I have reached that stage of life where I must become the parent to my parents. I consider myself extremely lucky to still have them in my life and I wish I could spend more time with them.
Of course, that wish is about to come true in a way that I never quite expected. Tam and I are doing our best to get my parents moved up to
where Tam is currently residing and I hope to be moving there soon as well.
This is not going to be some cut-and-dried pack ‘em up and move ‘em kind of undertaking,
these are my parents we’re talking about and there is nothing cut-and-dried
My mother is a packrat. Not exactly a hoarder, because from what I’ve been able to discern, hoarders buy many of the same things when they’re on sale and keep them stashed in closets, cupboards, cabinets, etc. My mother simply does not throw things away. Being raised in the depression by parents who knew how to repair things in creative ways could do that to a person. Nothing was wasted. Nothing was thrown away until there wasn’t much left of it TO throw away. Of course, that's when you just tucked it in a corner “just in case it might come in handy.”
Or, in my mother’s case, might become a collector’s item. She’s big into “collecting.” She did that all her life, and now she has amassed a large collection of everything. Had she just collected dishes, we could deal with that. Or dolls. Or jewelry. A single type of collected item would be a lot easier to deal with because chances are good you would have some idea of the value.
My mother collected bits of everything and we have no idea how much any of it is worth. The treadle sewing machine (one of which I’m keeping because I love it), or the antique baskets from
Japan, or the
array of strange kitchen gadgets (that make my darling Tam drool), or the
painting supplies (not antique, but holy crap that’s a lot of watercolor), or…
or… smatterings of stuff that doesn't actually constitute an official collection, it's just a collection of stuff.
I have the same problem, although I’m starting to let go of a few things that have sentimental value, but is no longer of any use. The little toy car that my son loved, literally to pieces, will have to go. Eventually. But I understand my mother’s mindset on this. When you’re not always happy, or when life has been particularly difficult and mean, it’s easy to glom onto things that remind you of wonderful times, or at least better times. You want to keep them close because it is almost like bringing those good times back and keeping them close as well. I get it, I really do.
I have things from my offsprings’ youth that I hold very dear. It got really bad as they moved out, because I wasn’t ready to let go. I wanted to keep them close to me, to keep those tender moments alive. But, time can be cruel and children must move on, so I kept things that held memories in the hopes it would ease the pain of moving forward.
In case you’re wondering, it doesn’t really, but it took me a long time to get to that point. I’m closer to it, anyway. I can see it from where I’m standing, as long as I’m on tiptoes. But my mother is having memory problems and that makes it even harder for her to let go. These things are keys to her past, good and bad, and she holds them in a grip of steel as they sit covered in dust on shelves, countertops, an in the back of closets.
This move is not going to be easy for another reason: I am very attached to the land on which they live. It once belonged to my beloved grandfather, a man who was equal parts scamp, god, scoundrel, and McGyver. I worshiped the man and so many fond memories are tied to that place he built. The oak trees that shade and the pines that scent the air are all parts of him. And me as well, for I was there every summer, and when he passed away and my parents moved down there, I brought my children down every summer to continue the tradition.
But times have changed. It is a long seven and a half hour drive from where I live, and while I’ve always enjoyed long car rides, with everything that’s going on in my life right now, that carries too much weight in certain decisions.
Like selling the property.
I have resisted even thinking about it because it was the last place where I got to spend time with my grandpa. It was the last place where I felt comfortable allowing my children to roam unfettered to play in the dirt, ride their bikes, fish in the pond, and get chased by the geese.
I am tied to the land and the thought of letting go kills me.
But I must be a big girl and move forward. I must think with my head and not my heart in this matter. I must let go of the feeling, but not the memories. I must remember that it is about the safety and security of my parents and that is way more important than fond memories or bygone days.
We will move forward. We will create new memories with grown children and aging parents. And they will be just as good as the ones from before. Memories may fade, but new ones are just as dear and just as important, I just need to give them a chance to take root, while I grow to love them as much as I do the old ones.