I said to my mom tonight, “If you listen really carefully you can hear the rain tapping at the window.” We both agreed that that is one of the best sounds we know. I assured her that you can still hear it, here in the city, Seventeen stories high. The sound of thunder still rumbles out here in the city, too.
Tonight when I go to sleep I’ll imagine that I’m in my childhood home, listening through the open window, to the gentle, intermittent rain drops plopping against the glass. It always puts me right to sleep…..
I took my mom to her old house on Saturday so we could pack up the last of her stuff. It’s been 7 months since she’s moved and she’s only been back 3 times since. The hardest place for her to pack up was the garage. I could tell that so much of her life in that house revolved around that garage. It was then that it really hit me how hard it’s been for her to move to such a small place that gives her extremely limited opportunities for going outside. To a place without a garage.
We stood there looking around. She moved from item to item. She saw the grass clippers and said, “I guess I don’t need these anymore.” Her beautiful grey eyes teared up. “I want that barrel, it was my father’s. My mother painted it sliver, she loved to paint everything. I can’t take it, but I want Melissa to have it.” I assured her that my sister would take it and love it. I also learned why my mom loves to paint everything.
Sitting next to the barrel was an open, half used bag of bird seed. It was sitting there as if someone had just dug a cup inside and filled the birdfeeder with abundant seeds for the local sparrows, robbins and a few pesty squirrels. But they hadn’t. That bag has been sitting like that for 7 months and will probably be thrown away. The lawn mower, the ladder, the empty pots, the potting soil…all waiting for a spring season of use…..not to be used anymore.
The most important thing that used to inhabit the space where we were standing was not there anymore and not discussed. The car. Nothing left to remind us except for a few gasoline stains on the floor and the windshield ice scraper hanging on the wall.
I felt like this trip to my mom’s old house was the epitome of a “slice of life” moment. So many people my age are dealing with situations like this in their lives. But, on that day I could really feel the impact that this trip had on my mom. How sad it is to be forced to pack up and move out of a house that you enjoyed. How frustrating it is to be forced to no longer drive your car, ultimately giving up your independence. How wrong it is to be forced to learn a whole new way of life at 82 years old.
As we backed down the driveway my mom was straining her neck to watch her old house fade out of sight. Then she did something so spontaneous and so sweet that I will never forget. She lifted her little hand and waved goodbye toward the house. I held her hand and we drove home.
“Is it your right arm?!”, I ask nervously. “No, it’s my left”, Kathy replies. We both laugh instantaneously. “We’re always so relieved it’s not my right arm that I swing into the table, scald with hot water, almost cut taking a knife out of the dishwasher. I think I could slice my hand off at the wrist and we’d be relieved, as long as it was my left and not my right!”
We laughed and laughed at that…..because it is so true! Kathy has lymphedema in her right arm. We are so protective of it and yet it still gets infected and blows up like a balloon.
My wish for her is to not worry about either side – to be able swing her arms freely and not worry if she has a cut on her right thumb that could turn into an infection.
I wish I could take away this burden. Since I can’t I guess we’ll just go on being grateful that it’s the left and not the right.