Wednesday, February 4, 2015

You May Think Less of Us After Reading This, But I Don't Care. My Weekend at Grandma's

An entire series of books can be written based solely on the storage units of the residents of an independent living facility.

Not saying that I am the one to write that series, but I can spot good material when I see it.

I spent all of Saturday morning and on into the afternoon helping my aunt and uncle and grandma haul, unpack, wash, and organize my grandma's possessions as she moved from the house she has lived in for over 50 years to the independent living facility she is now calling home. Going through all of the things she's accumulated over the years (and none of it junk. I come from one OCD family who does not hold on to junk.), deciding what was going and what was staying took an emotional toll.

Not one photo will be going on her new walls, despite the fact that photographs cover the walls in her finished basement. She decided that she can't fit them all, and if she can't fit them all, none will be going.

My grandma is on the left.

She's big on not showing favoritism, even though we all know who the favorites are.

This guy is numero uno.

She still has the statue from Grandpa's funeral.

It didn't make the cut.

Although 16 wine glasses, 16 drinking glasses, and a variety of other specialty glasses did.

For when she has people over.

At one point we were at the house regrouping, standing in the front family room. She handed me some papers and asked me to put them on the table. As I turned to do what she asked, it hit us both.  There is no table in the family room anymore. That was the table she chose to take as her kitchen table at the new place. We chuckled a bit, but it was more an uncomfortable "shoot, this is really happening" moment.

Grandma and Grandpa

We had decided that we were not going to fuss or argue with my grandma about what she wanted to move. If she wanted to bring 6 lamps, we'd pack them up and take them, even though we knew they wouldn't fit. She hates clutter and would figure out on her own that there was a problem. She could decide which ones needed to be taken back to the house.

Grandma with three of her four kids celebrating New Years Eve. My dad is on the far right.

In the midst of all the unpacking, my aunt, grandma and I went to have a look at her storage area.

Basically, there is one gigantic room broken up into smaller areas with wood and chicken wire. Everyone on her floor has her own chicken wire storage unit.

It started innocently enough with my aunt saying, "Oh, look at the shelves this person has.  That would be a great way to organize your things."

And then one of us mentioned, "This woman hangs her out-of-season clothing in her storage unit. That's a good idea."

But then we started noticing specific things people chose to keep.

Christmas decorations.

A boot one would wear after breaking one's foot.

A small carpet remnant.


When we were up to our elbows in decision making on what stays and what goes. When Grandma is having to choose which of her beloved books can move with her. When holding our emotions in was becoming harder and harder, the situation became ridiculous.

We were trying not to judge.

We were trying to be polite.

But when we saw that someone had not only kept a bed pan (with a "tube" attachment to make it easier for men to use), but had it front and center in his unit, we couldn't hold it in any longer.

We laughed.

Oh did we laugh.

We laughed so hard the tears were running down our cheeks and our legs (if you know what I mean).

We took note of the room number and told Grandma to watch out for that guy.

To be fair, through our unmuffled laughter, we tried to come up with a logical explanation for such a situation.

We pictured a man who had spend some time in the hospital, restricted to his bed.

We figured it cost quite a bit of money to be in that situation.

We assumed the guy was not happy about being laid up for so long for so much money.

We decided that when he was finally discharged from the hospital, he was mighty grumpy.

In a fit of anger, he grabbed the bed pan and declared, "I paid $300 for this thing.  I'm keeping it!"

When he got home, he (or a relative) just tossed it into the storage unit.

Where it stayed for us to see.

It was the perfect distraction and a great way to release some of the tension of the day.

We left the storage unit grateful to the guy in unit ***.

Third from the right is Grandma. My aunt helping us is standing in front of her. My grandpa is kneeling with my uncle on his knee. My dad is standing in front of Grandpa, looking at his brother. My great-grandma is smack in the middle. Great-grandpa is to her right.

We continued with our work of sorting and organizing and hauling.

Every time we left the room, friendly people spoke with Grandma.

Early in the day, a woman stopped to chat.

After my grandma shared her name, the woman said, "I know you! You used to be my hairdresser!"

That makes five people my grandma knows from days gone by who are living in this facility.

Grandma, Grandpa, my siblings and me. Based on this post, I bet you can guess which one is me.
I was pleasantly surprised with how well the moving went. None of us broke down. Grandma was her normal self. We played cards and enjoyed ourselves, despite the thoughts of "This is the last time we'll play cards here." that was in the back of all of our minds.

Grandma figured out the layout of the facility.

She knows where the dining room is in relation to her room.

She knows where the elevator and the laundry room and the mail room are.

She has a lot of her things.

She has people whom she knows.

She will be OK.

She will have fun.

