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…

9 Comments

  1. Linda Cluney

    Thanks for sharing. Her mom must havw not been title 19 when we discovered our mom had alsheimees disease we only had 100 days to sell her house. It was awful. We were told she was im protective custody by state. The govt was voimv tocut her off feom medicaid if we did not sell the house immediately. We did sell it but at a tremendous loss. This govr coild care less about seniors. Wish I had had time to slowy take time to clean out hoise.

    • Ann Napoletan

      I’m so sorry to hear about your experience; I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to have to rush through that process…

  2. Susan Huyck

    My sisters and I are going thru the same process of cleaning mom’s house out after she has been living there for 56 years. My dad died 27 years ago and she became very independent after his passing. She is now living with my husband and I in San Antonio, TX. It is so hard to bring back so many memories of the house as it now will be sold to someone else. It brings tears to our eyes to see it empty but we know my mother is in a better place and I am making her rooms filled with memories.

    • Ann Napoletan

      Susan, best of luck to you. It’s good that you are finding comfort in knowing that your mom is in a good place. You’ll always have those memories of the house, but hopefully you will find a way to balance those memories with the new memories you’re still making with your dear mother. Sending you hugs.

  3. Leah Dusheck

    Hi Ann, Cleaning out a life time of memories so difficult. Funniest thing I found was two boxes of shoulder pads of all different colors. She must have thought she was Chrystal Carrington from Dynasty! My sister and I laughed so hard.

    • Ann Napoletan

      I love it, Leah! One thing is for sure, a good sense of humor will get you through just about anything! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Joni Baptiste

    Hi Ann,

    When my mom moved into Assisted Living in 2003, her house looked like that “bomb” went off, too. Weeks before the move, I had been stopping by the house to get some of her clothes, washing them, mending them,folding them neatly for the day when she would leave her house for the last time and go to her new home. I, too, wanted her new place to feel like home and I think we did a good job.
    I felt, in a way, that I was deceiving her. But I knew that she could no longer live alone and be safe even though I lived right next door. There were days that I would go into the house wondering if I would find her in a clump at the bottom of the stairs from a fall. It never happened, thankfully.
    After we got her settled, we cleaned out the house, every nook and cranny, had a massive yard sale and took the rest of the treasures home for safe keeping. Her house has been rented since then because the property is large and anyone who buys it will develop it. I’m not ready to watch the farm that I grew up on being cut up for house lots and Randy and I aren’t ready to move yet….but we’re close. I’m still very possessive about mom’s house and get annoyed when the tenants don’t appreciate it like we did. God forbid we should put a nail in the wall to hang a picture when we lived there with my parents…. now I’m removing nails and screws from the walls and woodwork and repairing doors with holes. I have to let it go….well….you know, it’s not easy.
    Please give our love to your mom. We miss her. I miss my mom too (the woman, my mother, my best friend). Dementia is such a terrible disease.
    Love, Joni (& Randy)

    • Ann Napoletan

      Hugs to you & Randy, too, Joni.

      I know what you mean; we moved my mom directly from the hospital to AL. The social worker suggested that having her go home first would only make things more difficult. She was probably right, but boy, that was hard.

      Funny what you said regarding still being possessive about the house – Jess tells me every.single.time she drives past Mom’s old house, complaining about the way the new owners are (not) keeping up the landscaping. :-/

  5. Karen

    Each of us a different story but, so much the same. That in itself is comforting. God bless each of you and your loved ones in heaven and on earth. 5 years ago today my mom left from her brand new house in Buchanan Dam to to pick me up in San Antonio for a day of wedding shopping. She never came walking through my back door. Single car accident; roll over.
    Their house has been on the market for a while. The deal was sealed this week. My dad has been packing all month. When the buyers signed the contract the beginning of June, I came out the next weekend, to help, it was my moms BDay, June 5th.
    This is the last weekend I will be able to be here and to help (anniversary of her death), before move out on the 7th or 11th. I have peace knowing she is at peace. I think my dad is probably going through more than I can imagine. I pray he has peace and closure in the end.
    Time seems to stand still for 5 years and then suddenly— it flies by you.
    Best of luck and God speed to you all.

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