Thinking back over the past eight years, I would say that preparing to sell my mom’s house was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do. Ultimately, I learned that I had to take time to pour over memories and grieve the passing of this chapter. It was the only way I could achieve closure.
In 2008, we finally had to break free of the strong hold denial had over us and actually take the next difficult step. Safety had become a real concern. Now clearly in the throes of Alzheimer’s, living independently was no longer a viable option for Mom.
The Move and Beyond
On moving day, it literally looked like a tornado had blown through the house. The most important thing was trying to make the new place feel like home before Mom got there, and that was our focus. Everything else could wait. And, oh would it ever wait.
Denial was definitely my middle name during that time. That first winter, I went by the house just often enough to make sure the place was still standing. Otherwise, I avoided it like the plague. I told myself I’d get to work in the spring, but as March came in like a lion and went out like a lamb, I continued to procrastinate.
A Lifetime of Memories
Finally, after running out of excuses, I began the process I so dreaded. I honestly didn’t know where to start; it wasn’t a big house, yet it felt so overwhelming. Over twenty years worth of accumulated stuff, not to mention what felt like a lifetime of memories. My daughter was more than willing to help, but I was determined to sort through every single thing myself. No stone would go unturned; the last thing I wanted to do was inadvertently get rid of something I might treasure later on.
With absolutely no focus, I would spend two or three hours there just wandering from room to room, futzing with boxes, rifling through papers, and essentially accomplishing nothing. It took some time before I was able to convince myself that I had to concentrate on one room at a time, one closet at a time, one drawer at a time. Finally, I began to make progress.
When it was all said and done, I’d spent countless hours reliving memories, finding things I had completely forgotten about, and discovering things I didn’t even know existed. Among the most precious, one of Mom’s autograph books from junior high, the little notebooks she used to keep score of every one of my daughter’s high school softball games, and a tablet where she had started hand writing memories – I imagine if there had been time, that tablet would have documented her life story. Finding it made me realize that she had probably known for a long time that something was wrong. I can’t imagine how agonizing that must have been for her.
Saying Goodbye and Finding Peace
The night before the closing, I walked through the house one last time. Everything looked clean and new, and signs of the life and laughter that once filled the house were all but gone. I turned on the porch light and walked out to take one more look at the little house that held so many cherished memories. As I drove away for the last time, I felt an odd mixture of relief and intense sadness – such a dichotomy.
I found a sense of peace the next day after meeting the buyers and learning that the house would soon be filled with a young family, new life, and lots of laughter. Knowing that would have made my mom happy, too…