Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Moving My Dad... VERY LONG! ...and no pics...what kind of bonehead takes no pictures?

OK. This is a whine session. Read at your own risk.

Moving my dad to a retirement village was an exhausting experience - both physically and emotionally. I thought I would just show up, pack his personal belongings, call the movers and move him. But it was so much more than that. He is 87 years old and the move was his idea. Originally he was getting all new furniture, except for his bedroom set - but he changed his mind and cancelled the furniture delivery before he moved, so the move became a lot more work. He had said he didn't want to bring his old equipment etc, but at the last minute he wanted to take everything - including tons of sentimental "junk". So we packed it all up and let the movers move it all. Poor dad! He had a stroke about 6 years ago and walks slowly with a cane and needs to sit a lot and the movers moved all the furniture and he had to be banished to an old sofa. Of course, I never thought to arrange for him to stay with one of my sisters so that he wouldn't be there, underfoot, as we tried to pack him up and then set up his new apartment. It would have been terrific for him to have just been brought to his new apartment with all of the "bugs" already worked out. Oh, did I mention he has hearing aids and even with them on is almost completely deaf? You have to be sure he is looking at you and sort of yell, and he still gets the communication wrong. Very frustrating for him and others. So moving was excruciating for dad. He seemed to have no concept of time and everything was taking too long. He tried to help and it was all we could do to be understanding and patient. Exasperating is a word that comes to mind.
Anyway, my dad moved to Fairfield, Ca, to "Paradise Valley Estates" - a retirement village for retired military officers and their spouses. The average age here is 80. The complex has homes, apartments, assisted living apatments and full care facilities. I had never seen anything like this! There is a gym, a 24hr a day staffed wellness and health center, a pool, gated staffed security gate, tons of organized clubs and outings. They have emergency pull cords everywhere, they wear those emergency alert pendants in case of an accident and they are required to press a flashing button before noon everyday or else security comes to check on them and make sure they are all right. They provide transportation to doctor appointments and shopping, Travis Air Force base as well as plays, the opera, etc. It is a HUGE place - lots of staff, full maintenance crew to help out and no tipping allowed. The main dining room is a 5 star restaurant with wait staff, full menu and incredible gourmet food. there's also a cafe with home cooked style meals and a "lounge". A theatre, meeting rooms....it goes on and on. You can walk to the main complex or be picked up by bus. And it is beautifully maintained to boot!I wish my dad had moved there when my mother was alive...she would have loved it! As one resident told me "no one ever leaves here willingly".
So the move, although chaotic, went fine. My dad has a 5 foot 700 lb safe that was stuffed with his coin collection and papers, old pics etc. The movers were to move the safe too, so I had to empty it. B ut dad couldn't exactly remember how to open it. We had the combination, but not the turning sequence. After many many tries and a call to the safe company we finally got it open. As it turned out, the safe was bolted down and the bolts had to be cut to move it, so they couldn't move it, so I had to RELOAD all of the items back into the safe to keep them safe. Then we had to arrange for the safe company to come and move it and reinstall it the following Monday. Unload, reload, unload, reload. Unpacking everything after the move and reconnecting computers, TV's, phones, etc was a nightmare - especially since we didn't bring his old ugly heavy desk - it was too big for his new apartment - and had to buy a new one, which meant we couldn't set up his beloved "office" right away. My sister Gina came down from Washington to help me - we hadn't realized how much help my dad would need once he moved in. YEAH GINA! The telephone connections didn't work, the safety handlebars in the bathroom were set at the wrong angles for him, he needed a new handicapped "higher" toilet installed, his parking spot did not allow for him to open his drivers side door all the way to get out of the car(yes-he still drives- he actually passed the driving part of the license renewal test), his storage area was on the 2nd floor, he needed to be taught how to use the new appliances in the apartment, the kitchen floor was too slippery for him, he had to be shown over and over again where eveything was in his apartment as well as in the complex itself. He needed everything to be virtually the same set up he had had for 20 years at the old house - heaven forbid he had to sleep on "mom's side" of the bed....so his bedroom set had to be reversed after it had been set up by the movers-he didn't realize the set up he chose put him on the wrong side to get to the bathroom quickly (we're talking a huge heavy Calif king bed, 3 matching 7 ft bookcases, a dresser with 2 mirrors, a chair and a large standing dresser) This also meant the cable for the TV as well as the telephone jack was on the wrong side of the room, and nothing could be connected until we had bought 40 foot cables to accommodate the change. Now my dad lives for his TV, so being TV less for a day did not sit well -OH NO! no "Wheel of Fortune". We hadn't found a new desk for him, and so his office wasn't set up yet and tus he didn't have everhything handy to pay his bills and make his phone calls....and all of this disoriented him terribly. All those little things and adjustments that are no big deal to you and me but are huge in the eyes of the elderly. He was miserable. He had lost his routine and was confused. We just didn't realize how difficult all of this change would be on him. My sister found him in his new walk-in closet .....crying ..... he didn't think he would fit in and he missed his old friends and all of the "new" was overwhelming to him. Where would he go if he didn't like it here? On that 1st saturday after moving my sister Lori and my brother Al came up to help out. Lori spent the night and helped empty boxes and set up dad's clothes in his dresser organize his belongings. Thank you thank you Lori! (and Al!)
....and to think, we all thought we could move him one day, spend a day or two with him to get him acquainted with his new surroundings, and then leave. HAH! WHAT WERE WE THINKING?
Dad bought a new computer since his was an obsolete, slow, awful 1999 model.... my brother-in- law Mark tried to set it up (thank you God, for St. Mark) but the stupid computer, right out of the box, did not work! He worked with Compaq customer service, but it turns out it had a harddrive problem, so we took it back. In between all of this, we had to find new doctors and take him to meet them , show him where banks, stores, etc, were and buy him a new wardrobe. The restaurant at "Paradise Valley Estates" requires you to dress up for dinner. We bought him new underewear, new tee shirts, dinner jackets, shirts, dress pants and dress jackets. They didn't fit. He is not the size he says he is. So we took everything back and had him try everything on. He did look gorgeous though when we were done. We'd also forgotten all of the basics he would need when one sets up a new apartment - new wastebaskets, drinking glasses, dishes, hampers, new linens, bathroom rugs, etc. ...and what about basics like, uh, putting in for change of address with banks, credit cards, utilities, etc. ...all things we'd forgotten to take care of in advance!
It was not fun. Too much to do, too little time. When the new desk arrived I tried to put it together. Hah! What a joke! All I had was a regular screwdriver. Was I crazy? I got as far as 2 screws and then paid 2 men who took 4 hrs with power tools to put it together. We never got all of his framed pictures put up - he had about 40 to go all over his office. (Next time we visited, we promised).
On the following saturday my sister Gina had to go home (she'd been there 10 days!), so we went over everything one last time with dad and my brother Al came to spend the day with him while my sister and I went back to the old house where my son had arrived with his truck and a friend to pack up a bedroom set. We took my sister to the airport and then i bought 2 small bookcases for his office to put more of his papers and equipment on and I also bought a longer printer cable, and a telephone splitter cable. We then drove back to my dad's new apt in Fairfield (45 miles) and Sky and his friend assembled the book cases for me and I was able to get his computer, fax, printer and and telephone line up and running ...ME....Electronically challenged ME! It was pouring rain and I was so tired and grateful for Sky to be doing all the driving. Oh - did I mention it rained EVERY day I was in there, including move day?
We said our goodbyes to my dad and Sky, his friend and I went back to the old house and began cleaning it and packing up the stuff my dad didn't take with him. Tons of old papers, momentos, pictures and knick knacks - all of those priceless things not really of any value to anyone except those who knew where the object came from and the memories behind them. It was very very difficult to make the decisions of what to box up and what to keep. I had a 6:45 am flight to come home on monday morning and the real estate agent had arranged for painters to paint the inside of the house after I left, and it was a DISASTER from all the moving. I had hoped to get back to the old house on Thursday, but my dad was so needy it just didn't turn out that way. On Sunday my youngest sister Teresa came over with her son and her fiancee and they all slaved away helping empty my moms china cabinet, etc so that the furniture my dad couldn't fit would be empty when the painters had to move it around so they could paint. Again, thank you God for all of her help! When the shuttle came to pick me up a 4:30 am the next morning, the house was finally back in order - mopped, scrubbed, vacuumed and packed.

