Chapter 11 – Family – Keep Calm and Move On

My mother was raised in the Great Depression and learned very quickly that everything was useful and nothing was wasted. As I began the process of going through her apartment I realized how that thought process can stay with a person. We had downsized when they retired 25 years earlier and yet somehow things just seemed to collect again!  I smiled as I sorted through the “junk drawer” as most of it was indeed junk.

Mom was settling in very well at the retirement home and after a couple of weeks I went to pick her up to bring her to the apartment to help to sort through her things. As I opened the kitchen cupboards I knew it was going to be a very long day. Mom sat in a chair and I started sorting and a few hours later we had that area done.  I could see she was exhausted so we stopped for the day.

The following weekend Mom did not really want to come to the apartment.  She wanted to stay and enjoy the musical program that afternoon. I was a bit surprised but glad she was wanting to be part of what was going on at her “new home.” Of course when this occurred I was cautious as a move to a long term care facility can certainly trigger behavioral changes in someone struggling with Alzheimer’s. I have been watching her for signs but she seems to be adjusting well so far. There was something happening and being such a social person she decided to be part of it which was wonderful.

We certainly learn many things when we become the caregivers for our parents. It is interesting how we all seem to have our own way to deal with situations. It seems that I had almost fallen into the role of being in charge. I did not consciously take on the role, there was no discussion, it just happened.I arranged a day to work at the apartment with my brother. When he arrived we started in the storage room. We pulled a few boxes out of the closet and started making some piles. The next box that came out of the closet was tied up with string and it was labelled with his name. It was the worst thing that could have happened, as he abruptly left the room with the box. This is a very emotional time for all of the family but we have to keep a focus as we have a lot of work to do and a time frame to get it finished in. Many of the boxes were keepsakes and kudos to my parents most were labelled with specific names which made this closet easy for me to empty.

I went to check on my brother for us to determine what space we would work through next. He had gone outside to put his keepsake box in his truck. When he came back he informed me that he had to leave. I stood there stunned and silent. The silent part was very difficult, but I knew it was best. The denial that he carries has to be a burden. He has to help himself deal with the challenge of our Mother’s disease, the same as I do. It is not easy for any of us but we have to deal with it.

I stood there lost for what seemed an eternity. Alone and overwhelmed wondering what to do. Friendship is such a welcome gift and when some of mine showed up at the door unexpectedly it was a very emotional moment. They dove in and went to work for the rest of the day. They were packing and sorting and cleaning. I can never thank them enough for their support. What a tremendous day and so much accomplished!

After a few more trips myself, and some sibling time spent sorting, we were done. There were piles in the apartment for donation, for my family and for my brother’s family. I stood in the empty apartment the following week and looked at the space. So many memories, such unending  love had been shared here the last 25 years. Change is not easy and this one was very difficult. I felt such loss as I stood there alone in an empty room. So much of my Mom was left in this space, the Mother that I had know. I still had my Mother, it was just different. Of course I was thankful and love her more than ever .The great thing about love is that it never leaves you, no matter what the situation is. Now it was time for our family to begin yet another chapter.