her to live alone. She never came right out and called us liars, but she never believed us when we told her about the stove catching on fire when she forgot to turn it off or how she took her morning tablets after waking up from every nap during the day. Every visit with Aunt Rene was filled with pleas for us to take her home . . . or at least to take her to the liquor store to get some “real good ‘n strong” boxes.

Some people have attics and garages and basements filled with boxes of unfulfilled dreams, unexpressed longings, undisclosed desires, and unresolved issues. Aunt Rene had a corner of her small assisted living apartment filled with empty boxes that weren’t really empty. Every box in her collection was filled with hope.