Monday, April 23, 2012

Shanghai-ed by her Family

Mom once admitted in a moment of exasperation that she felt "shanghai-ed" into the move from her home to the retirement apartment at Merrill Gardens. I've never forgotten her use of this expression. At the time, I understood by context what she meant but it wasn't until this past weekend that I looked up the origin of the word.  Mary Margaret and I have had some interesting talks about Mom as we've worked like dogs sorting through all the treasures, family memorabilia, and outright junk at their former home this past week.  An emotional journey to be sure.
Right about now, I'm feeling a bit "shanghai-ed" myself. I don't relish another hard day at the task and would much rather lie in bed writing and reading and surfing the internet.
From on line Miriam Webster Dictionary:

Definition of SHANGHAI

transitive verb
a : to put aboard a ship by force often with the help of liquor or a drug b : to put by force or threat of force into or as if into a place of detention
: to put by trickery into an undesirable position

Origin of SHANGHAI

Shanghai, China; from the former use of this method to secure sailors for voyages to eastern Asia
First Known Use: 1871

Sunday, April 15, 2012

"You Two Girls Will Have a Big Job on Your Hands"

On more than one occasion Mom mused about what it would be to "break up this house". She was referring to their home in Seattle, a place she and my Dad purchased in 1999 when they relocated from Houston. As an aside; that particular move was a huge undertaking after living in the same dwelling for over 20 years. But, truly,"breaking up this house" implies to me the final accounting and disposition of all of the physical possessions found therein.

When my parents sold their Houston townhouse, Mom made disposition on every item, deciding whether it was to be tossed, donated, put in a garage sale, gifted to family members or packed up for the journey to Seattle. When it came to items gifted to  family, I remember the image of her dining room table and the top of the buffet loaded with porcelain figurines, crystal, dishes, silver pieces, and artwork. The family arrived for "the viewing" and many items left with new owners. Mom was pleased; always happy when someone really wanted or had use for something she cherished but was ready to turn over. Quite a few of those treasures found their way into my home and I love them.

Despite the major downsizing accomplished with their move to Seattle, before long it seemed that the smaller home promptly absorbed all their belonging from the "keep" category . Beyond the expected clothing, linens,furniture, artwork, books, and kitchenware there appeared box after box of family history in the form of photographs, old letters, documents and memorabilia. Ahhhhh; memorabilia. This is the stuff you've got to look at bit by bit to be sure there isn't buried treasure in amongst the junk.My sister and I've already tackled some of that sort of work over the last few years. We found you can only go through a box or two; any more and you start to get very weary.

But on to the story....

Happily, Mom and Dad enjoyed seven good years at the Arapahoe house. When their physical and mental health declined, moving to a retirement facility was the next step. The transition was really tough. Although Dad was willing to surrender his car keys and live in a small apartment, Mom dug in her heels. Her resistance was both active and passive simultaneously.  As a child of the Great Depression, she mourned the loss of her lovely home and manifested her displeasure and anxiety by succumbing to incapacitation.  She simply couldn't (or wouldn't?) participate in making decisions.  In retrospect, I suspect her dementia was slowly destroying her usual decisive, organized mind.  In the end, the move was accomplished by the tenacious, steady determination of family members (thanks MM, Mary B and JT) who  took control of the sorting, selecting and packing.  Meanwhile, Mom remarked she was being "Shang-haied", into the move.  Oh, my.

And now....we find ourselves looking ahead to the sale of their former home, a dwelling left relatively intact since Mom and Dad moved out in 2006. The house has been well used by out of town family in town for holidays and visits. More importantly, in my opinion, we kept the house fully furnished and 'up and running' as a way of reassuring Mom that her home was still there, intact and ready for her if she should need or want to move back one day. However, within their first year at the retirement apartment, both Mom and Dad suffered significant illness and it was clear to all that "going back home" was a pipe dream. Nonetheless, we kept the house up, enjoying family meals together around the dining room table, birthday celebrations, and many visits to the house just to walk the rooms, look around, pick up a book and more.  Mom took comfort seeing things much as she'd left them. Intact.

There is much work to be done before the home can be put on the market. The largest task is to go through ALL of the contents of the house, piece by piece whether the item be the size of a dining room table or as small as a piece of jewelry. Every piece of paper or photograph may be important. Or, not. My sister and I will sort, make decisions big and small, catalog the contents, and start the process of equitable distribution. There are we three offspring and seven grandchildren to consider.

Mom admitted to me more than once, that "you girls will have a big job on your hands after we're gone".  She assigned this task to her girls, not to her son. And so it is. We start in earnest tomorrow with my Dad's blessing. He's well aware of our plans to prepare the house for sale. I know Mom will be there in spirit, perhaps as the cawing crow perched on the roof of the house admonishing us to be thoughtful about all of our decisions. I promise, Mom. I promise.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

And Seven make Nine

Most days when I visit my Dad, we'll spend time "naming the family"; my term for the process whereby he calls out the names of his seven grandchildren and their significant others. Then, he'll move on to his great grandchildren, a considerably more challenging generation for him. But, run through the list we do and he enjoys knowing exactly who belongs to who. 

He and Mom have seven grandchildren; 6 girls and 1 boy all born over a 20 year span from 1968 to 1988.  We've got but a few photographs of all seven together with their grandparents. These two are treasures. The first was taken in Aruba when Mom and Dad rented a house for a month and we all flew down with our families to join them for various lengths of time. The second was taken at the Arapahoe house in Seattle when we gathered to celebrate Mom's Birthday. See what 19 years does to young kids? They all grow up, as do their elders.

"The days are long but the years are short."

Summer 1989

Summer 2008
Wonderful memories. Thank goodness for cameras and visual reminders of good times spent together.