In addition to just being largely absent here, I have been sort of talking around the elephant in the room. Really, elephant isn’t big enough. Or scary enough, either. The dragon in the room? Let’s go with that. I have been talking around a fire-breathing dragon in the room while hoping it wouldn’t, you know, set anyone on fire.
First of all: Everyone is fine. More or less. Do not fret!
Second of all: I’m still going to talk about this mostly in generalities, because the specifics aren’t mine to share. Perhaps you will wonder about the details. That’s your prerogative.
Third of all: It has been about a year of trying to figure out The Best Solution™ to a sucky situation, and it has occupied a lot of time and energy, and as these things tend to do, it has also taught me a lot about the coping methods (or lack thereof) employed by various loved ones in my life and myself. Fascinating, on an intellectual level. Maddening, sometimes, on a personal level. But that’s how it is.
Fourth of all: I moved my parents across the country and all I got was a busted foot. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
During COVID lockdown (remember that? when people were still scared of COVID? good times), obviously no one was traveling. And my siblings and I continued speaking with my dad and stepmom on the phone, of course, but no one had actually SEEN them. Nevertheless, somewhere in there my stepmom started having some health issues, and so my dad took her to the doctor, and they’ve had the same doctor for a billion years (“Not true,” says my father, “We used to see her husband, but he retired”), and they really like her, but things did not seem right to me. I was not impressed with how this doctor was handling their concerns. So I (strongly) encouraged my dad to seek out a second opinion at a large medical center in a (larger) nearby city. The new team seemed more on top of things, and thus commenced a lot of tests and other medical stuff, and in the meantime, we started realizing that maybe, just maayyyyyyybe, my father wasn’t being totally forthcoming about how things were going.
So Otto drove from Georgia to New York to check in on them at the tail end of last summer. And his report suggested that things were Not Great. I was not able to get up there until the end of fall, at which point it was clear to me that Not Great was—to put it mildly—an understatement.
Listen, my folks are a force of nature and until quite recently they were both in not just impressive shape for their age, but impressive shape, period. They worked out multiple times a week, they traveled the world, and their stamina generally put me to shame and made me want a nap. But they’re in their eighties now and some things have changed and suddenly the two of them living alone in a big house in a small town far away from all of us seemed less “brave” and more “foolish.”
We had multiple conversations during that visit about them relocating. Both of them were amenable, but still saw it as a “at some point in the future” kind of thing rather than a “holy crap this should happen immediately if not sooner” kind of thing. I pushed, a little. Had they thought about where they might go? It turned out they had, and they agreed that the logical destination would be Arizona, where my stepbrother and his family live. But still! It’s so far! And the weather! So hot!! Maybe someday, my dad said. While adding that if only we didn’t live in Georgia, maybe they’d come to us. But, you know. Georgia.
I didn’t argue. It made sense for them to go to my stepbrother, for a lot of reasons. But I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t hoped we’d at least be in contention.
My dad said “someday.” I said “Summer. This summer. We have to get you out of here. You can’t keep saying ‘someday.'” Dad said he didn’t see how it could possibly happen that soon. I said we’d help. I said they needed more help, better access to good, local medical care, and to have family nearby.
I texted my brother and stepbrother to say we needed to get on the same page and make this happen ASAP. My brother texted back that he was planning a vacation back home in June and so could help then. I replied, “I don’t think they’re still going to be here in June.” He immediately called my father, freaking out, saying MIR SAYS YOU’RE NOT STILL GOING TO BE THERE IN JUNE while my father joined him in freaking out and I sat there looking exactly like the emoji of the woman with her hand slapped over her face while furiously texting my brother OKAY WOW MAYBE DON’T.
By the time that trip was over, my stepbrother had planned to visit the next month (at my urging), and we started strategizing how to make everything happen.
Fast forward through the spring; Otto and I spent as much time as we could laying the ground work, including several trips. We spent Ottos’s entire spring break helping my folks downsize, clean, do repairs, and generally start getting the house in shape for a move. My stepbrother and his wife handled all of the research into “senior living,” including touring a bunch of places and reporting back to our parents. The destination was selected and my stepbrother worked on those logistics as well as finding new doctors and such, while Otto and I arranged for the movers, plane tickets, car transport, etc.
In the meantime, there was a lot of… other stuff… happening. I was very worried about my stepmom getting the care she needed, my dad getting the support he needed, and also how isolated (and far away) they were from all of us just in case there was some sort of emergency.
