May 17 2013
Many may recall the Character Camp post from nearly two years ago. This post is a continuation of that event. Nearly two years later, a bit of deja vu.
Prior to the Meloch family reunion in 2011, I spent a week going through the stuff in my parent’s basement and sorting it into keep, donate, and throw away piles. The week became infamously known as Character Camp. (Spending a week in a beautiful location, working the entire time to build some character.) The Manry clan, some of my siblings, various nieces, nephews, and Mom participated.
Mom was then and continues to be the most unwilling participant.
I offended many people with my bossiness and ‘get-rid-of-it-ness.’
Consider yourself blessed if you did not attend last time or this time.
For the last two years, my parent’s home has been unoccupied except for the occasional visitor. The house on Blue Lake is greatly loved, but it is not able to meet my parent’s need for care and so they must live somewhere else. The house goes up for sale today.
For Mom’s birthday this year, I sent Mom a ‘Good For’ a day of work in her garden when I came for their anniversary dinner. Mom has a small garden plot in the community garden where they live. I figured I’d spend the day shoveling compost and planting peas.
Regretfully, I didn’t specify which garden the day of work was ‘good for’.
When I called Mom on her birthday, she let me know that I would be digging up her roses from her Blue Lake garden and shipping them to myself as well as transplanting her perennials to my sister Marie’s garden. Also, my brother Mike wanted me to go through the items remaining on the main floor of the house and in the garden shed, and get Mom to decide what would be kept and what would be given away.
After the lovely anniversary dinner on Saturday and the family lunch on Sunday, Marie drove me out to the Lake and helped me get started with the sort. Marie had earlier gone through the kitchen cabinets and transported items being kept to their various locations. Mike and my brother-in-law Rich had started cleaning out the garage and Mike ordered a dumpster to be filled on Monday.
I began to sort the various books, knick-knacks, papers, junk drawers, clothing, bedding, large framed pictures, and towels still in the house. I went to sleep at 0130 with the call of the loon after Mom’s cubby hole of stuff overwhelmed me. Mom loves having a cubby hole to pile stuff (knitting, books, papers, cards, photos, light bulbs, vases, baskets, pens, paperwork, toys, gift wrap…) in.
The first thing she showed me in her new apartment was her new laundry room and the second thing was her new cubby hole.
I awoke with bird song and the sun rising over Blue Lake and got back to work.
My brother Rob had offered to help me on Sunday and Monday, but with an airport run and a nephew’s baseball practice, he didn’t get out to the Lake until Monday morning. I asked him time and again to make sure Mom was there at 0900, knowing that if she wasn’t there early, I wouldn’t be able to finish in time. I asked Mom repeatedly to schedule an aide to help Dad in the morning so she could leave right away.
At 0900, I received a text message from Mom: “Rob is having breakfast w dad in Atrium. We won’t be leaving here before 10 probably “No worries mate” :)
Most people who know me know I have a temper. It is sinful and I am not proud of it. When it flares, it flares. My kids describe it in levels. The maddest level is known as “Mom is mad angry.”
When I got that text, I was mad angry.
Once I had finished with the sort inside the house, I began pulling things out of the garden shed. At 1100, Mom arrived and came running over “It’s my fault, don’t be mad at Rob. I suggested the breakfast with Dad. I’m sorry. You have to forgive me. That’s what you tell your kids when someone apologizes.”
“I forgive you, Mom, but you still have to do what you are supposed to do,” I replied.
I went inside and told my younger brother to help me with the shed. He was focused instead on filling the dumpster. I then proceeded to get into a yelling match with my brother. It was as if 30 years had never passed and we were once again 16 and 14 years old having a sibling spat.
30 years trying to become more like Christ and in an instant, I’m right back at the start.
I stomped back outside, hauled the rest of the stuff out of the shed and began to dig out of the garden 10 rose bushes, 3 primroses, 2 daisies, 1 peony bush, lungwort, yarrow, and 1 cherry tree.
There’s nothing like fighting with a 10 year old rose bush that refuses to be moved to work out my frustration. These were huge old roses with enormous roots. The exhaustion of the task in 80 degree heat, got me level headed enough to apologize to my brother.
We ate a lovely lunch provided by Mom’s dear friend and a delicious cobbler provided by Mom’s neighbor.
Marie continued working inside getting Mom to make decisions and packing boxes. Rob filled the dumpster. At 1430, Marie and Rob left for the airport.
Mom was supposed to have driven Rob to the airport, but her punishment was to stay with me at the house and finish. She fought me every step of the way. She didn’t want to do it and tried every delaying tactic there was.
We boxed up the 84 pounds of roses and drove 25 minutes into town to ship them. Mom wanted to call it a day, but I refused. I told her she could drive back to Dad, but I was staying until the job was complete.
She decided to be as stubborn as me and ride it out. We went back to the house and I threw everything left (sorted or not) into the remaining bins and began jamming them into Marie’s van. Throughout this process Mom kept telling me to leave it and she would do it later.
“You’ve had 2 years to do it, Mom, and you haven’t. It has to be done. The house goes on the market in 11 days,” I said.
“I’ve told you I’ve tried. I’ve come back to the house, but I can’t face it, so I just leave without doing anything,” She said.
I have many friends who have experienced this same painful process of helping move their parents out of their old home to a more realistic living situation. Not one person has described this process as easy. It is full of anguish, arguments, hard feelings, resentment, doubts, and loss.
When I had Marie’s van packed with all the bins for Mom’s storage unit and the garden plants and tree, I threw my hands up in the air. I proclaimed, “Victory!”
“In Jesus,” Mom responded.
We drove to Marie’s house and I told Mom to drive back to her place and I would follow later with my nephew Sam to unload bins after he and I planted the Cherry tree. I went inside to put away food in the fridge and came out to find Mom digging a hole for the Cherry. She and Sam planted it. I hauled the water.
We drove back to Mom’s place to find Dad sitting in the dark watching T.V. I walked up and gave him a kiss. He looked me in the eye and asked, “Did you finish?”
“Yes,” I answered.
“Good,” he said.
Sam and I visited with Dad a little while and then went to unload the bins into the storage unit. Sam did all the lifting. By this time, I could barely move. We left at 2215.
The next day, I flew back to Virginia and unexpectedly, the realtor went to the now empty house and took pictures. Two days later the roses arrived. Josiah dug the holes, I planted, and Blaze tore up the paper bags under the mulch.
Throughout this whole process, I was yelling, crying, and stubborn as a mule. I have no excuse for my behavior. It was character camp for me, and I was completely lacking in character.
Thankfully, I serve a gracious God who forgives my sins and I have a gracious Mom who ignores the worst and sees the best in all her children.