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.

First Time Home All Weekend

Except for a vacation and a few short deployments (a total of 8 weekends) I have been going to my parents’ house at least one weekend day each week since October 2003.  Even after my mother died, I continued to do this as I cleaned out the house so the workers could get in there to paint and install new carpet.

Today, for the first time in almost 14 years,  I did not go over there and I’m not sure if I feel relief, sad or glad; relief at having more time, sad that I can no longer visit with mom or glad that mom is no longer “imprisoned” in a failing body.

I felt similar conflicting thoughts when my fiancee died, so I guess this is normal.  No matter what, this is not something I want to go through again..but we have no choice.

I did not make it over to the cemetery to place mom’s wedding bouquet on their grave markers.  It was so breezy this morning that they would have blown away before I could have taken a picture.  So, maybe next weekend.

I did make use of the extra time by making sourdough bread.  This is the first time in many months I have done this.  The bread just came out of the oven and the house smells wonderful. My wife just sliced a piece and pronounced it “wonderful”…music to my ears.

The 2nd use of my time was cleaning out my dresser of no longer worn (or never worn) clothes.  In my job, manufacturers and engineering services firms drop by lots of shirts with their company logos embroidered on them.  I rarely wear them, and I just stick them in the dresser until I begin to have to really squeeze the stuff into the drawers.

Now that the dresser “load” has been reduced I will be able to get my clothes into the “new” dresser.  New and old are backwards this time. The new dresser dates to 1959 and was used by my parents.  The old dresser was put together in 2015. The 1959 dresser is made from solid maple and is beautiful.  The 2015 dresser is pressed board covered with wood looking “paper”.  It looks  OK, but not as nice as the maple.

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.

Two Sides

I did two things this weekend.  One was uplifting and one was kind of tough emotionally.

First the uplifting one.

My wife teaches high school physics and chemistry.  She is also the robotics club sponsor.  This weekend, the robotics club participated in a competition.  I had not ever been to one of these before and it was quite an eye opener.  There were over two dozen teams, each from a high school around the state and each with a robot that is purpose designed to do tasks specified by the competition rules.

As the teams are making changes and repairs, the intensity is similar to what I’ve seen in a busy level 1 trauma bay at a hospital emergency department    Yet, despite the intensity of the people, everyone is helping one another; tools are passed back and forth between teams and there is a free exchange of ideas as to how teams approached the problem.

As an engineer, it’s a relief seeing kids that did the calculations also using the tools to build the robot.  I’ve seen too many engineers that are good with the math, but not with their hands.  To me an engineer should be proficient in both worlds.

One thing I did see bothered me at first and then made me smile.  While I was watching the activity at another team’s area, I saw a girl punching keys on her calculator and make some notes.  She then grabbed some hex key wrenches and started to work on their robot.  It was quite obvious that she was perfectly comfortable with using the tools, yet a guy on her team tried to step in with, “Here. Let me do that.”  She continued to work, told him, “I’ve got this. I’m almost done.” and she was done in less time that it would have taken for them to change places.

I hope she never loses her confidence and I hope she is going to be an engineer.

 

And now for the other side.

I spent Sunday continuing to clean out my mom’s house.  90% of everything in the house evokes strong memories and I’m having to give it away or throw it away.  It is not easy, but it must be done.

 

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.