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Friday, March 02, 2007


Moving Mom

Is there anyway to nominate a person for sainthood? I'm serious. My husband deserves the title and it should be made official.

You see, this week he moved his mom from her apartment of 35 years. Under normal circumstances moving is very stressful. Moving a person who, even when she was young had the title of "difficult" and is now in her late 70's, is truly the testing grounds for the honor.

Not only is my mother-in-law difficult, she's also a "premiere packrat" and on a very fixed income. Thanks to the internet we found several "affordable senior housing" projects, checked them out and put her name on the lists. Finally, one became available-and at only twice the amount as her rent-controlled abode. Oh, and with half the space.

I never knew where my father-in-law actually put his things when he was alive. And I understood from the get-go why my sister-in-law and husband fled the place moments after removing their high school caps and gowns-NO ROOM!

My very patient spouse started preparing her for downsizing a year ago. He let her know what she'd be able to keep and what she had to giveaway (in one way or another). With every visit, he would go through and literally dump more of her "cherished" things. There has been (all on her part) yelling, crying, whining and many attempts at retrieving. Through it all her son remained gentle, firm and steady. I never heard him raise his voice once. This last week, the two of us did the last of the packing, he was there for the entire move and the next couple of days to help get her settled. Unforturnately, he also had to tell her half of what she brought had "to go".

She pleaded and said he couldn't tell her what she could keep. He asked quietly "Do you want to have a bed? Do you want to walk in here? Then you must get rid of what you don't use, period".

Thinking I would rescue her, she asked me how I could put up with her brute of a son? I replied "Oh, I'm much worse than he is, you're are the luckiest mother on the earth to have such a wonderful child. Now, let's get rid of your 4 muffin pans and the 2 boxes marked empty folders. While you're at it, let's get rid of the dozen rolls of contact paper."

In the 27 years I've known her she's never made muffins. Same holds true for the 5 cake pans, three 12 quart soup pots and the four sets of dishes. Trust me when I say, cooking is not a talent you associate with my mother-in-law. She's majored in using paper plates for at least the last decade.

Next was a phone call to my mother-hoping for another older woman's help. Too bad, didn't work. My mom told her to throw out these things and start her new life-clean and uncluttered. "What do you need with a half dozen sets of bed sheets for a cot you no longer have?" Then my mom did the cardinal sin, she added that most of what she was holding onto needed to be trashed years ago. That got a phone slamming, let me tell you!

On the plus side: The neighborhood is completely safe. The complex is fairly new. Many of the new tenants have already been knocking at her door and welcoming her. Best of all, there are planned activities and a market a half mile away. For the first time in her life, she has a dishwasher, air conditioning and a private patio. It will be up to her whether or not she makes the best of her new life. Another definite plus- my husband will no longer have to endure over two hour drives in traffic to visit her.

How my husband still has his sanity, low blood pressure and sense of humor is a miracle! Truly a testimony if not for sainthood, he should at least get a halo and wings.

Bless your hearts --- it cannot be fun to parent your parent. I am a compulsive neatnick and love decorating. Proof of my ability in this area are the profits we have made on properties in the last few years. We buy, fix them up and I decorate them. Then, people come along and buy them out from under me for half again what we have in them. I believe in simplicity of design and having a designated place for every place of furniture. We drove by our last place this week and I was astonished to see the junk the new owner had stuck in every window and flowerbed. They had chopped out all the lovely tropical plants and trees and replaced them with cutsey crockery and doodads. I am 71 and am thinking that I will go back to Ohio in May and get rid of a bunch of my craft supplies --- I don't want my kids to have to go through what you have with your m-i-l. We can be remembered fondly if we die young and beautiful, but age sure cramps your style.
Like you my mom loves to do her artwork and is good at design. She collects books-over 600! At this point should something awful happen, she's willing to donate them, and she told us so. My dad gave my hubby his collection of Nat'l Geographic magazines, at his request. but, my son the pysch major said this is OCD on a high level. I'm not the saint my husband is,so I get to be "the bad cop". Although, I did hear him tell her, quite firmly, she was going to have to adjust and make do from now on.
we all have our limits!
God bless your husband, there is a shortage of good sons around. I'm lucky, I have 2 great sons, but then again I'm only 56, wait till I'm 70, maybe I'll change my tune.
It has to be hard on the m-i-l as well, to give up a lifetime of memories. I hope she settles into her new place and has many good years ahead.
yes matty, it is very hard on her. must be frightening to leave your home for almos 1/2 your life and have to change. The sad thing is, if she hadn't been so difficult her entire life-her grandkids might want to see/call her, her daughter wouldn't have fled this half of the state and the family that's here might have wanted to do more with and for her. But that's water under the bridge and she's going to have to make it work. I do feel bad for her, just not bad enough to give up my sanity!
I so enjoy your blog, Carine.

My niece and nephew are doing the same for my sister-in-law who is also in her 70s. She's lived in th same house for 50 years and had stuff stored that her son left there over 30 years ago. They got rid of dumpsters full, and more has to be dealt with in the next month or so when she has to move.

My niece and her husband have donated their time and energy to help her aunt because of LOVE and no other reason. She sold an old car for her and gave all the money to her aunt. A boat that wasn't fit for sale was fixed up by them and the money all given to her. They painted the house, made the necessary repairs, and are going to help her move to an apartment nearer to them.

Some family members whine and moan about all this, suspecting my niece's intentions. Not me. That woman is the most responsible and loving young person that I know. (Think she is at least in her 30s, maybe almost 40. Youngish but not a whippersnapper.) Totally trustworthy, unselfish, and caring.

Hope I have that help when I need it.

They could also be considered for sainthood.
I agree, from what you have written today and in the past, that your husband must be a wonderful man.

I see what my cousin goes through with my aunt (she would be considered a pack rat, as well), and it's truly heartbreaking. I think people like this truly have an issue that goes way deeper than what we realize. They are afraid to let go for fear of something bad happening...maybe because of the way that they were brought up. Depression years, maybe? Either way, it's sad for them and even harder on the kids.

Thank God you got her into her new place, relatively unscathed! I can only wish that my cousin would have the same luck with her mom, but I'm doubtful.
Dear Anonymous, that you for your visits and your comments. It's very scary and unsettling, when a family member steps up to assist, you'd think the rest of the clan would be glad! Hope all works out well for your sister-in-law and your wonderful niece.
Lisa, I hope the outcome for your relative turns out better than expected. The one thing we should all take notes on is how we wish to behave and, if we keep one thing, it should be that list!
Dear Carine...been there and done that, so I know exactly what you're talking about. Not to mention the changing dynamics of when the child takes on the parenting of the parent. Not an easy transition. Sounds like your guy passed with flying colors. But of course he did! Isn't his name Steve?

Ciao bella...take care.
how true, Steve's are stronger and more tolerant than most!

My husband and I went through the same thing last year. My mother-in-law has Alzheimer's. Some days she's OK with where she is now but then there are times when she is forever packing her suitcase and saying she's going home.

I've actually written a few stories on my website about caring for aging parents.

Peace & Blessings,
Your mother-in-law is really lucky. Downsizing after all those years is very traumatic for a lot of people.
yes, Bev, this unfortunately is something many of us babyboomer's have to begin dealing with. Let's hope we're strong enough!
rhea, first thank you for visiting, hope you come back! It is very hard and I do not envy how she must feel. Scared, mad, depressed and she wants everything to be the same only better. Yet, it's not going to be, unless she decides (like all of us) to make her new surroundings home.
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