These are always a special kind of move. I usually feel quite sad for clients who are moving from their homes to a retirement center. Often they are surrounded by exasperated relatives or caretakers who have been most likely dealing with a lot of pressure and unreasonableness. Quite often the person going to the retirement home wants to bring as much of their belongings as they can. This rarely works out well and many of the pieces of furniture have to be put back into the truck. Both of my parents are gone now but when it was time to take my mother to a home she was transferred from a hospital where she had been abandoned six months ago by her companion. They did not walk her at the hospital nor allow for personal pictures to be put up. Her companion had kept most of the furniture so it wasn’t much of a hassle in that respect and quite frankly her going into a home was an improvement on her quality of life even if it was for just another few months before she died.
I have never lost my patience with an old client moving into a home. I look at them as helpless. They built a life, raised children, paid off a home in some cases and now all of this is taken away from them. One of my last clients who went to a home was a Greek woman. She had lived in the same Park Ex apartment for over 25 years. When her son divorced his wife, the landlord, it was only a matter of time before she had to vacate.
As we moved her furniture she fussed over the dust and would wipe these pieces down before we brought them out. She fretted over some crumbs behind her stove. She was a very present woman. You could tell she had worked hard her whole life. She climbed unto a bucket and precariously began cleaning the top of her fridge. I asked her to come down and she shooed me away saying something in Greek.
When we were done, her son finally bothered to show up to pay and complained that we had kept some pieces that he felt were useless in her room. I told him I had to respect what his mother’s wishes and had to make a decision.
“I just wish you had made the right one,” he said to me. I looked at him and said, “I was the only one here to make them”.
Recently I moved another elderly woman into a retirement home. As I told my girlfriend later that night, things can be very simple with little old ladies, either they have next to nothing or they have an unbelievable amount of things packed into a tiny space. In her case, she had quite a few ornamental pieces and antique furniture which all had to be padded and carted a lengthy distance through the underground garage. This woman suffered from dementia yet was fortunate to have patient caregivers.
On a side note relating to advanced aged but not retirement homes, an Italian contact of mine from a storage facility I deal with asked if I could empty an apartment. Once there, we learned that a couple who had been married nearly fifty years died within 24 hours of each other. First the husband went, then the wife. We cleared out all of their belongings and when we were done, all that was left were the light fixtures. I told my helper, “We’ve wiped out nearly all trace that they were ever here”. Anita, my Italian contact, offered me some tomatoes that this couple had preserved in mason jars- a tradition that they had kept up for decades. I looked at the thirty plus bottles and felt that these were sacred for when the very last one had been consumed, there would be no other tomatoes coming from them. I imagined the wife boiling the tomatoes, peeling them, pouring them into the jars and sealing them up. And now these too would disappear again ensuring their near total erasure from this world.
I cooked a dish with one of these bottles yesterday and made certain to use nothing but fresh ingredients lest I tarnish the sacredness of these tomatoes. I reflected on the couple and although I had never met them and only really just saw a picture of them, I made sure to keep them in my thoughts as I ate these last traces of their existence.