Lemme pause a minute here to issue a blanket ALLEGEDLY over the top of all of this. Can we all just jointly picture that? A great big, billowly ALLEGEDLY tarp, perhaps, on the top of the last 8 months or so, before I say this next bit. Yes? Good. Okay.
So (ALLEGEDLY) in situations like these, you may have heard that it doesn’t matter how many people are involved, (ALLEGEDLY) if there is an even somewhat-competent adult woman in the bunch, regardless of birth order or distance or whatever, she is likely to end up bearing the brunt of the emotional labor involved, if not the actual physical labor as well. I will grant you that my stepbrother vowed to take on the Arizona arrangements and he handled I don’t even KNOW how much on that end—and I’m sure it was time consuming—and of course with our parents there, he will be the parental go-to for the foreseeable future, so there’s that. Still, I was on the phone with my dad every day I wasn’t either traveling up there or actually there; I was the one tasked with actually making the move happen; and I seemed to be the only one genuinely fearful for our parents’ well-being in the time it was taking to get everything set. My (male! surpRISE!) siblings nearly uniformly treated me like Chicken Little as I fretted. (ALLEGEDLY.)
Also let’s not forget that (ALLEGEDLY), it is siblingS in our scenario. I have an older brother, who we perhaps (ALLEGEDLY) all agreed early on was unlikely to be helpful, and on the one hand I appreciate that in the midst of what turned out to be a hearty helping of denial about some other stuff going on, we were at least all honest about that; but on the other hand I resented the hell out of the fact that we all agreed to just shrug and let him off the hook. (ALLEGEDLY!) We scheduled the movers to arrive during my brother’s long-ago-planned trip, and everyone was all IS THAT OKAY WITH HIM while I was over here going “Frankly, I give zero fucks about whether it is or isn’t, because this is quite literally the absolute least he could do…?” In fact, when it was coming down to the wire and the movers were due to come pack up in a couple of weeks, my father’s anxiety level was so high, I asked if he needed me to come back one more time, ahead of the movers, to make sure everything was in good shape for them. He said yes, so I scheduled a trip a week ahead of when Otto and I were already planning to return to get the parents to the airport, finish cleaning out the house, etc.
I messaged our sibling group to let them know what was up, and my brother (ALLEGEDLY) proceeded to… ugh, I cannot even recount this without fury, so I will not. Suffice it to say that I rage-cried for about 12 hours straight after being accused of purposely making his life difficult (?) (ALLEGEDLY) and wrecking his visit (???) because I was… doing what our father needed.
It is one thing to opt out of a messy family situation and play oblivious. It is quite another to privilege-vomit your indignation all over the people doing the damn work. And to respond to a (furious, yes, but still) spelling out of what had been taking place while he wasn’t participating with dead silence speaks volumes. Still, I later reasoned that my brother hadn’t been there in quite some time, and once he saw what I’d been seeing, surely he would understand how stressful this has been, and the apology he owes EVERYONE (our parents, our stepbrother, ME) would be forthcoming. But. HAHA. Silly me. Nope. (ALLEGEDLY.)
I ended up flying up there, spending two and a half days going through the entire house and slapping PACK THIS and DO NOT PACK signs on everything my parents own, writing up checklists of what to do the night before and morning of the pack-up as well as a master “WHAT SHOULD BE HAPPENING ON PACKING DAY” list, and flying home before my brother arrived. Allegedly.
The movers came and went, my brother left, and Otto, Goose, and I arrived for the final leg of the Relocation Relay. Goose is an excellent traveler (as we’d already learned over spring break, as she’d come up with us then, as well), content to withstand 15 straight hours in the car provided we share our French fries and occasionally stop for a sniff-and-pee break. She also serves as a global ambassador of Emotional Support Water Fowl (I may have made that up), and happily trotted around my parents’ house offering her belly to all in need. (“Tired? Stressed? Worried? Not feeling great? Please, rub my beautiful pink belly. I insist. It will cure what ails you.”)
Now we were in the home stretch, so no worries, right?
Ha. Hahaha. Hahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa*sob*.
When I’d been there just the week before, readying for the movers, I’d tried to check everything, but—and I don’t know if you know this—“everything” turns out to be, like, a thousand different things. I had designated the suitcases to be left behind for the actual plane trip, and I had checked (thanks, years of being a mom) to make sure they both had a reasonable stash of underthings in said suitcases and that all medications were in one of the DO NOT GO IN HERE rooms. What hadn’t I checked? Somehow (do not ask! no one knows!) my stepmom—who is always cold, and always needs a cardigan or something—didn’t have a single “I’m chilly” topper layer in the clothing left behind for her. Not one. So I lent her my cardigan and then the day before departure, I dragged my parents to Target for plane snacks (read: they insisted that for a 14-hour-day of traveling they could just eat crackers and I said LET’S GO BUY YOU SOME PROTEIN BARS) and a new cardigan for my stepmom.
