There is nothing like a pandemic to get you up off the couch and onto those projects you’ve been putting off. I cleaned out our refrigerator, which produced a host of new organisms never before seen on this planet. I cleaned out the cupboards, which ended up housing more expired food than not. I went through my closet and bagged up all my clothes that were either too big, too small or just flat out ugly, but now I find myself digging around in the bag for those clothes that were “too big,” as they are sadly now the only clothes that fit me. Unfortunately, most of the “too big” clothes also fell into the “ugly” category as well, but who cares? Personal appearance has gone by the wayside for me, what with the lack of exercise and increased calorie intake (quarantine sourdough) and alcohol (too many varieties to even mention).
My biggest and most complex project was to completely empty my mom’s townhouse. She moved into a lovely senior living community last November due to the onset of Alzheimer’s. We took only the basics to furnish her small apartment, leaving behind a lifetime of belongings, including the remains of three people: her mother and two great aunts. There were more deceased people in the house than alive. My mom had never gotten around to depositing the ashes into the ocean, which apparently is what all three ladies wanted, but I think is illegal. For now, they are all resting in peace in the public storage unit we rented.
We could have left the townhouse as-is for the time being, but my daughter Mary, who recently got hitched on Zoom, (I’ll save that for another column...) asked my brother and me if she and her husband could live at my mom’s house for a while in order to save money to buy a house of their own. We agreed, but we had no idea the work that would be involved, or the ideas Mary had in her mind as to how to transform the house into something more up-to-date and inhabitable. In all honesty, the house was a mess. People who have Alzheimer’s are not the best housekeepers. They are just trying to remember how to make toast. My mom is in a much better situation now and spends her time beating all the old guys at dominoes.
So, the first order of business, before any repairs or improvements could be done, fell on my shoulders. I had to go through everything — and I mean everything — then decide where everything should go: a storage unit, Good Will or the dump. I have had to make some tough decisions. Recently I have been plagued with “dumper’s remorse.” I will wake up in the middle of the night in a panic wondering if I should have kept that burnt orange fondue pot. It’s a lot of pressure!
On a side note, I will reveal to you that I have always thought my mother favored my younger brother, mostly because she did. I can site numerous examples of it. I understood why. I was a bit of a high-maintenance teenager, made some poor decisions and couldn’t seem to save a nickel. My brother was no angel either, but he was better at hiding it. She always had a lot of praise for him, and a lot of tough love for me. That being said, as I unearthed all of my mother’s most prized possessions, I discovered that she had kept almost everything I had ever given her. From a Mother’s Day card I made her in Kindergarten to the Mother’s Day card I gave her last year. Letters I had written to her from summer camp when I was 10, fabric from a dress she made my first-born daughter. As her closets slowly became empty, my heart became full of the proof that my mom has always loved me, and no less than she loves my brother. I discovered a lot about my mom during the days of combing through box after box. It was a fascinating journey. One I needed to take. The good news is that my mom is still with us, and as luck would have it, people with Alzheimer’s have amazing long-term memories. Good, because I have a lot of questions now!
The work is now done, and Mary and her new husband will be moving in next month. Boxes of my mother’s memories are now stacked up in my closet. I do hope this pandemic comes to an end soon, because now more than ever, I really need to hug my mom.