For six years I’ve been living in my mother’s house. I’m 67. My mother is 96. Technically the house is now mine. Mother gifted it to me when I left my life in New York City to move to Fort Worth, Texas to look after her. It never feels like mine.
Mother lives in an excellent independent living facility. She pays her bills with her still beautiful signature and checks her bank balance on-line, but she needs help. The ways I am called to help range from grocery shopping to navigating the best anesthesiologist for a hip replacement at 91. This year her energy and focus have waned and I am needed for more common sense solutions to every day concerns. We are fortunate that our worries are minimal when others around us are into assisted living, at-home nursing or hospice care.
She raised me with a practical hand. My daily survival needs were met, but a hug or laugh were in short supply. Stuff took high priority. Antiques, spotless white kid gloves, good posture in church were important to her and so they were important to me. Through the years I associated the prized teapot collection and sterling silver flatware with maternal care. If I took good care of them, I felt worthy and surely loved.
I’ve avoided clearing out many items she had squirreled away in the numerous closets. Some hold childhood memories. Some are the result of her efficient bargain shopping. I should clarify that I haven’t been here exactly six years. April 1 will be the official anniversary. As I approach this mystifying yet significant milestone, I am determined to claim this house. To do so I must exorcise my false hope in stuff.
The satin robe she wore when she brought my baby brother home from the hospital will not bring love. Calling her each morning to measure her mood and her health will.