The bags were packed. The flights were confirmed. My dad and I had spent several hours on the computer and/or his phone, making sure he updated his address everywhere, knew all his passwords, and could access his mobile banking. All was ready, and they even went to bed at a reasonable time the night before.
About an hour after my folks went to bed, there was a tremendous crash from the room they were sleeping in. Otto and I were still up, and I called at the door for approximately half a second before yelling I’M COMING IN and finding my stepmom on the floor. She was fine; a little banged up, but not seriously hurt, and although I’m sure the collective adrenaline in that tiny space could’ve sent Elon Musk far enough into space that he’d never come back, I managed a reasonable impression of a calm, logical person. We got my stepmom back to bed and I checked her over to make sure we weren’t missing anything. [Note to self: This was the flaw in the “pack up the master bedroom and sleep in the (much smaller) guest bed” plan, apparently.] After joking for months that “I’m bossy! But also I’M RIGHT, so LISTEN TO ME!” I now pointed at both parents in what I am afraid may have been a slightly menacing way and said “NO ONE GETS UP AGAIN UNTIL MORNING!”
They didn’t. But I don’t know how much sleeping anyone did that night.
The morning of departure, my stepmom actually slept late, and we figured as much rest as she could get was great. When my dad finally decided to wake her, she was in pain. A lot of pain. So, again, many discussions were had and many things transpired, and ultimately some nice EMTs came and whisked my stepmom off to the hospital while I called my sister-in-law and opened the conversation with “Don’t panic” which is obviously a great way to get people to panic, I know, but it was all I had.
The bad news is that they did not make their flight. The good news is that my stepmom was okay and the pain was handled, and the ER doc said she was still okay to fly, so we went back home and she napped while the rest of us sat around sort of nervously twiddling our thumbs. My stepbrother handled the airline end of things and rebooked them for the following day. We then had our second “last meal” (oops) that night, and the next morning, all was well. We packed up and took them to the airport. We hugged and made sure they had their tickets and everything else, and then Otto and I stood just outside the security line like lost puppies, watching them collect their belongings and head to the gate.
Miraculously—despite a long day with two tight connections and a wheelchair transport that only showed up half the time—they made it to Arizona without incident. There were several messages in our sibling text chat prior to me finally saying “Please send proof of life for those of us on the east coast who are waiting to go to bed!” at which point my stepbrother sent a picture of our parents, both intact and even smiling, and I exhaled as if I’d been holding my breath for months (because I sort of had).
At this point, Otto and I switched gears and turned to finishing up with the house. The next morning the dumpster we ordered showed up and we set to work. Otto spent most of that first day cleaning out the garage while I pulled pictures from the walls, items from closets, and started separating junk from donations from things to sell. Thanks to a helpful neighbor (they lived in the NICEST neighborhood, y’all—their neighbors across the street had kept tabs on them all through the pandemic, and came over multiple times to check on us/help out during our time there) we managed to get the word out that we’d host a mini yard-sale-slash-“please come take this” event over the weekend. In the announcement I included notice that Goose would be hanging around looking for belly rubs, so folks should feel free to just drop by and say hi and pet her, if they were so inclined.
This is how we unloaded several large items, met most of their neighbors, and at one point realized we hadn’t seen Goose in a while and found her inspecting the inside of the dumpster. (It was a walk-in trailer with a ramp, but still, that could’ve gone a very different way and I put her right back on the leash, after that.) At the end of our second day of COME AND GET IT, we loaded up Otto’s car and he donated much of what was left while I listed a few things for sale online. By then we’d been working pretty hard for a couple of days, so we decided to go out to dinner. We got cleaned up, and loaded up all my folks’ CDs to drop at a local used record store, too.
We ended up parking on the roof of a downtown parking structure, as I’d forgotten that Saturday night parking can be abysmal even in a smallish town. And then the elevator was broken! I don’t mind walking down stairs, but we were carrying (heavy) boxes of CDs, so that was kind of a drag. Oh, well. Down we went. Down, down, down, and finally to the street. Just a couple more blocks.
We were literally half a block from the record store when I put my foot down and something… popped? Ripped? SOMETHING MADE A BAD NOISE. In the arch of my foot. And it hurt. I paused, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say I gasped and became unable to move. Otto was several steps ahead before he realized I wasn’t with him. He turned around and asked if I was okay.
