I was going to post the final segment of my posts on marketing, but this piece was much more immeidate for me this month, and so I decided to post this one instead.
I remember Mom standing at the top of steps on her little landing outside her back door. We were leaving DeAnza Mobile Home Park, her home for the past four years. I knew that she might be leaving for the very last time, but in her mind, she was just spending the night at my house and then going for a month-long trial, to check out Sunshine Villa, a classy assisted living place up above the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz.
(Why do they give homes for old people names like that? Sunshine Villa? Really? Though I suppose Sunshine Villa is a lot better than Twilight Manor, one of the assisted living places on Chanticleer I pass every day on my way home. )
Mom didn’t really want to go, but at one point, my brother and I tag teamed her, one on either side of her, and told her she really needed to, and she reluctantly said yes. And the two of us, our power of attorney in hand, had been making the necessary arrangements ever since. And now it was time.
All Mom was carrying was her black purse that is always gaping open, holding her most precious possession. She picked it up and waved it in the air and cackled, “This is the secret of my popularity.” It was her blue plastic handicapped parking placard. “Everyone wants to take me out because I have this!”
She was holding her purse and her multi-colored cane, the cane she tends to wave around rather than lean on, and that was all. I think she had a light jacket on, a white jacket, the kind she never would have worn in New Jersey after Labor Day.
I was following right behind her and I saw her step out on to the landing and start to wobble, and I could see that in an instant she could fall down the steps in one direction or down the steps in the other. I couldn’t get to her on time, but just in time, she grabbed the handrail and steadied herself, and that’s when I knew for sure. She can’t come back here. She can’t live here anymore.
And so knowing what I knew, I shepherded her out toward my car (which used to be her car before I had to take it away from her), and I patiently waited while she slowly positioned her body so she could plop heavily down into the passenger seat, get her legs under her, and close the door. I fastened her seat belt, reaching carefully across her chest. After all that exertion, she was breathing hard.
I checked my watch, knowing that in half an hour the woman I hired to pack up Mom’s furniture and all the masks from her travels all over the world and the giant dark wood headboard she schlepped all the way back from Mexico and her special Mexican bedside lamps and the beaded necklace we’d all strung for her on the occasion of her 70th birthday, fifteen year ago—was going to arrive. And I didn’t want Mom to be there when she did.
Anne specializes in moving seniors. She was about to come in, and in two hours, lovingly pack up all the things I’d designated to be moved. And then the next morning, the moving truck she’d hired would arrive while Mom and I were eating breakfast across town, and all of Mom’s things would be moved to Sunshine Villa, a mile away, and her art work and the rug my partner Karyn had woven her and her masks would all be set up all in the exact same order on the wall they were here, in her new room at Sunshine Villa. Her bed would be made the same way. Her couch would have the same throw folded neatly on the back. Her phone and answering machine would be functioning and ready. Her cable would be connected, her TV working. Her clothes would hang in her new closet, sorted much the way they had been at home. Everything would be set up as close to how it had been in her old place, so it would feel at least on the surface, a little bit like home.
I knew all that was about to happen and that tomorrow I would bring Mom over to her new room when I got the all clear, that everything was ready. Until then, we would play cards and eat dinner and hopefully Eli and Lizzy would give her the time of day, and in the morning we would hang out and wait and then go out to lunch, and eventually we’d wend our way over there where all those old people with wheelchairs and walkers live (my mother of course is not one of them!). And then I’d open the door to her room and she’d see all her things in place and I would sit with her and watch her face register shock and dismay, and then eventually, I would leave her behind to grieve the loss of her home in the way her damaged mind could process it. I knew what was before us, and she didn’t.