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Moving Mom

Originally printed May 17, 2016 in Gray Matters, Times Standard

My mother has moved more in her lifetime than most Army brats or people on the lam. Not counting her move from the hospital when she was born, she has moved 19 times. You would think this would mean she enjoyed it or at least was good at moving. Not so. The up side is she owns less than the average 79 year old. If moving is the stressful event they say it is, with the potential for taking years off one's life, she was destined to live well into her 100's before she started this nomadic lifestyle.

Over the years, I’ve been the one packing and/or unpacking her stuff. Seven or so moves back I became responsible for hanging all her art and family photos. I spent the last week on vacation in San Luis Obispo doing just that. And a lot more.

As a temporary "live in" Senior Move Manager I reorganized her kitchen. She had a 16 year young man unpack her heavy boxes before I came. The kitchen cabinets needed to be totally reorganized. I convinced her to put the fancy red Venetian glasses into the daily rotation. She still reaches past them and grabs one of the cheaper glasses to use, but at least now she gets to see the pretty ones. And maybe she will use them.

(Strawberry short cake, Venetian glasses being used!)

After the kitchen I moved smaller pieces of furniture to more useful locations and sorted out where the art and photos would be hung. Once I had Mom’s approval I started hammering. Then it was on to re-organizing her small storage space provided with her condo where we discovered a lost box of books. I disposed of empty boxes, took shredding over to my brother's nearby condo, and started on her office space.

Mom is a recently retired attorney and worked from home. My aunt is moving in soon and the "office" will be her bedroom. After plotting how to turn the space into a smaller less amoeba-like work area we set off on a hunt for a smaller desk, new chair, and good looking two drawer file cabinet.

At Staples we spent an hour trying out chairs, making jokes, and searching for the perfect items. We left with a simple desk in a box 1 inch too long to fit in the back seat of Mom's 2000 Toyota Camry, exactly as I had foreseen. The store clerk handed me a pair of scissors and left me to get the desk out of the box. Eventually the female store manager came out, saw my struggle, and deftly used a box cutter to finish the job and cut out the section that explained what to do if pieces were missing - which was "call this number, don't come back to the store." We tried not to take that personally.

We have laughed a lot this week. There was almost no downside to this working vacation. Free room and board, including more ice cream, smoothies and strawberry shortcake than a person should eat in a week. It has been a chance to catch up and know Mom is settled in safely and well. I had to listen to her phone calls with my brother, aunt, and anyone else who would listen, about my competency and brilliance. The reality is I was just being a good daughter and Senior Move Manager at the same time.

This job was a freebie - you don't charge your Mom. Everything I was doing for her - except sleeping on the couch and eating her food - is what one of our paying clients can expect as part of the 'settling in' services we offer. For families who are unable to do this for their parent, using a Senior Move Manager can be the next best thing.

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