I put my feet to the floor at just after five in the morning. Slowly I press down to stand up. It takes but a moment to be accurately aware; I am not twenty anymore.
“Ay…” I mutter as I attempt a few sun salutations to loosen up.
The stiffness in my lower back is more pronounced than usual after five hours in the car. Leaving yesterday evening with The Poodle in tow, we’re in a Marriott just outside of Pittsburgh. Rocket-man still slumbers (um…and yes…I am still struggling to come up with a name change in lieu of events in the past months, if you get my drift!).
Suggestions are welcome by the way.
The Poodle does not stir from his place on the bed although he’s got one eye open…surveying…and quite ready to bolt off the bed should I make steps towards the door. He is not oblivious to the fact that our routine has changed.
I make thoroughly unremarkable hotel-room coffee which is nothing more than a cup of translucent brown lukewarm water. As I sip I’m thinking about the task before us in just about an hour from now.
Yet again we are faced with the task of aiding an aged parent. It’s literally same song, second verse, this time it’s hubby’s mother. We realized a little over two years ago that it was past time to start the process of getting her into a care facility. Naturally this meant getting Rocket-man’s two other siblings involved. Furthermore, it made sense to task the sibling that lived the closest to get the ball rolling; after all, said sibling, the youngest at 50-something, lived twenty minutes –for good measure…one more time…20 minutes — from her mother and who also held power of attorney.
Well, let’s just say we had to go to plan B as that sibling essentially jumped ship. She’s got …enter air quotes here…”issues” with her mother, bless her little Ole heart.
LIKE WHO DOESN’T?!
Yep. Some weeks ago Rocket-man finally had to take matters into his own hands. He saw his mother into an assisted living facility in her home town. Thankfully oldest sibling was available for accompanying him on that difficult task. At eighty-six, Mrs. C.’s long-term memory is pretty darn good but short-term memory ….not so much. She doesn’t remember five minutes ago. While she gets around without the aid of a walker she shuffles when she walks which is another factor indicating vascular dementia. The process of going into assisted living was a thousand-fold easier than with my mother. Mrs. C was pretty much calm as a kitten and happy too unlike my mother, who in spite of being wheelchair bound, fought to the bitter end, leaving this earth terribly unhappy with everyone in the world. Mrs. C. appears so far to be doing just fine. Thankfully, she seems to be happy to have three square meals a day, social interaction, and endless card games and other such activities.
Now the task of clearing her home has landed pretty much on our shoulders though oldest sibling–we sincerely hope– plans on helping at some point in the weeks to come. My sister and her family offered their help and support as well, and in fact they are just several hotel rooms down from us, God bless them!. But the daughter that lives in the same town couldn’t be bothered with taking care of her mother in her declining years much less helping clear the family home. This is where I bite my tongue ’til it bleeds because it would be incredibly easy to unleash a venomous diatribe against the egregious behavior of said sister. Suffice it to say that there seems to be one like her in every family. Just as there was one in mine…a feckless sibling who cannot seem to boot pesky little demons regarding their parents (and I do mean little in this case) into a closet somewhere long enough to take care of their parent’s basic needs in their years of decline.
Forgive me when I say that I am buoyed by the fact that the universe will respond…and in fact, already has.
I’ll admit that I’ve never been particularly close to my mother-in-law. Let me be clear: she is not a bad person. We have simply never connected. Still, as I began the task of putting things into contractor-strength trash bags I’m barely able to contain my anger. I am appalled at the mess before me and naturally so is Rocket-man. Mrs. C. could never afford the luxury of a cleaning service but she was able to maintain a decently clean home, that is, until her husband passed away more than a decade ago. There was not a broom to be found in the whole place let alone a toilet brush. No one deserves to live in this kind of filth. The collection of years of dust and dirt on furniture crammed to the gills with fifty-plus years of stuff put there by depression-era parents made us cough and wheeze throughout the day. My sis wore a face mask which helped but still, the condition of the bathrooms, kitchen and basement made us wretch on more than one occasion.
Many times throughout the day we shook our heads, vacillating between sadness and anger. “I get that your mom has been alone for years since your father’s passing and she just couldn’t keep things up…. but really….There is just no excuse for this…. with a daughter that lives in the same town!” I cried.
“I know,” said Rocket-man. Barely an hour into our work he’s dripping with sweat from moving heavy bags of junk and furniture out the door. It was then I could tell from his body language that he was taking this mess all on the chin.
The blame is mine; I should have done more for my mother….and sooner.
“This is not your mea culpa,” I said as I hugged him during a break from clearing out kitchen cabinets. “I’ve known you for twenty years and there is not a week that goes by that you don’t call and talk to your mom. It’s not your fault that your career path took you away from your home town. And besides, as much as you travel, you’ve seen and done a hundred-fold more for your mom particularly in these past fifteen years than your sister has and she lives just minutes away. And what about her five grandchildren! They live in the same town too! Where have they been? Your mom may have been a busy-body grandmother but she was always available; baby-sitting at the drop of a hat and endless sweets and treats for her grand-kids!
With a heavy sigh, Rocket-man nods his head in agreement.
“And besides,” I add “You’re not the who collected THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of newspaper and magazine recipes, cutting them out and stuffing them into a gazillion little photo albums!”
“Yeah…what’s up with that; she really didn’t even cook,” said Rocket-man with the hint of a smile.
I’m not sure my words helped much but I noted a softness in his jaw and a twinkle in his eye as he turned to continued hauling stuff out the door.
At the end of the day two, between the five of us, we had filled the driveway’s car port and driveway to the gills with bags to haul away as well as two 400 cubic feet truckloads for the 1-800-GOT-JUNK folks. Those guys were a Godsend; they did all the heavy lifting and with smiles too. It soothed Rocket-man, and sis too, to learn that not everything would be thrown into the local landfill. The 1-800-GOT-JUNK folks separate out items suitable for donation to local homeless shelters and other such centers.
Now “back at the ranch” and with a day to recover I’m once again in pitching mode, Ala Marie Kondo. I thought I’d done enough of that for a while when preparing for the move from middle-earth Alabama to Virginia just a year ago! Now. I’m on a mission to keep things as simple as possible for my daughter, because It’s not a matter of IF…but WHEN. My time WILL arrive.
I’ve already got four bags of stuff ready for donation and there is potential for more before the day is over.
Without doubt, there is bliss in De-cluttering. But more importantly, I’m beyond grateful for the love and support of my sister and her family. Not only did they do a lot of heavy lifting, they helped keep things real which translates thusly: spontaneous eruptions of laughter in the midst of incredibly unfavorable conditions.