Our parents are ready to let go of their little winter home in Arizona. Mom’s health is best described as not likely to improve. She weighs next to nothing. The slightest exertion wears her out. She needs and wants to be near her kids and grandkids. The warmth of Arizona wasn’t enough to compensate for how much she misses her family.
My parents only returned to Arizona last fall with the intention of selling their mobile home in their fifty-five and over community. They were already settled on moving back to Minnesota permanently. There were a few potential buyers over the last couple of months but no offers to buy. Mom finally decided she’d had enough of sticking it out. My sister and I planned to visit for a few days and help pack up the things that weren’t necessary for day-to-day living. Mom said that after we returned home, she and Dad would likely follow shortly afterwards, whether their place was sold or not.
It was a nice four days. Mom and Dad welcomed us as if we were royalty. The fridge was stocked with beer, as promised! It was great to have time to sit and talk together in person, laugh together, cook and eat… and eat… and eat together.
The weather wasn’t fantastic. It was seventy-ish when we arrived on Thursday and it felt great. Thursday was our day to relax. The weather went steadily downhill from there and maybe that was a good thing. It was easier to be stuck inside working knowing we weren’t missing spectacular weather outside.
On Friday, the neighbor, Bill came by with a man who wanted to see the house. John took a look around and seemed to like what he saw. After he left, Mom, Cori and I were cleaning out the closet in the spare bedroom. Suddenly, a strange woman in her pajamas and bathrobe poked her head in the room.
“I’m Mary,” she said. “Don’t mind me. I’m just here to look around.”
And off she went down the hallway. The three of us looked at each other, baffled only for a moment until John appeared again and said, “I brought my wife this time.”
Strange. Very strange.
John and Mary didn’t stay long and soon were on their way again. Mom, Dad, Cori and I spent the next few hours sorting through cupboards, closets and drawers, filling boxes and trash bags until we heard a knock on the door. Dad opened it up and there was Mary again, still in her pajamas and bathrobe. This time she was with her brother, Paul. Mary plopped down on the living room couch and proceeded to chat with us while Paul toured the house and asked questions of Dad.
“Paul’s a talker,” Mary said. We said that was good. Dad is a talker too.
Eventually Dad and Paul found their way back to the living room. Mary and Paul stayed for well over an hour telling us about themselves. When they finally left, we weren’t certain if Mary was interested in buying or if Paul was, or if we’d hear from them again.
On Saturday morning, there came another knock on the door. It was John and Mary once again. Mary was still wearing the same pajamas and bathrobe as the previous day and she seemed not the least bit concerned about it. They wanted to make an offer. It was less than Mom and Dad were asking, but they were so ready to have someone take it off their hands that the offer was accepted. This was a huge relief all around. It was agreed that the new owners could take possession by March 1st. This made our packing so much easier. Mom and Dad kept enough clothing and a few other things to get through a couple more weeks and we packed the rest.
I’m relieved they are coming home. They’ve only been away a few months, but in that short time, it appears to me that Mom seems so much more frail. Dad’s health is good, but with his poor vision, he can no longer drive or do many things requiring clear vision. And I know partly, it’s a generational thing, but Dad does so little for himself or in contribution to the household. I know he could run the vacuum around. But he doesn’t. I know he could get his own juice from the refrigerator. But he doesn’t. He should be able to prepare himself a simple lunch, but it’s always up to Mom to do so.
Dad feels relatively good but he moves so impossibly slowly. He likes to get out of the house and wants to go places. But he needs Mom to drive him around and she’s often simply not up to being away for the amount of time it takes Dad to make his way through the grocery store or pharmacy. And it’s clear that the physical and emotional strain of it all is taking a toll on them. They’re not old. They’re seventy-two. But they seem so much older than their years. They seem to be lacking a sense of contentment and happiness that I wish they could have in their retirement years. Mom has said on more than one occasion that she wishes she didn’t have to ask so much help from her kids. We’re happy to do whatever we can, but I know she expected a better quality of life during these years. Her health has robbed her of that. Quite honestly, it made me sad to see the state of my parents’ lives.
But there were plenty of good moments too, the kind that made me realize that it was good to be there. Cori and I got up early each day and took walks around the neighborhoods. We met the neighbors and the neighbor dogs. We picked fresh lemons, oranges and grapefruits. Mmmm, did they taste good!
We took our time cooking – big, tasty, fattening meals. There was shrimp and linguine and garlic cheese bread for dinner one night with a hearty garden salad on the side. There were breakfasts of scrambled eggs with peppers and onions, bacon and hash browns and pancakes. There were homemade lemon bars made from fresh picked lemons. We all agreed that it might be a good thing our visit wouldn’t be longer. We might all get fat.
And there was an afternoon visit to an old mining town. It was overcast and windy that day and we were bundled up nearly like we do at home in the winter. We only spent about an hour, but there were awesome views and we were able to snap a few photos.
It was hard to leave, not because I wanted to stay longer. I was missing home and family and my dogs. But Mom cried when I said goodbye and that told me just how badly she wants to get back to home; her real home. Just a couple of more weeks and Mom and Dad will be home again. We will all sleep a little easier then.