Ten years ago, Dr. Ann Baldwin Taylor knew her husband, Robert, an architect who had taught at Carnegie Mellon University, was dying.
Dr. Taylor also knew that as a widow, she would not need 2,000 square feet of space in the four-bedroom house where the couple lived with three daughters. Luckily, her Graymore Road home straddles two lots in the city's East End.
"We have enough room in the side yard for an addition," Dr. Taylor told her youngest daughter, Kate Golightly. Dr. Taylor's plan involved building an addition on her home where she could live alongside her daughter's family. Mrs. Golightly at the time lived in Edgewood with her husband, Tom, and two sons.
At that time, Dr. Taylor did not foresee needing a daily caregiver. When the 1,000-square-foot addition was built in 1998, Dr. Taylor recalled, "I was hale and hearty. I didn't think I was going to need help."
But her strategy brought a close family even closer.
Of course, Dr. Taylor first sought her daughter and son-in-law's OK.
"The decision to do this was probably the most difficult of our marriage," Kate Golightly said, adding that, "We didn't move in until Mom's space was finished."
Then, in 1999, the Golightlys and their two sons moved from their Harlow Street home and into Dr. Taylor's home.
Mrs. Golightly said, "I think my husband, Tom, swallowed his concerns and just went on faith. He was very surprised and happy at how well it turned out."
Her mother, she added, "was able to respect the physical and personal boundaries of our lives."
The striking of that delicate balance and the home's physical layout has allowed the Golightly family to keep an eye on Dr. Taylor since her husband's death in 1999.
A trained psychologist and educator, Dr. Taylor understands the value of confronting problems directly. In 1970, she founded Carnegie Mellon University's school for children ages 3 through 6. The younger children spent a half day at the school; the older ones a full day. The school still operates and CMU's psychology department members conduct child development research there.
With her move, the 84-year-old woman has developed close relationships with her son-in-law and two grandsons -- Tommy, a 16-year-old sophomore at Allderdice High School and Neal, a 14-year-old who is finishing the seventh grade at Sacred Heart Elementary in Shadyside. She's delighted when Tommy introduces his friends to her.
The biggest advantage, said Dr. Taylor, who still owns the home and pays taxes on it, is, "You're alone but you're never alone."
She showed a visitor the three steps she takes to reach her daughter's kitchen. This arrangement, Dr. Taylor said, would not work for everyone.
"If you had a family that bickered, forget it. We sit down and talk about it."
In the nine years since Dr. Taylor moved into the addition, she has had some setbacks. Last December, she underwent surgery to replace her left shoulder. While she recovered, her body weakened and her muscles lost strength. She wound up falling while she was home alone but used her medical alert necklace to reach paramedics, who took her to the UPMC Shadyside emergency room on Jan. 9.
Since February of this year, Joyce Starek, a caregiver from the Swissvale office of Home Instead, has spent five days a week with Dr. Taylor, helping her shop for food, prepare meals and do some light housekeeping, as well as driving her to doctors' appointments.
Ms. Starek's dependable presence allowed Mrs. Golightly to enroll last year in a 22-month program at UPMC Shadyside School of Nursing, where she is training to be a registered nurse.
"That just has made all the difference," said Mrs. Golightly, who finishes her schooling at the end of this year.
And her mother's generosity has helped, too.
"She pays for her cleaning lady to come here once a month. That means more to me than a pair of diamond earrings," Mrs. Golightly said.
1t's clear why Dr. Taylor was eager to return to her light-filled apartment, which is painted in shades of capuccino and blue and uses every inch of space efficiently, including a display ledge for her Pennsylvania pottery.
The addition boasts well-placed windows, a vaulted ceiling over the living room and a loft above the bath. A brown and tan Navajo rug hangs over her antique desk; a red and white quilt adorns the wall of a loft where she stores off-season clothing and suitcases.
"The moon shines in through there," Dr. Taylor says, pointing to the arched eyebrow window in her bedroom.
There's also a linen closet, a stacked washer and dryer and a bathroom with a walk-in shower. Last summer, beside a brick walkway, Dr. Taylor had a patio built so there's room for a table and chairs. Roses were planted in a nearby garden.
This spring, Dr. Taylor added, "I have daffodils and tulips. It's gorgeous."
If Dr. Taylor has a visitor and wants privacy, she can close the door that opens into her daughter's kitchen.
"I close the door when the masseuse comes," she said.
Mrs. Golightly believes the bonds her sons have developed with their grandmother are important.
"The rewards outweigh the additional planning," she said. "I think this is kind of what we're called to do."
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Marylynne Pitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1648.