Sunday, December 7, 2008

Honoring Your Mother and Father

So, because of my Mom's dementia (and a few other factors) she has been living apart from my Dad for the past year or so. My Dad has continued to live in the house I grew up in with my brother and sisters. My Mom has been living in a retirement center about 20 minutes away. They have seen each other often - at least once a week - but they've been physically separated for the past year. It's a loooong story but it finally worked out for my mother to move back home with my Dad. The move happened last Saturday, and it went off pretty much without a hitch but that doesn't mean there weren't some interesting things that happened along the way. Well, interesting to me anyway . . .

On Saturday morning I drove to Lake Oswego (Motto: The 2nd Best High School Sports Teams Money Can Buy) and knocked on the door to my brother's house. Or, more accurately, the last house I remembered him living in! When no one answered I looked through the glass and noticed the house was empty. For a few moments I thought I might be in the middle of one of those weird flashback episodes on LOST. So, I called him and said, "Uh dude! I'm at your house but, uh, it appears you've been robbed and all your furniture and your 300 kids are all missing!" He replied, "Haven't you been to our new house before?" (Apparently not.) As it turns out, my brother and his family moved about a year ago. Who knew?

So I got directions to the new place and went (literally) around the corner to pick him up. From there we went to pick up the U-Haul truck I had rented. Here's a question: "When you go online to rent a vehicle from U-Haul and they ask you to provide your entire financial and life history, why does it take a freakin' forty-five minutes to get the keys to the truck and drive away?" Part of the reason is that their computers are even slower than ours at U.S. Bank! (Almost impossible to believe, right?) But I also think I had a guy helping me whose IQ may not have exceeded the number of states in the Union. He would ask me a question ("Date of birth?" "Mother's maiden name?" "Name the four main stars of Leave It To Beaver.") After I would answer, there was no acknowledgement that he had heard me. He just stared at the screen. That's when my ADHD would kick in and I would start to play solitaire on my iPhone. After a couple of minutes he would mumble another question. ("Driver's license number?" "Purpose of the rental?" "True or False: Beyonce recently changed her name to Sasha Fierce?") But by then I was no longer listening and - since I'm hard of hearing anyway - my response was pretty much always the same: "Huh?"

So we finally got out of there and drove to the retirement center my Mom has been living in. My sister, sister-in-law and other members of my family had already done most of the work packing things up. (Yes, I'm as much of a slacker in real life as I am at work!) That made it easy to load things into the truck. However, there were a few things that weren't going to my Dad's house - things they have duplicates of, for example. (A love seat, kitchen table and chairs, band saw, a cold fusion reactor and several dozen Vera Wang wedding gowns.) Those got loaded into my brother and sister's vehicles. (They're all Mormons so they are required by law to drive mini-vans, which can hold anything and everything.)

Once the truck was loaded, my brother drove it to Dad's house. I took my Mom with me in my car. I have one of those GPS thingies and my Mom was pretty much fascinated by the turn by turn directions from Arcata. (Arcata is the name of the daughter of one of my co-workers. For reasons I can no longer remember, I named my GPS after her.) So, as I said, my Mom loved those precise directions. ("Prepare to turn left in 500 feet." "Turn left." "I said, turn left!" "Hey bonehead, are you gonna TURN LEFT LIKE I TOLD YOU TO, or am I gonna have to come over there and do it myself!") My Mom would laugh a little each time and kept staring at the GPS screen all the way home. I think she may have been a little confused however because when I turned it of she said "I just love Everybody Loves Raymond, don't you?"

We got to my Dad's house and began to unload things. Because my parents are both in their 80s, we didn't expect them to help and we were happy to do the moving and unpacking. However, they were so excited to be back together that they could not keep their hands off each other. I was already scarred for life from an incident in kindergarten where my Aunt Irene tried to get me to hold a garter snake (something I would rather not have to talk about, by the way) but this took IFBS (Inappropriate Family Behavior Syndrome) to a new level. Without going into detail, let me just say that you never want to hear either of your octogenarian parents using phrases like "booty call" and "hooking up."

Once we pried them apart (which thankfully did not require having to spray them with a hose) my Mom helped my brother-in-law, my nephew (who works for the bank, by the way) and me unpack things in her bedroom. That there were four of us in a tiny 8 X 8 bedroom that already had a full size bed, a dresser, desk, two night stands and a television in it . . . well, let me just say that we all know each other a bit better now. We tried to be careful to put things in places that my Mom would remember, but that was really a lost cause. The chances of her remembering we were even there are pretty slim. On the other hand, she is a fun conversationalist, mostly because she always asks me questions I'd rather not have to answer. I always do answer though, cuz she's my Mom. For example:

Q. Oh Peter, do you think you and Nancy will ever get back together? A. No Mom, I don't think Cruella Nancy and I will ever get back together.
Q. How come? A. Well, I'm not exactly sure but I think it has something to do with her belief that I'm the Antichrist.
Q. So, do you have a girlfriend? A. No Mom, I do not have a girlfriend.
Q. Don't you want one? A. Well sure, but apparently they have to want you as well. Without that it's really a lot more like stalking.
Q. Well, I hope someday you'll get married again. A. Yes, and I'm hoping I can experience the joy of passing a kidney stone again someday as well!
Q. And when you do get married, promise me one thing, okay? A. Sure Mom, what's that?
Promise me it will be a nice little Mormon girl.

And while I am involved in that fabulous discussion, my brother (the guy with two degrees from MIT - one in Electrical Engineering and the other in Annoying Magic Tricks) is setting up my Mom's LCD HD TV in the living room. This is cool for two reasons. One is that my Dad is the biggest tightwad I have ever known and has always been too dang cheap to have a decent TV, let alone cable. (In fact, we never had a color TV while I lived at home. I think it was sometime in the early 80s before they ever got one.) After MUCH DISCUSSION, however, they are finally getting cable - but only cuz I kinda didn't mention how much it would cost - especially with HD! (Since the bill comes to me, he'll never know, unless one of you tells him!) The other thing is that my tightwad Dad has kept his 21 inch Sony for roughly two decades and the picture is shot! (Although I suppose if you were really stoned the wavy lines and weird color blotches might be kinda fascinating.) On top of that, the antenna in the attic only picks up one station very well (Oregon Public Broadcasting, of course). So when my brother got things hooked up, and plugged in a DVD to check out the picture, we lost my Dad forever. Since last Saturday, I believe the only thing he has done is to sit in his chair and watch the Battle of Britain over and over and over.

Almost more excitement than one man deserves, right? In any event, I gotta go now cuz I promised my Mom I'd find myself a nice, little Mormon girl.
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