November 25, 2012

God's Waiting Room (Part 2 of 2)

We pulled into Misty Meadows and I was immediately impressed.  The grounds were tidy, the scenery lush and the people friendly.  We toured the facility, met some of the locals and got the lay of the land.  Then while Dad was completing the check-in process we began making preparation for the move in.  This is when we had our first reality check.

 We had moved Dad out of his single-level home in under an hour.  But the path we had to navigate to move him in was a circuitous route from the parking lot, through two double doors, to an elevator, to the third floor and down a long hallway that looked like it could have been used on the set of The Shining.  “Wendy, I’m back!” – Jack Nicholson.


Alan and I looked at each other with our patented “it’s going to be a long day” look, took one deep breath each and got to work.

Hour one: It took a while to find a rhythm.  We learned to walk through the first set of double doors in order to hit the handicap button that was conveniently located on the inside for those handicaps who were trying to get in from the outside.  (I suppose this helped keep gangs of elderly handicapped people from storming the facility, but I think a deep moat full of alligators would have been more effective.)  Hitting the handicap button swung both sets of double doors open at the same time.  If you timed it right you could then walk back outside, pick up your load and scurry through before the doors closed back upon you.

Hour one (continued):  We learned that elderly people like to visit with two nice young men who don’t have anything better to do than move their Dad in and try to get the U-haul turned back before 5:00 p.m.  This wasn’t all bad because they soon instructed us to hit the “close” button on the elevator door immediately or we would be waiting longer than necessary.  I suppose this sort of thing is important to people who don’t have much time left.  Also, we learned that elderly people don’t mind sharing the same elevator with two hard working mover-boys several times in the same hour, probably because elevators are a great way to “capture an audience” as it were.

Hour one (still continued—it was a long hour): There was a game of Misty Meadows horse racing going on in the community room next to the elevators.  Several wooden horses were being propelled along the floor and the participants were betting Monopoly money on the outcome.  The winners could later redeem their cash for such luxuries as an extra piece of bread at dinner or 15 minutes of additional free time with the door to their rooms unlocked.

Hour two: I don’t typically perspire all that much, but by hour two I was sweating profusely.  The combination of the Sacramento Valley humidity and the fact Misty Meadows had their thermostat set on “geriatric” was almost more than I could bear.  Speaking of bare, I was tempted to take my long sleeve shirt off, but all I was wearing underneath was a tank top undershirt that my family affectionately refers to as a “wife-beater”.  So once again, political correctness prevailed over my comfort level, which seems to have become the story of my life.

Hour two (continued): A new set of obstacles appeared for us to navigate.  There was fresh meat in town and word had traveled fast.  Packs of elderly single ladies with precious little time to waste stalked Dad’s hallway like matronly cougars pursuing their prey.  Once they had him cornered they descended upon him like he was an innocent little 68-year-old.  For a second my mind wondered just what kind of freaky, shenanigans went on at Misty Meadows, but I realized whatever it was it would have to be over by 8:30 p.m. at the latest.

Hour three: One of the employees happened to notice my plight.  I don’t know if it was the way I was crawling along the floor that got her attention or maybe my gasps for air as I clutched my chest and prayed in Latin.  Either way she kindly mentioned to me that they had carts available I could use so I didn’t have to carry everything in my arms.  I replied that “No, I did not know that”.  She replied in turn, “Oh, I just thought you didn’t want to use them.”

Talk about mixed emotions.  But I think she may have literally saved my life so for that I am grateful.

Hour four: Job complete, Dad ensconced and boys tired.

We bid Dad a fond adieu.  It could have been a more meaningful, tearful and emotionally bonding moment but Dad was hungry and wanted to get to the dining room and sit with his new friends.   He walked away with joy in his stride and purpose in his heart, no longer in need of our services.  Alan and I decided to linger no longer.

We got the U-haul delivered back on time with no extra charges and we made it safely back over Donner Pass before the snow started to fly.


November 23, 2012

God's Waiting Room (Part 1 of 2)

Dad turned 81 this year.

After three trips to the hospital, four near car wrecks and the now infamous Walmart shopping cart incident, Dad has decided to scale back and embark on a new adventure as the newly installed resident of Misty Meadows Retirement Community; or as I like to  call it, God’s Waiting Room.

 The first step on this journey was to help Dad downsize his life.  Moving from his 1700 square foot two-bedroom, two bath home to a 450 square foot studio apartment would be no mean feat.  But his kids and grandkids stepped up to the plate and generously relieved him of the burden of his car, his furniture, his tools, his extra crockpot and just about anything else that wasn’t nailed down.

 But we left him his dignity.  It was the least that we could do.  The very least.

 The second step was to load up what was left of his belongings (bed, TV, computer, dresser, desk, recliner, microwave, toilet bowl scrubber, garbage can, two lamps “that’s all I need” – Steve Martin, two more chairs, framed pictures, bookshelf, luggage, clothes and boxes and boxes and more boxes of his stuff.  Or maybe that was all of Mom’s old stuff . . . You know the stuff she forbade him to part with after her death on threat of a good old-fashioned haunting . . .

Still it only took my brother Alan and me less than an hour to fill up a mid-sized U-haul truck.

The third step was to drive over Donner Pass to Roseville, CA.  Being the eldest and the responsible one I was worried about the weather and two approaching storms.  The first storm was currently dropping rain along the entire stretch and the second storm was threatening to drop the snow level to 6000’ by nightfall.  As the elevation of Donner is over 7200’ this could mean being stuck somewhere in the Sierra’s in the middle of the night.  “Donner, party of three . . . Donner, party of three . . .”

 But Alan wasn’t troubled by responsibility, having previously announced that we were going to be traveling at “Alan-speed” throughout the day, whatever that meant.  As son number three, Alan has never embraced the importance of increasing one’s stress level to the maximum in order to be an hour early wherever he goes.  At least not to the degree that Dad and I have.  And even though Alan has always been Dad’s favorite I blame Mom for his behavior; always have, always will.

Besides Dad was hungry and we needed to make a stop for fast food. Being the epitome of efficiency that he is Dad had managed to get his phone turned off and his car turned over to his granddaughter three days too soon.  So when he ran out of food two days earlier than planned he had been forced to subside on a bag of Fugi apples and a block of cheese.  Of course this didn’t stop us from rejoicing over the fact that we didn’t have to pack any food stores into the van.

Alan and I flipped a coin to see who would get to ride with Dad.  I won so Dad hopped in the U-haul with Alan and I jumped into my Jeep and cranked Pandora radio to my favorite station. 

I told Alan I would drive behind him in case he had trouble with the weather, but I had forgotten that he had utilized his fancy Army Airborne training as a truck driver in South Korea.  He drove that U-haul so fast over the pass that even Mom’s spirit had a difficult time keeping up.  He soon lost me and by the time we had reached our destination he was a full fifteen minutes ahead.

 The fourth step was to get Dad moved in . . . To be continued . . .