Mom’s House

The contractor has finished the renovation of my mom’s house.  Next is putting it up for sale.  The bathroom cabinets, sinks and faucets were replaced, the shower door glass was replaced, the carpet was replaced, the inside and outside of the house was painted and the landscaping was converted to what people mistakenly call desert landscaping (hint…it’s gravel).

I have used the book metaphor for a life before.  “The End” was written in dad’s book nearly 13 years earlier and the same was written in mom’s book back in November.  After the house sells, their  books will receive a short addendum and then will join the books of my grandparents and my fiancee.

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Done

My mom’s house is now completely cleaned out.  The house is as bare as it was the day my parents moved in.  This time, however, the excitement of the possibilities of an empty house was not there.

During the final check to make sure I didn’t forget anything that will be in the way of the plasterers, painters and carpet layers, I found, in the back corner of a cabinet in my parent’s bedroom, a plastic bag containing a note and some dried flowers.  “2/18/46 Wedding bouquet”, is what the note said.  The flowers are in pretty bad condition, but they obviously were of great importance to my mom because she brought them along on probably two dozen (dad was in the Marine Corps) moves.

Even though they were in very bad shape, I decided to save the flowers.  As I mentioned I was going to save them, my wife gave me “the look”.  When I told her what I was going to do, “the look” stopped and said she would like to go with me.  Next Saturday, early in the morning when the breezes are calm, I’m going to the veteran’s cemetery and place those flowers on mom’s and dad’s grave markers.

Near the End

This past weekend, I was going to finish up getting the stuff out of my mom’s house, but I could not.  The painters had taped and masked off the doors and I did not want to mess up their work.

So, today I stopped by and got a bunch of china packed up.  According to the notes with the china, one set was used at the head table of my grandparent’s wedding (married in 1915) and the other set was used at my parent’s wedding (married in 1946).  102 and 71 years respectively. It’s hard to believe, yet I have both marriage certificates.

I have the china, a dish hutch to hold the china, a bed, a beautiful glass front bookcase and some pictures to get out of the house sometime before April 25.

That’s it.  Nothing more.

The house is now painted, the roof was inspected and the few needed minor repairs were made and most of the outdoor landscaping is done.  Starting next week, the carpet will be replaced and the interior will be painted….then it will be time to sell the house.

When the house is sold, Mom’s and Dad’s life will have been “cataloged and put up on the shelf”.

Mom

This past Friday was my mom’s burial service.  She was a US Navy Lieutenant during World War 2 and the navy rendered honors–the rifle volleys, folding and presentation of the flag and the playing of taps.

Her ashes were interred next to my dad, a US Marine.

The empty spot in the veterans’ cemetery is now filled.

Fair winds and following seas, mom.

Semper Fi, dad.

The Picture

While cleaning out more stuff from my mom’s house, I came across a picture that I had taken on a long past July 6, my dad’s 91st birthday.

My mom and dad are sitting close together in two chairs and are holding hands.  He has a somewhat pensive look on his face and she is smiling at him. They had been married over 58 years. In the picture, one can see bandages on my mom’s arms, elbows and knees.

On July 3, about 2 hours after I left their house to take care of their errands, my cell phone rang.  It was my dad.  “Call 911.  It’s your mom, she’s down in the back yard in the gravel.  It’s in the sun. I don’t know how long, nor do I know why.  If I call them, they’ll tie me up with questions I can’t answer. I’m going out to see what I can do. Did you get that?” After I said yes, there was a click as he hung up the phone.

Summer daytime air temperatures are routinely over 115F degrees and ground temperatures exceed 150F degrees. This was the case on July 3.

I called 911, gave them the address and told them what dad had told me, along with mom’s age (86 years old) and known medical problems.  I then told them that my dad, a retired US Marine and retired paramedic, said he was going out to help my mom. I added that he was almost 91 years old, under hospice care for heart failure and that his heart ejection fraction was under 8%.

I got to their house in about 5 minutes.  The police and two paramedic units, one for mom and one for dad, were already there.  Mom was on a gurney and they were preparing her for transport to the nearby hospital.  She had what appeared to be 3rd degree burns on her elbows, arms and knees. They had dad sitting in a chair in the shade and he was in tears.  He said that opening the doors had used up all his strength and that he had to crawl most of the way to my mom.  He said he did the best he could, but he was worried that it wasn’t enough.

The paramedics said that when they got there, the garage door and door into the house were both open, and dad was in the back yard, trying to shade her with his body. They went on to say he was using the water from a hose to cool the gravel under my mom.

A few days later, he died of heart failure, but he had accomplished what he had set out to do.  He saved mom.

It took 9 months, but her burns healed completely.

I would like to believe I have as much love as my dad showed on that day.

Memories

My dad died 14-1/2 years ago at the age of 91 and, finally, my mom has let me start cleaning out his work room.  I could have done it earlier, but both out of respect for her wishes and not really wanting to confront the task, I waited for her permission.

In there are lots of tools and lots of miscellaneous hardware, all well organized, properly stored and clearly labelled.  He grew up on a 5000 acre farm where going to the hardware store was an all day trip, so he learned to save everything useful so it would be available…and “findable”–a little extra space that saved a day’s time was a very good trade.  In the city, it was only 5 minutes to the hardware store, but his old habits never died.

Hinges, screws, nails, bolts, nuts, weather stripping, paint brushes, pipe wrenches, and all manner of other hand tools.  An entire 91 year long lifetime of stuff.

For many of the items I can remember riding in the car with him to go buy them and I can remember the project that needed those items.

I pick them up, remember, smile…and then I throw them away.  The jars with a couple of screws go into the recycle bin while the bigger items go to a salvage place.

I shed a “silent tear”…and every few seconds, I repeat the process.

I wonder if this is the fate of all memories.