View From The Ridge

View From The Ridge

Friday, February 25, 2011

Moving on

View from the Ridge

There are many stories in the Bible of people having to leave their homeland for new places. Joseph and Mary were told to leave Bethlehem and move to Egypt; not next week, and not after they have returned to Nazareth to pick up belongings and say good bye to family and friends, but NOW, and to a country they knew nothing about, no friends, no family. That had to be scary and traumatic to a young newlywed couple with a young child. 
Jeri, Chuck and Mike on moving day

Abram was also told by God to “Leave your country, your family, and your father's home for a land that I will show you.” He was 75 at the time, not a time in one’s life that you contemplate a major move to another country.

A few weeks ago, my dad was saying that he was having some near fainting spells and wasn’t sure if they were mini-strokes or his heart was getting weaker. So Jeri and I took off for his place, a two and a half hour drive from where we were staying in Santa Paula. My sister sent a letter with us outlining her concerns of her 92 year old father with health issues living alone and she being almost three hours away. On the way down Jeri and I discussed how to bring up the subject of Dad going into a retirement home or assisted living, somewhere that would provide the level of care we felt he needed now.
Dick, Sharon and Chuck
When we arrived there was one of these home oxygen provider vans parked in front of Dad’s place, ordered by his doctor because of low blood oxygen. After the technician left, we were sitting around the dinning room table discussing what had transpired and what his symptoms were. There was then a pronounced period of quiet, when Dad slowly looked up at me and said “You and your sister need to start planning on what you are going to do with me when the time comes that I can’t live here.” Hello!! Is this an answer to prayer or what??

I gave him Sharon’s letter and after he read it we discussed some of the options. I remembered something that Alberta Stave had told me years ago when proposing change to senior family members. You give them choices and let them choose, if they are mentally capable of that. If you make the choices and force them into those choices, then if things go gunny bags they will blame you for whatever. But if they make the choices and things turn bad, they are able to live with that and accept it. So I suggested to Dad that he really needed to consider moving into a retirement facility, either in Fallbrook where he lived, or somewhere closer to Sharon and Dick where they could visit him more often. I also mentioned La Grande, but he doesn’t like cold weather any more than I do and I would not be there five months out of the year. I emphasized the importance of him making his choices while he was able and not waiting until we had to make the choices for him. Later we went out to dinner - Sword fish at Vera Cruz Fish House - and nothing more was said. Two days later Dad calls Sharon and tells her to start looking for a place near her. This is going way too easy!!

Dad's 92 birthday party with vintage Query wine.

I took Jeri back down to Dad’s as he was having vision problems in one eye, had a doctor’s appointment and was low on food. Our plan was for her to stay with him until we could get him moved up to Thousand Oaks. Meanwhile, Sharon and Dick were making arrangements at The Reserve, a very nice retirement facility in Thousand Oaks.

To say that the week was an emotional time for Dad is an understatement. He has lived in his mobile home for a tad over 40 years. He has lived alone since 1984 when Mom passed away. Several times during the week he vacillated about moving and was up and down emotionally. Several times he questioned why he couldn’t have gone like Mom did; early and quickly. Each time Jeri was there to ease him through the emotions.

Front:  Merrill, Sharon, Chuck & Mike
Rear:  Dick, Michael & Jeri.

On Friday, the 11th of February, Dick and I drove down to gather up Dad and a few of his belongings and make the trip back to his new home in Thousand Oaks, just 15 minutes from my sister’s place. Jeri had already packed most of his stuff. While she and Dick finished loading his things, I took Dad into town to pick up a prescription and make a final visit to the VFW hall. He took his golf clubs to be given to a youth golf program and to have one last drink with some friends. There were six or eight there and it was, again, very emotional. Dad had a scotch on the rocks and I had diet soda, and he bought a round for everyone there. All were surprised that he was leaving, some stories were shared, all told me what a great guy Dad is and he will be sorely missed. I waited until Dad gave the signal that it was time to leave, allowing him all the time he wanted. It wasn’t all that long as he hates good-byes. We went back to his house, he made one last walk through, climbed in Dick’s SUV, and the final journey began. Jeri and I drove his car back.

He has chosen to stay in the studio apartment that was suppose to be temporary while a one bedroom apartment was being remodeled, claiming that he would just rattle around in the larger place. It has now been two weeks since he moved and he has adjusted well to the changes. There are not a lot of rules, no assigned seating for meals, lots of activities that he will probably not participate in, and a varied menu for meals that are really good. It’s like living in a hotel with a great restaurant in house. The staff responds quickly for all of his requests and check on him daily. But best of all, my sister’s stress level has been reduced significantly knowing that he is closer and has people looking after him. Jeri and I have had dinner there twice with him and he appears to be contented.

As for his mobile home, the four of us are going down this weekend and finish getting everything out that we or the grandkids want, plus a few more things that Dad wants for his new apartment. It appears we have sold the MH to one of the workers there in the MH Park where Dad lived. We agreed to sell it lock, stock and barrel, so we wouldn’t have to mess with yard sales and having to remove the trailer off the space. Banks will not loan money on 40 year old mobile homes, so we let him determine what amount he could put down, his monthly payments, and at 6% interest we will hold the contract. It is a good deal for everyone. Again, an answer to prayer.

Our family has been blessed by God in this transition. I know there are those out there whose experiences with aging parents have been nightmares. Ours have been surprisingly tranquil by comparison. We have learned much from this experience and hope to be able to make the same transition some day just as easy for our kids. It is a journey most of us will have to make unless the Lord calls us home sooner than later.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

In-laws and out-laws, reposted

Kirby wedding - 1935
Marriage is not just the joining the lives of two people into one, it is the beginning of a melting pot that starts the process of blending the families of the bride and groom, especially the parents.  Throughout history our books, movies, plays and stand-up comics have had a field day spinning tales of mother-in-laws that were depicted as the Wicked Witch of the West.  Some have played off of Rodney Dangerfield and said "Take my mother-in-law   -  Please!"  I have heard stories from friends who related how their mother-in-law was either domineering, controlling, interfering, in their face and space continually or some combination of all of the above.   Some mother-in-laws have caused so much friction as to completely destroy marriages.  Adam and Eve did not have to contend with that, nor did Jeri and I.  We were blessed with almost perfect mother-in-laws.  But today, I want to share about just one, my mother-in-law, Mildred Bess (Burlingame) Kirby. 

She was born 9-27-1916 in Chicago, Illinois.  She was the youngest of five children -  three sisters and a brother.  Her dad owned a bus line and when they decided to move to California in 1920 he sold all but one bus using it as their mode of transportation.  The five kids ranged in age from 13 to 3 and it took them 6 weeks to make the journey.  Every night they would pitch a large canvas tent to cook and sleep in. 

When they arrived in San Pedro that tent became their home on a rented vacant lot.  There were many people living in tents at that time, so it wasn't unusual.  About a year or so later, Millie is not sure exactly, her dad bought a lot up the hill from there and set the tent up permanently on a wooden platform.  Sometime later her grandparents moved to California and they all built two small houses on that lot where Milly has many happy memories.