I watched their faces, looking for any chink in their armor as my parents led my husband and I through what will likely be their new home at a retirement center. I observed their quiet movements, listened to what they said. And what they didn’t say.
My brother’s and I have been “strongly suggesting” our parents move out of the home they’ve live in for nearly forty years, while they’re both still in decent health and of sound mind. I’m lucky—most people in their mid-50’s have already lost one or both parents. I’m also a worrier. Their current home with slippery steps leading to a cement floor basement has caused my overactive imagination to run wild every time I can’t get ahold of them, certain they’re lying in great pain on the basement floor while I’m hours away.
So they’ve agreed to take this step, and being the optimists they are, I knew they’d have a “Gee, this will be great!” attitude. And they did. Yes, the retirement home will mean no more mowing grass, no more shoveling snow, no more worrying if their pipes will freeze if they’re gone for a few weeks in winter.
Yet they, like the rest of us, love their home. We all have experienced that aaahhh feeling when we walk into our home after being gone awhile. Everything is familiar and comfortable, because we’ve built that nest over the years, layer by layer. It smells, feels, sounds, and is a reflection of us.
It won’t be easy for them as they carefully sort through their accumulation of nearly sixty years of marriage, determining what to keep, and what to give away.
Back at their house, my mom and I go through a few things. “If you see anything you want, take it.” She says. My husband and I don’t have room for “extras” as our family is growing every year with more (fantastic) grand-children. The last thing we need is some small family heirloom too tempting for them to not touch.
Every family treasure mom shows me has a short story, and I see a look of sadness in her eyes as she is well aware they can’t keep it all. I take a few small things, items I’ll cherish every day, even though I don’t need the family possessions. What I really need is to know my parents will be happy and safe, so I don’t worry about them so much. Somehow, our roles have been reversed.