MILE MARKER 61
Two days later the movers arrived. I had taken my Mom to her house the night before since the movers would be at her house first. There was less to load and she lived in the inner city. She had to manage this part by herself since I was with Katie and Emma at my house. We figured that her loading should take about an hour or so. She said she had donated a lot when I wasn’t there or had “made arrangements”, with the neighbors that had purchased her home. This was all done without my input or knowledge, but Gramma was an adult and should be able to handle her own affairs right?
My watch said 11:30 when I was wondering where the hell everyone was at. No movers. No Mom. I couldn’t call her since her phone was now disconnected and she didn’t have a cell 37
phone. This is a huge memo to self… all old people should have cell phones! The kids were hungry and I was feeding them whatever prepackaged items that I had packed in the car for our trip. It was difficult trying to keep them entertained (they were bored since all of their stuff was now packed), I was still packing last minute stuff and doing the cleaning of the fridge, and bathrooms.
At 12:30, the movers showed up. Of course, now it was lunchtime. We lived so far out off the beaten path that they had already passed all of the local fast food places. I was desperate for them to get going, so I ordered a few pizzas and sodas from our little convenient mart on the corner and brought it back. My mother showed up a few minutes later. I met her in the driveway, with, I’m sure, a look of jaw dropping, “where the hell were you?” plastered across my face. All she said was that she too was surprised by how long it took to load her up. She went on to remark as to how the neighbor who had purchased her home to use as rental property had met her with coffee in hand that
morning. Gramma was trying to figure out how she could dig up some of the million and one plant she had accumulated over thirty years in her city lot. Mom really went for that “English garden-au naturel look“. I told her it was illegal to bring plants across state lines. Of course her usual “who’ll notice” was resounding, with which I responded; “where in our little van would we fit all of these plants after the initial, two adults, two children, two dogs, one bird with bird cage, six oxygen canisters, four suitcases, a small TV., a phone, her oxygen concentrator, four sleeping bags and my super size bottle of Tylenol?
She said, “Maybe we’ll talk about it later”.
As I walked across our front yard to the moving van, I approached the young man with the clipboard who seemed to be in charge. With my eyebrows lifted, I was hesitant to ask him why they were so late. But I did. We talked as we walked back across my lawn to our house. It seems that he now needed to tag every piece that was going to be moved. Couldn’t this have been done yesterday I thought. To save some time. Whatever.
As we walked through the house, I soon discovered that Gramma had much more loaded on the truck than the few boxes and seven pieces of furniture that we had originally discussed.
It seems that Gramma couldn’t part with most of her belongings and figured if she was going to be loaded on the truck first, then the old, “who’ll notice” would hold true.
I may have hurt the man with the clipboard that day as I climbed over him, almost knocking him to the floor as I ran like a college sprinter down my front walkway to the huge blue moving van that the other fellas were now beginning to open. As the side doors were swung open, my pace slowed and I could see that Gramma’s “who’ll notice…one more thing” had turned into loading the first twenty five percent of the truck. She pretty much had brought everything, except the lawnmower and the plants in her front yard. I think I was having a heart attack. Maybe. I could feel the shortage of breath. I knew I was feeling faint. The only thing that was keeping me alive was this nagging feeling that if I somehow could place Gramma at the end of the driveway then no one would notice in all of the commotion if I
“accidentally” back up over body let’s say twenty or thirty times. I mean, “Who’ll notice”, right?
That day was spent running around with the guy with the clipboard and telling him what NOT to put tags on. He had already convinced me that my two story, four bedrooms, two and a half garages, house was not going to fit into the remaining space on his truck. We left a beautiful sofa, a few tables, cases of record albums, a music system and its wood cabinetry as well as the kids swing set. I was heart broken. Of course, there was my Mom, standing ever so innocent in the kitchen and saying “just have them take off all of my stuff and leave it in the front yard for the scavengers”.
She couldn’t believe that we weren’t going to take the kids swing set. You see, she had bought it for them a few years earlier. It was one of those big wood things with the slide and the monkey bars, swings and such. I told her sure, we’ll bring that and I’ll just leave our beds here. Who needs them anyway. We all have sleeping bags.”
They finished that night at 9:30. The kids were starving. We were going to head to my in laws cottage in Indian to stay the night and get a fresh start in the morning. This was an hour away. We couldn’t stay at a hotel because we had two dogs and a bird. We doubled back to town to get everyone something to eat before getting on the turnpike. It was dark now. The kids fell asleep and I could only wish that Gramma would have. It was then that I wished that you could have a glass of merlot in the local Big Boy drive through.
