STRESS

On May 22, my mother-in-law decided, and announced, at 103 years old, that she was moving back to Oklahoma City, a distance of 535 miles from Santa Fe, NM, where she has lived for the past 12 years. For most of that time she has lived independently in her own house, fairly close to two daughters and one of her two sons. The dynamics of those relationships are somewhat complicated and they will remain separate from this story, at least for now.

Mozelle had lived in Oklahoma City for most of her life so it appears to be ta final chapter which many people call “going home.” About two years ago she made a move into a local retirement community that provided her with assisted living. Help is there when you need it. When the staff thought she would better served in the medical unit with more nursing assistance, she said no way is that going to happen, and that precipitated her plan to leave Santa Fe and move back to OKC.

Mother called movers, and told them her plan without telling anyone else. She announced her intention to our daughter who lives in OKC. Let it be known here at the outset that in spite of her chronological age, she is sound of mind, very lucid and quite amazing in that regard. Her body, however, is showing the effects of physical deterioration that often comes with advanced age and makes walking difficult. However, she still gets around via a walker, wheelchair and an electric cart. She requires some assistance periodically with personal care.

We received this news about a pending move on May 22 on our way back from a trip to Mexico. Due to my sister-in-law being quite ill, she has been unable to continue in her role as her mother’s primary caretaker and her brother, youngest son of mother, moved to Florida several months ago. That left my wife and me to step in and assume some responsibility for helping make the move. The oldest son of the four children still lives in Oklahoma City so he will be able to pick up some of the pieces on that end. Ironically, he was here in Santa Fe this week with his wife who was having an opening in a local gallery with some of her paintings.

Tuesday May 23 – Phone calls and meetings with people to begin making preparations on both ends for the move, securing an apartment in an appropriate facility in OKC, getting various papers together, signed and transmitted to the right people in different places for different purposes. Everything takes more time with so many regulations, requirements and expectations. Coordinating all of this is a continuing process.

Wednesday May 24 – My wife meets with movers who come to mother’s apartment in Santa Fe to estimate what will be required and to provide an estimate of costs. It is done efficiently, professionally and with a personal touch. This kind of help is greatly appreciated.

Thursday May 25 – Movers start the process of packing and moving some of the larger pieces out of the apartment leaving bed, sofa, TV and a few personal effects, TV because mother is watching the French Open and is a big tennis fan.

Friday, May 26 – We start thinking about the 9 hour trip and we explore several possibilities for transporting mother other than our taking her. That included chartering an airplane, too expensive, a very comfortable van equipped with driver and EMT attendant, which mother says is unacceptable and so we’re back to our getting prepared to be the drivers.

Saturday, May 27 – Mother invites us to lunch with her and a couple who live in the same retirement community. One of those two is a high school classmate of mine, a retired physician, as is his wife. Mother declines lunch in the dining room and we have lunch without her and catch up with our friends.

Sunday, May 28 – Mother invites us to lunch again but this time at Plazuela at La Fonda, one of her favorite downtown restaurants where everyone knows her and where she drives, about three blocks, in her electric cart, crossing streets and staying on the sidewalks. We decline and she goes anyway on her own and then goes to a museum exhibition of papers from the British Museum. That afternoon we take my sister-in-law, who cannot drive, to say good-bye because the move is to begin the next day.

Monday, May 29 (Memorial Day) We arrange to get mother’s car, which she still has but does not drive, and we start the trip at 8:15 AM with two cars, mother riding in the back seat of her car, me at the wheel, my wife driving one of our cars following. My wife hands her mother a newspaper, closes the door and off we go. She reads the paper for about an hour, takes a two-hour nap, wakes up, tells me a story about her being born in Hereford, Texas on January 26, 1914, and we stop for lunch in Amarillo, Texas. The movers arrive later to pick up what remains in her apartment and start for OKC. We arrive at the Waterford Renaissance hotel and check in at 6 PM.

Tuesday, May 30 – We arrange for a personal care giver to come and be with mother while we go to her new apartment to see what needs to be done to get ready to receive the movers who are arriving at 10 AM. We check out the place, the services, the resources and check in with several administrators about needs, expectations and schedules.   Mover arrives and begins unloading and bringing furniture and many boxes of packed belongings including paintings, books, clothes, etc. We work with the mover to put things together including the bed and arrange other pieces of furniture knowing we’ll get to the rest tomorrow. We bring mother to see her new digs, she seems pleased to see everything and decides she will just stay on there instead of returning to the hotel for one more night. We go back and have dinner at the hotel and notice my wife’s wallet is missing. We report same to hotel staff and nothing has been turned in to lost and found.

Wednesday, May 31 – We continue unpacking and have a personal care giver on board so we can concentrate on unpacking and putting things away. Several people including grandchildren stop by.

I go back to the hotel and look everywhere for the wallet and do not find any traces. My wife checks with credit card postings and nothing untoward appears but she thinks it may be best to cancel the credit cards and will then have to replace other cards, driver’s license, etc. We need to move mother’s car from the hotel about a block to the new facility and my wife drives it around from the back to the front of the hotel to pick me up. I get into the driver’s seat and say, “Look at your wallet!”   “What do you mean,” she says, and I repeat it, “Look at your wallet.” There on the outside of the car leaning against the windshield was her bright green wallet. It had been there all night and half of this day. My wife had forgotten she had gone out to the car to retrieve something and put the wallet down there to open the door. Angels must be watching. At 1 PM we meet with a trust officer to sort out some financial issues and make plans for what lies ahead. We take a son and granddaughter out to dinner and then collapse into bed.

Thursday, June 1 –  Up at 5 AM Central Time (6 AM Mountain Time) we leave OKC for Santa Fe, making several phone calls along the way to family members to report and provide an update on the past few days. Then, as a stress reliever, we listen to a book on Audible about Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, Nikolai Tesla and a young attorney named Paul Cravath. The title is “The Last Days of Night” and is a historical novel with a lot of accurate references as well as some made up events and timetables. It’s to be out as a movie this Fall. We arrive in Santa Fe around 1:30 PM, retrieve our dog and unpack ourselves and the past ten days. We consider ourselves both stressed and blessed. The best summary and illustration is the following:

On Wednesday, May 24, of this past week, a great-grandchild, age 4, looks at all the boxes, activity and people in the small apartment, extends her arms and says, “I am so stressed out!” She expresses what others are feeling and I say to her, “Isabella, when I get stressed I get ice cream, do you have any?” And she says, “Chocolate?” I say I like coffee ice cream and she says she doesn’t have any so I opt for vanilla which she offers me. It was just pretend time, although I could have used some ice cream at that point. Kids understand!

 

Comments (2)

  1. One of the thing that impresses me most about your story is that even at 103 she’s empowered to make her own choices and live her life. I know that in many families younger family members, caregivers, tell parents what they should and shouldn’t do and what the can and can’t do. She made up her mind and your family made it happen with her. It says so much about how you respect others and honor their choices even when it’s not the easiest around. Sounds crazy stressful but an incredibly loving gesture too. Thanks for sharing!

    Alli

    1. Thanks. She has been a woman of independent means for many years, exercising her wishes, desires and expectations in clear and sometimes compelling terms. Some call her amazing and she is but she can also be challenging. You’re right about most people wanting to make decisions for older family members, most often when they seem incapable of making what the younger folks consider a good choice. This is an unusual situation to be sure and as I said, we felt both blessed and stressed. The stress doesn’t last, the blessings continue.

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