God gave us memories that we might have roses in December.
~J.M. Barrie, Courage, 1922
A Walk in the Woods
TONIGHT on TV
A LIFETIME OF MEMORIES
9 August 2004
She was tired. It had been a long day..
The living room was full of boxes, papers, people, and "stuff." The door to the glass cabinet hung opened, clothes were draped on the chair, and jewelry was spread across the dresser in her bedroom. There were stacks of books on the floor in the den.
Definitely not the neat, orderly place it had always been.
Walts mother has been living in Eskaton Village, a retirement community in the suburbs of Sacramento, for the past 15 years or so. She moved up here from Roosmoor (another retirement community) in the San Francisco Bay Area, mostly because Walts sister had just bought a house in Sacramento and, with all three of her children having left the Bay Area, moving to Eskaton would put her in closer proximity to us (a 40 minute drive from Davis) and to Walts sister, Alice.
The two women have always been very close and Alice has always enjoyed spending as much time as possible with her mother. Theyve gone to shows together, they've traveled together, shopped together, and many other activities together. The move to Eskaton seemed a win-win situation for all.
Unfortunately, within six months of her mother's relocation at this end of the state, Alice was made an offer she couldn't refuse. A new job....in Santa Barbara, an 8 hour drive away. It was a disappointment for Walt's mother, but a good opportunity for Alice, and so she took it in stride.
She had already begun to make friends in her new home, she was still able to drive and get around without a problem and so for the first few years, all went well.
However, she developed some serious physical problems which limited her mobility and hastened the aging process. She also developed macular degeneration and now this voracious reader is all but blind. She's also 91 and looking quite frail these days.
Alice has been trying to convince her mother to move to Santa Barbara and when we were all there for Toms barbecue over the 4th of July weekend, we went to tour one of the places Alice had scouted out. Its biggest attraction is that it's just a 5-10 minute drive from Alice's condo.
It wasnt love at first sight, but its a nice place and, after a couple of weeks of discussion, the decision was made that she would move to Santa Barbara. Her place at Eskaton has sold and now comes the sorting and packing process.
This is a woman who has traveled around the world, seeing all of the sights that she wanted to see. She's ridden camels in Egypt, cruised around Cape Horn, washed undies in cold water in a Chinese hotel in a place where white people had never been seen. She's been on safari in Africa, sailed through the Panama Canal, and seen all of the United States. She's ridden the Orient Express, Venetian gondolas, and balloons on the Kalahari. She's been to the Louvre, the Vatican, the Taj Majal and the Hermitage. She's kissed the Blarney Stone, seen the terra cotta army of the Tang Dynesty and Inca ruins. She always told us she was spending her children's inheritance, which we enthusiastically encouraged.
She has collected a lot of souvenirs.
She also has lot of things from the days when her husband (who died when Walt was 15) traveled in Japan. There are things they collected when living in Hawaii. And then there are the cute little tsatskes that one gives the woman who has everything had is too old for a lot of things.
A lot of stuff.
For each thing, there had to be decisions made. Did she want to keep it? Did someone else there today want to take it? Should she save it for one of the grandkids? Did it go into a box to take to the Hospice of Marin thrift store (where my mother works)?
For many of the things there were stories to tell, or memories to share. Walt and his brother enjoyed pulling out the records they remembered from their childhood.
My brother-in-law's wife worked like someone possessed. I don't know if we would have done nearly as much if she hadn't been there, wrapping and packing and pushing to throw this or that away. She was a real dynamo.
When decisions had to be made about larger pieces of furniture to take or not, they all consulted the map of the new apartment and got out Walt's tape measure to check the size of things. The new apartment is at least half the size of what she has now, if not smaller. Lots of things have to be gotten rid of.
When it got down to the large collection of little knick knacks, Walt's brother would bring her each one, in turn, and she would have to feel them to try to "see" them in her mind. For each she had a story about where she'd bought or who had given it to her.
At the end of the day, lots of boxes had been packed. Our car was filled with things to take to my mother, as well as a big box of things for us (just what we needed: more "stuff"...this is mostly books, which is very much like taking coals to Newcastle!)
Despite all of the things she has collected over the years, she has only a small fraction of the things we have around here. It kind of gave me a hint of the sort of work we have ahead of us if we ever decide to move out of this house. Even with all I've tossed in the past months, I've barely scratched the surface.
And my stories aren't nearly as interesting as hers!