Moving Mom

It’s a challenge raising an older parent. They don’t listen. They have a mind of their own, and insist on making their own decisions.

After many weeks of work and planning, mom is moved into her new home. I think she’s going to like it. Last night we moved in her clothes and her groceries, and today the movers came to take the furniture from the old house to the new house. It will take her a little while to get as organized as she would like to be, but she’ll do it.

Just over three years ago we had a big scare with mom. She had a terrible fall down some stairs and suffered a broken neck. Her injuries were serious, but with patience and excellent medical care she recovered. Ever since then I have encouraged her to consider one floor living. In these intervening years her knees have been more and more troubling to her, and walking up and down the stairs in her home has become harder and harder.

I admit to being an instigator in her decision to move, but honestly never thought that it would mean moving into a new home. An apartment seemed like a good idea. I have been telling mom for years now that because she is in pretty good health for an 85-year old, she is still able to live life on her own terms. She has the ability to make her own decisions to protect the lifestyle she wants, which includes maintaining her social life, some volunteer work, her garden club, her book club, the concerts she enjoys attending, the custom sewing and alteration work she enjoys, and the piano lessons she began just a few years ago.

So, it turns out that mom was actually listening to me, and chose to make a decision. She made an informed decision. She looked at all of the apartment options in her community, but the drawbacks meant giving up her piano and her sewing work. She even looked into having one of those electric chair lifts installed on the staircase at her old home, but it was impossible on her very curvy stairs. Then she turned to looking at single story homes. There aren’t many in the town where mom lives, at least not many in her price range. But she found one and invited me to come along for a look. It had tremendous potential under the heavy plush carpet, palm leaf ceiling fan, and dark and dingy brick fireplace. We went through it carefully together then went back to her house for a very long talk about the ramifications.

“Do you think I can do this?” Mom asked.

“You won’t be in it alone,” I assured her. “I’ll help.” I never commit for my siblings, but fortunately for mom and for me, two of my sisters also jumped in with both feet to help out.

Mom's new living room.

Mom’s new living room.

Throughout the process of going through her things to decide what to keep and what to get rid of, selling the old house, and getting the new house ready to move into, mom developed a little anxiety. So did I. Along the way, the little pep talks I gave her were as much for my benefit as hers. “It’s an adventure,” I kept repeating.

It has been an adventure, and it’s not done yet. She is planning a complete kitchen remodel over the next few months. The house was built in 1950, and it is apparent that the kitchen hasn’t been upgraded since. But the new home is about two thirds the size of the old one, will be less to clean and take care of, has a very small yard, and will suit her lifestyle just right.

Honestly, mom knows that very few people take on a project like this in their mid-80’s. Very few people would have the guts to try. I admire mom for taking it on. She knows she couldn’t have done it alone, and is grateful for the help of her daughters. We are happy to know that mom will be safer, while maintaining her independence. It’s a win-win. It’s an adventure, for an 85-year old and for her daughters.

Tonight, after her major pieces of furniture were arranged, her computer was set up, most of her kitchen stuff was put away, her bed was made, and the bathroom furnished with towels and toiletries, we stood together for a moment to take it all in. After a very busy day, the new house looks like hers.

She has known for some time that she could no longer cope with the stairs at her old house. Sure, I prodded her along towards a decision, but in the end the decision was hers. I think she made a good one, and hope she enjoys this new place for many years to come.


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