Under the Same Roof Once Again

As many of you know, my dad passed away in March unexpectedly. As a result, my mom was left with financial decisions, a house and property to take care of, bills to pay, and many more daily tasks that she had rarely, if ever, done by herself.

She moved in with Garris and me the first of June. Each of us has had to transition to the new living arrangement, and we have made progress. Mom downsized her possessions significantly while we were cleaning out her house. She threw away things that had been stored in boxes for 35 years! She pared down her kitchen supplies to what she truly needed and figured she would use. She got ride of ‘extra’ items that I already had.

Lots of things are stored in the barn, and the basement, and the garage. I told her that she didn’t have to get rid of anything; we would find room for everything she wanted and needed.

She condensed an entire house into two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a living room.  She and Dad were married 59 years, so there was a lot of memories accumulated in that house. She’s still unpacking and rearranging. We’ve added bookshelves, a larger medicine cabinet for her bathroom, and a rug for her hallway.

The set up works very well. She has a section of the upstairs for her private area, I have my bedroom and bath and a separate sitting area from her living room. And we share the dining room, kitchen, and laundry. Downstairs is still Garris’ room and and the large family room/tv room.

She was hesitant to hang pictures or do anything that would ‘mess up’ my house. It’s been hardest to convince her that this is her home now. She can do whatever she wants. Slowly, she is accepting that.

That’s not to say we haven’t had some prickly days along the way.  When she moved in, I told her that we each had to keep doing what we respectively wanted to do and that we wouldn’t spend 24 hours a day together. I told her that I didn’t have a regimented, set schedule like she was used to with my dad. They were up everyday by 5:30 and feeding horses soon after. I get up when I wake up most days. Around seven. And the horses are my first chore, but I don’t feel the need to rush out immediately to feed. There have been a few mornings, she was actually waiting by my bedroom door, with her jacket on, foot tapping, so I would get up and feed with her.

Like I told her, she needs to do her own thing. If she’s ready to feed, and I’m not, she can feed. I’ll do my horses when I get up. She is starting to accept this, and I think she actually prefers a little more wiggle room in her schedule.

The first few weeks, she followed me around like my shadow, and I had to find jobs for her to do, so I could do my ‘stuff’. She is just so used to having someone beside 24/7 that it’s hard for her to do things alone. In fact, she usually won’t go anywhere unless I am with her.  I was proud of her last week for driving into town (about ten miles) by herself to check the mail and pick up something from the grocery store.

She is still mastering filling up the gas tank, something else that Dad always did. We have gone from me showing her how to pump gas, from inserting her card, to choosing the right fuel, to getting the pump handle in and out of her pickup, to her doing each step by herself without hints from me. Funny enough, the first time she decided to do the whole thing by herself, the station we usually use was chocked full. So, we went to the other station in town. Their pumps have a completely different set up for the card reader – the magnetic strip has to be in a different position. She was so discouraged that she couldn’t do that all by herself that day. But she’s learning.

And I think she’s realizing that she’s stronger and more capable than she gives herself credit for. The hardest days are the ones when she’s missing Dad. There is nothing I can say or do to make those days better, aside from just giving her space or letting her talk. I don’t think that will ever fully go away. They were together 59 years, the last 20 of which they spent every single day together, as they were both retired.

My biggest goal in moving my mom in with us was to give her the opportunity to live the life she wants, as close to what she had before Dad died. I know we can’t replicate what she had, but I want her to have what she needs.

She also brought her two dogs and three horses, and I think they have adjusted very well to their new home.

Mom and Dad competed in reined cow horse events, in fact that is one of the things I want her to continue. I’ve driven her to her weekly lessons this summer and to her competitions. I don’t mind at all, and I know she would stop competing if I didn’t serve as her driver. I don’t know how many more years she will want to do this, but for as long as she does, I will support her efforts. God knows my folks supported my interests when I was growing up.

It feels like we’ve come full circle. Our relationship has shifted. I am in a more parental role now, and she has stepped back into more of a child role. She looks to me for guidance. She waits to see what I have planned for the day before she makes her plans. It isn’t uncomfortable; quite the contrary, it feels natural to be taking on more responsibility for her happiness and well being. And it feels organic for her to be here. She lived in Belgrade, and it took me about an hour to get to her place. I couldn’t be there quickly if she needed help. So, it just made sense for her to live here.

We’ve had to negotiate household chores. I do most of the cooking, which I’m happy to do. She typically does the dishes at night and keeps the floors swept. We each take care of our own rooms and our own animals. When something comes up, we discuss how to accomplish the task, and it gets done.

For instance, I’ve been doing most of the shopping the past few weeks, mainly because of the Covid nonsense. She usually goes into the post office for mail if I drive and drop her off. I do the heavy lifting, like feed bags and hay bales. But she’s willing to jump in and do whatever I’m doing. Like taking the garbage tot he dump every couple of weeks. She’ll climb right in the back of the pickup with me and start throwing bags into the dumpster.

It is strange to be living under the same roof again. But we’re finding our comfort zones with the arrangement. Including Garris. As an in-going freshman, he isn’t home that much. But he enjoys have Grandma here, and he tries to spend some time with us each day. All three of my boys were insistent that she live here, and I think that made her feel wanted.

As we head into fall and cooler weather, we will have to figure out different ways to keep busy all day. She doesn’t watch tv or listen to music. She likes to read, but a person can do only so much of that. I know I will be at my keyboard most days, so I will have to start a list of projects that she can work on without me.

And I’d better get that dinner going . . . thanks for reading.

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