Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Another Chapter Ends

When my dad passed away in 2005, I don’t think any of us thought much past his death. We were just glad to still have our mom. She was still living in the house they’d owned since late-1986. Naively, I am not sure any of us thought past her living there.

As her health declined, it became more and more apparent that she needed to look into moving to a smaller place. She fought that with every fiber of her being. I can relate – I hated the thought of down-sizing to move to where we are now, and I didn’t have the 50+ years of memories to sort through (my parents were married in 1949). With a three-bedroom, 2-car garage house, with full finished basement (including storage area), there was a lot of stuff for her to worry about. One of my nephews lived with her for a couple of years, which had mixed rewards and challenges. It kept her out of assisted/independent living but it was a financial challenge on her as well. He kept to himself in the basement more than staying upstairs with her but she was happy with that arrangement and that is all that mattered to me.

Eventually, my nephew moved on and mom’s health concerns took on a whole new dimension. She spent most of December 2011 in and out of the hospital and then was transferred to a “rehabilitation center” (i.e., nursing home) for several months. Once she was discharged from the nursing home, she moved straight into an independent living center. Even though she didn’t use most of her house (she slept in her recliner in the living room due to back problems), that space was still “there” and she had access to it when she wanted it. In the new place, she had one big room and a tiny kitchen. She felt constricted and closed in but knew that the time had finally come for to recognize she could no longer live on her own.

Her new digs – the “villa” – was a very nice apartment building where meals were served in a central dining room, restaurant-style, or were delivered to the residents’ rooms if they were unable to go to the dining room. She made a few friends but mostly kept to herself. Days she went to dialysis became days that she had her meals delivered as those trips exhausted her. Her outlet became visits to the local casino (when someone could and would take her) where she could forget how bad she felt.

During this time, we all pitched in (some more than others) and helped Mom sort through things and divide up into piles for selling, donating, trash, and to give to each of us kids. That was quite a chore. Once that was done, we went about getting things set up for a massive garage sale. I’m very thankful that Mom got to choose who would get some things and whether or not to sell some items. We sold and sold and still had tons of stuff to donate to local charities. There was a lot of stuff that just wasn’t worth donating so those items went to the trash. I know it was hard on her to see so many years worth of memories going out the door, one piece at a time. But, she got to visit with some of the people who shopped and shared stories about where some items had come from. That was nice.

After the sale, my younger brother set about getting her house cleaned up, carpets removed (there were very nice hardwood floors under the carpets), walls painted, and some basic maintenance taken care of. The result was astonishing. Mom got to go back in and see how nice the house looked before it was put on the market to sell. She still wasn’t happy at her new place but she was adjusting.

Then, on September 8, tragedy struck when she had a stroke. She knew that even independent living was out of the question and she made the conscious decision to discontinue dialysis treatment. She passed away on September 29, 2012, and my life – and the lives of all of my family members – changed forever. While we still have the memories, and the physical items that she wanted each of us to have, there is an emptiness that will never be filled. There will be more good memories that will surface and the pain will (hopefully) diminish over time, but the hollow spot that was her presence will always be there.

Friday, December 28, 2013, another chapter closed with the selling of the house. No more will it be “Mom and Dad’s” or “Mom’s” (or “Grandma’s”) house. It has become someone else’s house. The new owners will make their own memories there – holidays, birthdays, daily activities, etc. The ghosts of our past celebrations will slowly fade away to be replaced with new ones. Pictures adorning the walls will be of someone else’s choice – not of Mom’s. While it’s a very sad time for us, it will be happy times for someone else.

“Our” chapter there has ended but theirs has just begun


Kathy's Klothesline said...

That was very well written and a wonderful tribute to your mom and your memories og your childhood. You are right about time dulling the pain. With that time, the memories will become sweeter. Thinking of you and hoping this new year will bring you much contentment.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Saying goodbye to that family home must be terribly tough. Sounds like you have a ton of memories there.