We will all worry less.

Grandma at her 80th birthday party.  10 years ago.

Close to the end of my stay, I went to get the car while Grandma stayed in the facility's entryway. When I got back, she had a look of delight mixed with mischief on her face. She was bursting to tell me the story.

As she waited for me to get the car, a fellow resident struck up a conversation with her. Just like when we moved into the dorm back in college, the important information to exchange includes your name, where you are from, and in which room you currently reside.

"Chris, she lives in room ***!" The bedpan guy is married!

Yes.  I'm pretty sure she'll be fine.

My last look at Grandma's house before I fled town. The blizzard had begun!


  1. No, I don't think less of you. It sounds like you handled an emotionally-charged time very well. I'm glad your grandma is settled in and doing fine. (My grandma is now in a care facility, also. My mom knew she was doing fine when she talked about how she had been outside weeding the garden. She's not physically capable of doing that, but it is her way of expressing that she feels at home. Well, that, and with the Alzheimer's she really believes she has weeded the garden.)

    I loved all the photos!

    1. Ha! I'm glad your grandma is doing well in her care facility. Did I miss you telling us she was moving there? I remember you going home to help your parents, but I don't remember you moving your grandma.

      I thought of you when I was putting them in the post. :)

    2. I don't know if I shared that on the blog or not. It wasn't planned ahead of time, but became necessary after she fell and broke her arm. Originally, the plan was that she would return to my parent's place, but bones heal slowly when you are nearly 100, and change can be upsetting. So, she is in a very nice facility and my mom visits her nearly every day--and usually when she doesn't, friends do. I need to go up again sometime--John and I were just talking about that the other day, as a matter of fact.

  2. I could look at those pictures for hours. I love old pictures, and I so appreciate you saying who was who. Your grandmother's legs! My favorite is the one of her in your grandfather's lap. But fashion prize goes to your brother in the plaid suit. Nice!
    I know that was a tough weekend. I can't imagine how tough. But it sounds like you all handled it with grace. Will the house be sold?

    1. I do, too. We have a bunch from Bryan's grandma. Now I need to get a hold of some more of my grandma's. I didn't have a chance while I was there.
      My grandma was quite the looker! :)

      We bring up the outfits my mom dressed my brothers in quite frequently. The too small plaid suit ranks right up at the top.

      Yes, the house will be sold. We thought about keeping it so relatives could still stay there and we could still have parties there, but it would just be too much hassle.

  3. You did very well. I don't think less of you either. It's a hard thing to do and we just did this with hubbies mom. She's 94 and she's happy where she is. We are happy too.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

    1. Thank you. :)

      I'm glad your husband's mom is doing well and everyone is happy with the situation. I'm sure we'll all be feeling the same way soon enough.

  4. It sounds like a wonderful place for your grandmother. And, I'm so cracking up at the bedpan story. That is too funny. And something I could totally picture my grandparents saving as well.

    1. I didn't know independent living places could be so nice. The best part is, as far as my grandma is concerned, that it is spotless.

      Ha! Your grandparents would save it?!? I can see saving one if I lived in a house with plenty of room. In a place like Grandma's facility...not so much. :)

  5. What priceless pictures! Your gma is beautiful. Sounds like she transitioned very well. You all did a great job! I hope she continues to enjoy her new home. I'm sure you had so many treasures to go through, and will continue to go through. This generation lived such full, hardworking lives.

    1. She is a gorgeous lady. She always got looks from the boys. :)

      They were so hardworking. And she does have some great treasures in her house. I kept walking through, though, thinking about what I might want to have. Really, I just want some of the photos. And the downstairs bar. It's awesome, but immovable.

  6. Those pictures! Fantastic!
    You KNOW I would have laughed and laughed at a bedpan showcased in a storage unit. I would have gone the extra step and taken a picture of it, though :)
    Your grandma is going to enjoy her new place. I'll bet she's looking at it as an adventure. She can be as busy and social as she wants to be, yet still have her privacy in her apartment. And you won't have to worry about her well-being.
    It will be okay. DIFFERENT, but okay.

    1. I know! Aren't they great?
      Yes, dear could/should have been my sister. I knew you'd be laughing with me. And taking the photo. I didn't have my phone (who would think to take it to the storage unit???) to get a photo.
      I think she'll like it, too. She is a social person, and there are plenty of opportunities to be social.

