Sunday, January 31, 2010

When images from the past are painful

DH and I just returned from a short trip to check in at his mom's house.  The house has been empty for about 3 years since she died.  We made a commitment to his dad, who lives elsewhere, that we would visit the house once a month to make sure all is well.  Dad does not want to sell the house - it's the economy, stupid! - nor does he want to rent it out.  So, it sits empty in a lovely little seaside town above the Pacific Ocean.  Sad ....

Part of me enjoys going to the house, especially if we are escaping the summer heat in Menifee!  The phone doesn't ring, the temperature is always comfortable no matter what time of year, there is no mail - it's a great getaway for a day or two.  We do maintenance, say hi to the neighbors, order take-out dinners, watch movies, and just relax.

Except when the memories and ghosts appear.  Doug's mom had Alzheimer's.  She was most likely ill with the disease for years before the family was aware of it.  Most families have "stories," and this one is ours.  During the last ten years of their marriage, Mom and Dad lived apart.  Mom was quite adept at hiding her illness from Dad and from us because we saw her intermittently.  By the time we realized how ill she was, she had trashed both her life and her house.

Over the last year of Mom's life, I drove to her house two or three times per week to visit, interact with various health agencies, run errands, and clean - clean, clean, clean - clean out, clean up, and clean after.  I wish I had been blogging at the time!  It would have been cathartic for me (and a bit overwhelming for you!)

The house is now free of junk, filth, every check written in an 80+ year lifetime, over 40 boxes of sewing projects, and 320 pounds of laundry that had to be professionally cleaned (really).

It is not, however, clear of Mom.  And it never will be for me.  In her heyday, Mom was the most meticulous housekeeper I have ever known.  So, before I leave her house, I make sure that everything is in its place, the kitchen counters are wiped clean, the beds are made, the trash is out, there are fresh towels in the bathrooms.

She deserves nothing less.  It is still her house.

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