So it is done. We hadn't intended to have to pack up so much after dad moved, but I guess it is all good because when the house sells there will be a lot less to do and empty. It was a grueling experience and I wish we had thought it out more and planned for it better. But hindsight is always....20/20. When I talked to Dad he had attended a reception held in his honor to introduce him his neighbors. ..... he had a blast! (not only that, on a previous night he went to dinner with his old friend Clete, who also lives in the compound, and 2 "ladies" - one "very pretty" - had sat down and joined them for dinner) ....

whew! this may just work out..........


karlascottage.typepad.com said...

Oh, i know how hard it is to do that! we moved my father-in-law a few years back into a similar place. It was a nigthmare, he couldnt' handle any of it, but wanted to be in charge. It was so hard for him to let go of things, but not all could go with him.

He was happy there, so happy that he married the lady who cleaned his room!! She is 40 years younger than him and doesn't speak any English, and they eloped, and bought a condo (paid too much, the seller saw him coming). We were angry and horrified at the time, but they have been married 5 years now and are happy as clams and she is a wonderful addition to our family. We love her as much as he does now.

The Backporch Artessa said...

Oh Connie- I'm sorry you are going thru that! We are (later today) interviewing a lady to come stay with my grandparents for the same reasons. I know how emotionally exhausting it is and I'm sorry.

The good news is, the men generally always do very well in the wonderful type of environments you've got him in now. It'll take a bit to settle, but when he does, I bet he'll be the belle of the ball!

Warmest hugs, rest and peace to you!

freebird said...

But it's done! And everyone will adjust. Change is hard on everyone. I'm sure you are thinking it will just be hard on your dad but you'll see that all you kids need to take a deep breath as it will be an adjustment for you too. Hope he learns his new surroundings quickly.

Joanne Huffman said...

Connie, I just reread this - to check to see if I remembered how much you accomplished and how little you whined about it. As I said before, you will need a wheelbarrow to carry around all the stars in your heavenly crown you earned with this trip. I'm sure your dad is enjoying his new digs and his new computer.