I had been to the cottage often over the previous fifteen years. Most often Charlie drove and I was now going down country back roads at night trying to identify landmarks with eyes that had had contact lenses in them about six hour too long. We reached the cottage and as exhausted as we were, I was able to get the kids in and to sleep on the couch and Grammas bird and the two dogs stayed in the garage. I still had to bring in Grammas oxygen machine. By now, it felt like it had weighed 400 pounds. I asked which was her overnight bag and she looked at me like I were speaking Italian. “My suit cases are 42
all in the turtle on top of the van with everyone else’s”, she said so matter of factly.
I scratched the side of my face. “You mean you didn’t put your basics all in one little bag?” I asked.
“All you told me was to pack my clothes and don’t forget my medication and important papers”. “Oh, I need my medication too.” she followed.
“Which bag?” I said. I could feel the heartburn starting.
“The red one”.
“Mom, they are all red”.
“Well, my nightie is in the big bag, the meds are in the little bag and everything else I need is in the medium bag. You’d better bring them all in”.
In hindsight, I should have been more explicit. Mom never did travel anywhere that I could remember. I should have known the , travel light, overnight bag wasn’t part of her vocabulary since when I was away at camp for my first time in the sixth
grade, she packed my entire dresser into a suitcase that looked like it had belonged to the Fuller Brush Man. Everything inside the suitcase was put in a garbage bag to stay dry just in case someone had an urge to throw it in the lake.
As I unloaded, the entire top of the van in the dark, by myself, with just the lights on the front of the garage to illuminate, the country bugs thought I was the human feast. I don’t even want to know what some of those large, noisy, crawly things were that night. My skin is crawling now just thinking about it.
The next morning, Charlie’s parents called us at the lake. They had come up the day before to make sure that we had fresh linens, orange juice, milk, cereal and the like to make us comfortable and wanted to make sure we took advantage of all the lake has to offer. They even suggested that after such a stressful prior few days that we take a day or two at the lake just to relax before heading on to Wisconsin. Normally, I probably would have taken their cue and accepted their invitation; however, I had a few concerns.
One, the girls were to begin their first day of school the next day
and I didn’t think they should miss the first day if we could help it. Second, the movers were going to arrive with or without me. Charlie was still working and I just don’t think I was prepared to let him direct everything on that end without me. I was now in control freak mode. Additionally, I don’t think I could stand one more day of being in such close quarters to Gramma. I needed to have my husband as the “buffer”. He was my sounding wall.
In the years to come, we would find that these titles of “sounding board “ and “buffer” would be worn by both of us when used in the context of Gramma.
Therefore, I decided to venture on.
I had AAA print off a trip tik before I left. This is a handy little item for those who are members. If you travel, I think this is necessary have. It’s a brochure sized map that is already highlighted the route that you have designated. It signifies any current roadwork or delays that you might need to be aware of. I had packed the front passengers seat with about a dozen of the magazines that Gramma had been buying for the last
thirty years but never got around to reading. I thought this would be a good time to keep her occupied. I didn’t need to worry about the girls. I packed their books and crayons and thank God for the van’s built in VCR.
The girls had VHS tapes stacked between their captain’s chairs and the birdcage was balanced ever so carefully on top of that between them. I had laid down the back seat to allow the dogs a little more amidst all of the other things we had packed din there. We were pretty much packed like the proverbial sardines. Actually, I was impressed with myself and how well I was able to fit everything in.
The dogs were already asleep as I let them swim in the lake before we left to wear them out a bit. I figured smelling “wet dog” in the car for a few hours was the least I could do for them since it was going to be such a long trip.
Every time Gramma started to speak that day, you could hear the crackle in her voice. She was on the verge of tears. I know it
was difficult for her to move. Essentially, she had lived all of her life in or around our town. She was leaving her only sister, 46
whom she never had maintained much contact with, her friends,
most of whom, still lived in the same house on her street. I found someone to take her dog. The first time it was returned when the family called me and said the dog screamed as if it were being beaten every time the man of the house entered the room. I suspect this came from living on a corner lot in an inner city neighborhood the previous two years where some not so nice young boys would probably torment her. I eventually found her a home where she would be retrained as a companion dog for the disabled.
Having said all of that, I still don’t know if we had a better choice. After all, I did have numerous doctors telling me that Mom would probably only have six more months to live.