Chat @ Care-giving: An Unintentional Game of Hide and Seek

Put this in the “You can’t think of everything” column.

I did a pretty good job moving my parents into a retirement center.  Months later they’re still discovering things they like about their new way of life and where they are living it.  Sure the food isn’t as good as Mom used to make, but hey, she’s not having to plan the meals, shop for and put up groceries, or cook the food and clean up afterwards.

Though Mom may from time to time wish for something in her old home, like her built-in dressing table, I didn’t forget to pack anything they needed.  In fact, they’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover that they are enjoying several items they’d told me they wouldn’t need, but I packed anyway.

To minimize the upheaval of their transition, my sister and I, with our husbands, didn’t just move them to their new place and leave them with the job of unpacking.  The day we moved them in, we unpacked almost everything and put it in place – right up to and including the pictures on the walls.  What was not unpacked the first day, was unpacked and put in place the next.

Mom and Dad were blown away with our efficiency.  Even though I’d told them repeatedly what we planned to do, the reality of it stunned them.  They still brag about it to anyone who will listen.  “We didn’t do a thing.  Our kids did it all.  They packed it up, moved it and then unpacked everything.  We didn’t lift a finger.”

There was a downside to this, however – Mom didn’t know where anything was. Now I know Mom pretty well.  I learned housekeeping holding on to her apron strings.  I know what she puts under the sink in the kitchen, what belongs next to the front door and how she likes her underwear drawer organized.  With this knowledge, I’d arranged her new home to suit her to a tee.

Arriving at her apartment the morning after the move, Mom was frazzled and couldn’t find anything.  It really didn’t faze me.  There were still a few boxes to unpack and we’d packed overnight bags for them in case things hadn’t gone as smoothly as I’d planned.  There were in new surroundings.  No wonder Mom was at loose ends.

At the end of that day, everything was in place, but Mom still had the lost look on her face.  I began in her bathroom and walked her through the entire apartment, describing the logic with which I’d organized their belongings.  Then I said, “And if you really can’t find something, all you have to do is call.”

Before the night was over, she’d called to ask me about something.  I had another call bright and early the next day.  Then she started waiting until I made my daily call to her to ask me where things were.  For a while, I answered her inquiries quickly with more than a little amusement.  A few weeks later it was getting old – especially when we were on the third or fourth inquiry for some items.

“Jane, I was just wondering, did we forget to pack my blow dryer?”

“Didn’t you get your hair done yesterday at the beauty shop?”

“Well yes, but this morning I got to thinking about it and I thought we might have forgotten to pack it.  Every once and while, you’ve had to do my hair for me, you know.”

“Yes, I know and that’s why I packed it for you.  You’ve asked me this before you know.”

“Well, maybe so, but this is all so new to me.  I guess I could look for it, but I thought you might remember where you put it if we brought it.”

“Tell me this, if you had unpacked the blow dryer, where would you have put it?”

“Under my bathroom sink.”

“Did you look under there?”

“Well, I’ve gotten other things out from under there and I didn’t remember seeing it.”

“OK – I can understand that.  You don’t use it very often, so I put it in the back under some other stuff you use more frequently.”

“Good,” she said and tried to move on to other subjects, but I interrupted her.  “Mom, I want you to know that I don’t mind telling you where things are, but I hate for you to feel so disoriented in your own apartment.  I know you pretty well and I’ve put things where I think you would have.  If you’re looking for something, then just think about where you’d put it and look there.  You’ll probably find it.”

“But I wasn’t looking for it.  I was just thinking about it and thought you might remember.”

Like I said, you can’t think of everything and I had no idea I’d be answering these kinds of questions months after their move.  If you’ve been through a move like this with your parents, what little question did you find yourself answering again and again?

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