  7. If you think that was funny/sad, you should have been with my sister and I clearing out our Dad's storage after he passed away. He was in the semi-early stages of Alzheimer's, so you can imagine some of the crazy things we found in his storage ... or maybe you can't lol. Even funnier was when we were clearing out his room at the assisted-living facility - you wouldn't believe some of the things being scavenged out of the trash that we dumped! We had a lot of extra laughs imagining what people would be doing with some of those things. Sounds like your Grandma will be in good company. On the subject of all those photos, you might think about scanning them for her and uploading them to a digital frame. That way, she still has them all and doesn't have to worry about the wall space. :)

    1. Oh my goodness! Doing that sort of cleaning out could have gone one of two ways. I'm glad you and your sister went the way of seeing the humor in it. Sounds like there was plenty to laugh about.

      That is a great idea!

  8. Nope. I don't think of you any differently for even a second. It's already been said, but you handled a huge emotional experience with grace and humor and sensitivity. OK< maybe the bedpan thing wasn't totally sensitive, but come's a bed pan! You have to! I suspect it was one of those "hey you never know when you might need one of these" kind of decisions.
    It makes me all kinds of happy to know that your Grandma is meeting people and reconnecting and settling in well.
    I love all the old pictures - remind me of my Grandma H. I could look at photos for hours. Sometimes I easy to get lost in the thoughts and stories that go with them.
    Love and prayers to all of you as you travel through this transition.

    1. Ha! Well thank you for cutting me a little slack. :)

      I am thrilled that she is meeting up with people she knew back in the day. It will help her get through the loss of her sister, too. She's really been missing her.
      I need to get my hands on my grandma's stash of photos before someone else takes them all.
      Thank you!

  9. (you know what I'm going to say first… so lets get that out of the way), your grandmother is surely a scott of the first order. (We still haven't figured out any pattern of 'passing down' worldviews, and I kinda doubt there is anything overly direct in this regards), but as soon as I saw the first photo, there was no doubt in my mind.
    I'm glad to hear you describe, not only that there is a lifetime of writing to be found in a storage facility, that is, in a sense, what attracts me to blogs… the view into another life. Doesn't have to be a whole life, hell, doesn't have to be any coherent view of a life, but it is a real life of a another person…
    …I know that the endlessly curious clark in me just loves that stuff…. I suspect that, for me, it's a mirror disguised as a window.

    1. I would agree. She certainly has scott characteristics.
      I like the real lifeness of blogs, too. I like to get to know people. It's like being a peeping Tom without the creepiness of it all.

  10. It sounds as though your grandma has made herself right at home. It's so lovely that there are people there she knows already, and who know her, and I'm pleased that she's comfy there.

    Hard for you to go with her decisions as to what to keep, but it sounds like you did really well. She needs to be able to do her own thing, I guess, and if nothing else, this is a new beginning.

    I hope she has people over and uses every one of those glasses.

    Well done :)

    1. It is a huge blessing that she already knows people there. Also, everyone there is friendly and approachable.

      There were two ways we could have done the packing up. We could have forced her to realize things weren't going to fit and refuse to pack them or just pack everything she wanted and let her decide once we were at the facility. Only one of those choices was the kind way to go. The respectful way to go. So we chose it.

      I do, too. :)

  11. Ya's really not fair that you write such ummmmm detailed posts. I love reading your stories and feel like I am right there with you but for the life of me....I can NOT keep going back and forth to comment on everything I want to.

    That being said.....just the stuff that I remember...
    ....your gma was one cool mama...she can really rock an apron, LOVE your brothers suit. ;)
    aaaaand....that's all I've got. J2 got home and interrupted my train of thought. :(

    My move moved into a retirement residence and loves it!!

    Oh...and "think less"?!?!?! Why????? Your family is my kind of family. :P

    1. Are you saying I'm long winded? :)

      As she gets older and I get more stories out of her, I'm learning more and more about just how much of a rebel she was!

      Yeah, my mom really knew how to dress us. Ha!

      Darn that J2. Although, to be fair, it is pretty easy for you to lose your train of thought. :)

      Glad the move was good for your mom.

      Thank goodness. I always thought we had a lot in common. :)

  12. The laughter is a necessary release from all the emotional tension involved in this life milestone. Your Grandma seems like she really does have it together mentally. There's such a twinkle in her eye in the 80th birthday shot. I love the family pictures. My own little story about the bed pan (man pan), is he was cured and couldn't wait to get the thing out of his sight so he tossed it in the storage unit. Knowing he's married - maybe the wife tossed it in. It's tough looking at possessions as a measure of someone's life. I know you'll save the photos somewhere. I love that you thought about college dorm days. Prayers and blessings.

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  14. Somehow it posted twice so I removed the second one.

  15. Sounds to me like your grandma will be just fine! I have to tell you, the stories are fun but my favorite part of this post is all the pictures. I love old pictures so very much. My mom has tons of my grandmother's pictures from back in the day and I never, ever get tired of looking at them.


Thank you for taking the time to tell me what you're thinking!