I spent several hours at Mom’s house today. I alternate weekends with my SoCal sister. We get Mom’s mail, water her plants, check her phone messages, and just generally make sure all is well while the place is empty.
Yes, it’s inconvenient (it’s a 90-minute drive), but it’s short-term because she has agreed to sell her house, and this time I believe she will follow through. I’m glad, but also heartbroken. To think of them – them! but it isn’t “them” anymore, is it? It’s just her – not living up there ever again. Well, I’ve held off the tears all day but I guess I can’t forever. Time moves on, and we all get old and die.
I feel conflicted. I want her to move down (“up” and “down” in this post relate to land elevation) by me, for all the logical reasons, and then all of a sudden, like right now, I don’t want her to move at all. I want her to risk it, to inconvenience and vex and terrify us with her dogged determination to stay as long as she possibly can in that house that represents that good part of her life when Dad was still alive, and then the part where as a new widow she reaped the benefit of having cultivated friends and hobbies for the alone-time she knew was coming. For me to yank her away from that – and then add in the heartbreaking, elegiac, mind-numbing beauty of the high desert – I can hardly bear the thought.
It’s an end. I’d like to think it’s a beginning, too, but who can say? Mom is healthy and vibrant for almost-86, there’s no reason she can’t have a great ten more years. But will she have the courage to start over, to walk away from that place?
It hurts to think of losing it, because for ten years, this town was my home, too. It was largely a difficult time, when I worked harder than any human should have to, and delayed my dreams, and saved everybody.
The memories are bad and good.
As a young single mother, I took my son Danny (now 33) on his paper route some weekend mornings when the snow made it impossible for him to ride his bike. One morning I ran over his foot, but the deep sand saved him and after we got over the shock, we laughed. And then newspapers stopped hiring kids and kids stopped getting up early and riding bikes and getting their first paychecks.
On the other end of the scale, my previous marriage ended there. And Dad died up there! I wouldn’t live there now. Couldn’t. But I miss it.
But I digress. Today I worked my ass off, getting Mom’s house all spiffed-up for Amber to look at next Saturday. Amber might buy it. That would be nice, to know it’s still in the family. Amber is a dear friend of my step-daughter. So we would know the house that Dad and Mom built in the ’80s would be well cared for.
It was so beautiful up there today! I swear, when you live in such a place as the high desert, and especially on a spring day like today, you feel a sense of hope and optimism about rearing kids, raising your own food, having quiet and privacy and clean air and astounding skyscapes…but you have to agree to be away from the grownups, those people with good cars and nice landscaping and HOA rules and recycling. You have to cut yourself off from fancy restaurants and advanced culture and decent shopping.
But you can pretend that you’re living life on your own terms.
I imagine this is what people seek when they move to Idaho or Montana or the Dakotas. It’s like joining a monastery. All magic and no movies.
But again, I digress.
Mom’s coming home to my house tomorrow. I started out being excited, and I still am, but we’ve had a couple of conversations since the hospital said they’d cut her loose, and I realize I’m a bloomin’ amateur. I see that Mom’s looking for ways (already) to cut corners and speed things up; and now I understand it’s not about reveling in the relative luxury of my house as compared to a rehab hospital. It’s about my house as stepping stone to – you guessed it – her house. I think she’s just biding her time until she can go home. It started out being a month, and now she’s only planning to stay for two and a half weeks. We both talk about the need for therapy, and the therapist will have to visit my house, and we should set that up ASAP, but I sense Mom’s beyond that already. And my other sister, the one who hasn’t yet adapted to her new home near Canada, would do almost anything, including promising to take care of Mom, to be able to come south and thaw out for a couple of months.
So I rearrange furniture at my house to make Mom comfortable, to encourage her to stay, but like an inadequately compelling acquaintance, I know I don’t have much pull. Because I suspect she’s going home for good, even if she doesn’t yet say it. And the tears and frustration and anger of her children and grandchildren are nothing compared to the incense of creosote and sage calling to her from the high desert.