August 26, 2022
Yesterday would have been my parents anniversary. It’s another difficult memory/milestone. Another first time without dad. Dad passed on October 1, 2021.
June 12-14 my siblings arrived in Florida and packed up my mother’s independent living apartment with mom watching. Mom grasped things that were headed for the trash. She hugged things to herself as if they were children being pushed onto a train to nowhere. She clung. She cringed. But mom got through it. My siblings got through it. And thirty boxes later, my sibs returned home.
In a week or so a moving truck arrived and removed all those boxes (and a few more things my mother couldn’t imagine life without) onto the truck for transporting to New York.
On June 22 my mother boarded a plane for New York and said good-bye to me and her Florida life. She has now said good-bye to everywhere she ever lived with my father.
I said farewell to my primary day to day caregiving duties as I kissed her good-bye after handing mom’s luggage to the curbside check-in guy at the airport. My sister would retrieve that luggage and my mother on the other end of the flight.
On June 25 I went to mom’s apartment to clear out her supposed last few things. it took me FIVE full days, even sleeping on the patio furniture that remained, to clear everything that was left. I think my mother had magic powder that made things go biblical… inanimate objects became fruitful and multiplied!
Papers (printed and blank) were everywhere. Half packed boxes. Furniture. Tech tools nobody uses anymore. Plastic bags and bins and buckets. Pens (hundreds), pencils, paper clips, tape dispensers, staplers and other office supplies enough for a multi-person business filled the organizers in every room. Expired food in the cabinets, freezer, fridge. Cases of paper towels, toilet paper, laundry and cleaning supplies.
Ziploc plastic baggies containing one folded paper towel, one throat lozenge, one bandaid, a plastic or paper wrapped toothpick and various other minutia, including cash. Cash in singles, cash in twenties. I could not throw away all the baggies because the cash was in the folded paper towel (good security right!?) so I had to open each one of these. And there were hundreds stashed in drawers, handbags, jacket pockets, shopping bags pockets, etc. All in all, with the cash that was stored in various hiding spots, I found about $300.
My siblings claim they found about $700 when they were packing mom’s apartment. Mom was always telling me she ran out of cash. She didn’t run out. She hid it and forgot it was there!!!
I had charities come to take all the donatable items. I had auction houses come to purchase some of the collectibles and art pieces. I had building staff take furniture for their kids and homes. I donated to the office of the building.
Mom’s items arrived in NY and were put directly into storage. Mom moved into her assisted living apartment and every few days my sister would bring over more boxes for mom to unpack. It took a few weeks but mom managed to find a home for all items in those thirty boxes despite moving from a two bedroom, two bath to a one bedroom, one bath that was half the size.
After I turned in the keys to mom’s apartment and relieved myself of the obligation to do anything else with my mother’s property, I slept for two days. My body was exhausted. Not just from the five days but from the years of “cleaning up” for my parents.
Mom settled into her new assisted living apartment with the help of my sister. My sister got mom new furniture. My sister worked with the movers and the building staff. My sister helped mom make the bed and learn how to use the new cable system. My brother got mom a new computer and loaded all her old programs and content onto it.
When mom and I talk and she complains about the cooking or the events or the people at her current place, I say “Are you telling me you want to come back?” She says, “Oh no. I’m not coming back.” I ask, “Do you want to move?” She answers, “No. No. I’m fine. It’s good here.”
My brother has entertained my mother at his house several times now. He tells me, “She’s so happy all the time. She never complains about anything!” And I am flashed back to childhood when I was the recipient of all my mothers complaints while my siblings got a more fun and carefree mom. Of course she could be carefree with them, she’d unloaded her complaints onto me! And that is continuing. Mom seems to vent and use me as her dumpster for whatever ails or angers or irritates her. She looks at it as bonding time. All this time I kept thinking I had to solve her problems and that she was sharing to get me to act like dad, and fix things. The reality is, mom just wants to vent and she feels like I’m her friend. When I tell her what I feel, she says, “You take things too personally!”
So, I am moving on, not just in the day to day care responsibilities, but in the #feelingofobligation to resolve things. It’s a lesson that is easier to rationalize than to put into action. My auto response is to resolve, fix, eliminate problems. Now, I just ask, “do you want me to something?” and usually the answer is “No.” WoW! That has been revelatory.
I share this with you because maybe you can save yourself some stress if you just ask, “Do you need/Would you like me to fix that situation?” and if the answer is “No. I’m okay.” then you can let it go! We, as caregivers, do our very best. We try so hard to make life easier for our loved ones. But maybe we #trytoohard sometimes? Maybe we put too much pressure on ourselves to be all-providing? I found out I don’t have to. Hopefully you will find that as well.