By this time I was experimenting with putting weight on my foot in different ways, so I explained that something was Not Right but I thought I was okay. I just had to completely avoid putting weight on the front of my foot. So with a slight shuffle, I was able to resume walking and we dropped off the CDs and found a place for dinner where we could sit outside and have margaritas.
For the remainder of our time there, at least twice a day Otto would offer to take me to Urgent Care, and at least twice a day I would tell him to shut up, I’m fine, we don’t have time, if it still hurts when we get home, I’ll get it checked. Two days before we left, I also broke out in a full-body rash for no appreciable reason. Otto offered to take me to Urgent Care and I bit his head off because I’M FINE IT’S FINE EVERYTHING IS FINE.
The day we left, the house was (mostly) empty and clean(er). We met with the realtor and dropped off the keys. Otto hitched up the little trailer we’d rented to bring some stuff home, and off we went.
We can do GA to NY or NY to GA in a single day if we start early and aren’t towing; that day, we didn’t leave until midday AND we were towing, so we stopped for the night at a hotel and Goose provided all of the comic relief I’ve ever needed in my entire life. Because it was a BIG HOUSE with MANY PEOPLE and she needed to greet them ALL and also SNIFF ALL THE THINGS and RUN DOWN THE HALL HEY MOM LOOKIT THIS HALL IT IS LONG LET’S RUN and basically I have never been as excited about anything as she was about it all.
We got a good night’s sleep and the next day we drove the rest of the way home. Everything from the trailer was unloaded into my office by Otto and Monkey, while I begged off because my foot is still borked.
We were getting ready for bed (ahhhhhhhh that blessed first night back in your own bed after being away) when Otto found some mouse droppings. ON OUR BED. So we had to change the whole bed and start laundry and set traps and then, of course, Otto looked in the pantry, and I thought (when he came to report this to me) that he was suggesting we clean out the whole pantry RIGHT THEN and I basically had a nervous breakdown and he assured me that it could wait until morning. Eventually we slept, and the next day I cleaned out the pantry, which was surprisingly not that bad, because the last time we had mice we put nearly everything into plastic bins, and although we’ve grown lazy over the years, MOST of the food in the pantry was still in bins. Not all of it, though.
Mice like butterscotch chips, in case you were wondering.
Anyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyway, my office is full of stuff and then the entire pantry was all over the kitchen, and then we headed off to get my foot looked at.
X-rays showed… nothing, so either I have a small stress fracture OR I ripped some sort of soft tissue, big shrug, they’re not sure, wear this boot and come back in two weeks. Helpful! And there is nothing, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, like wearing a big ol’ boot in Georgia in July. I sure do know how to make my life awesome.
The rash is a little better, at least. I still have a few stubborn spots on my legs, but after moving all that furniture and stuff, I’m covered in bruises, anyway, so you can barely even see it!
We caught a single mouse in the pantry, and Otto said maybe it was just one mouse. I narrowed my eyes and whispered, “There is NEVER just one mouse.” It was a wholly unsatisfying “I told you so,” however, when TWO BABY MICE (young enough to still have closed eyes) staggered across my bathroom the next day, and the mystery was solved. Maybe we caught Mama in the pantry, but the babies were, uh, escorted outside, and a small hole was located and filled, and Otto says I’m not allowed to burn the house down, which I think is ridiculous.
So that’s the basic story. We are back home, my parents are now in Arizona, Goose has still never met a stranger, Otto is a goddamn rock star, and I’m clomping around waiting for my body to stop freaking out.
Everything works out and blah blah blah this is for the best blah blah but this whole thing has been very difficult for all involved. Well, most of us, anyway (allegedly). Ahem. Moving trucks drive verrrrryyyyy sloooowwwwwwlllly so my folks are still hanging out at my stepbrother’s, kind of in limbo, but once their stuff is delivered this week, I am hopeful that 1) my stepmom will be relieved to have all her regular cardigans back and 2) they can start settling in to their new place and finding a new normal.
I held it together and was a beacon of calm and order (or just plain bossy, depending on your POV, I guess) for most of this and now I’m… not. I’m tired. Just overwhelmingly very tired, all the time, and since no amount of sleep seems to be touching it, I’m going to go back and see my pals who did my TMS last year and see if they can top me off.
Sorry this was so long. And serious. Here, I’ll leave you with this fun tidbit: The hotel we stayed at on our way back was having some sort of weird power issue where the elevators were working but the lights inside them were not. So the staff… taped glow-sticks all over the walls inside them to try to keep it from being pitch black. It was like a tiny rave each time entered. No wonder Goose loved it so much.