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.

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