Responding to and meeting challenges is a big part of life, because you are constantly thrown curveballs. Since Labor Day Weekend Esther and I have faced our fair share, making us long for something simple, like a sleepless night with a cranky baby.
Over the past years my Mom cared for Dad—putting her life on pause and neglecting her own health. 56 years of marriage makes you do that sort of thing. During Dad’s illness, Mom and I spoke about her health, and maintaining the house as I drove her to and from the hospital and nursing home.
Eighty-five years old and restricted to a walker, those tasks are considerably tougher than they were five-years ago. The neighbors helped, sweeping sidewalks, shoveling snow, and bringing in trash cans. While much appreciated it’s not the sort of thing one can expect done on a consistent basis.
After many conversations with Mom and Esther both separately and together, we decided it was best if Esther and I moved in with her to. Moving in with your mother at 51 is never an easy proposition—moving with a wife, baby and 18-year old dog, is a reality show in the making.
After Dad passed away in July, we started the twofold process of packing our apartment and decluttering Mom’s house—no small task. I come from a family of pack rats—it’s in our DNA. My old bedroom looked more like an oversized walk-in closet than Cristian’s new bedroom.
Clearing a home after someone passes away is never easy—especially if you are doing while keeping an 11-month old baby entertained. Fifty years of memories needed to be dealt with, old clothes, old pictures, and just plain old junk.
Moving day was the Friday before Labor Day Weekend. Our team of friends and family (those who didn’t go away for the long weekend) squeezed the contents of our two-bedroom apartment into an already cluttered house. It was like recreating the set of Sanford and Son.
Cristian’s room was priority one. One group unloaded the truck moving things into various rooms, the garage and the backyard. A second group reassembled the crib and looked for boxes marked “Baby’s Room.”
The first day was the roughest. Boxes and packing bins were piled high everywhere creating an obstacle course. I worried about the boxes in the backyard, many were covered but some weren’t. Fortunately it didn’t rain.
Sitting in the basement on a third of my disassembled couch with a slice of cold pizza and a beer watching Chico navigate his new environment, I got twitchy wondering if we could put things in order. Making things worse my godmother called with bad news, her 18-year old grandson was killed in a car accident.
As usual Cristian provided stress relief after a chaotic day. Peeking in on him he looked up from his stuffed animals, giving me a Hi Daddy smile. Watching the baby play in his new room with Mom, reminded me why were doing this.
When Esther and I planned the move, we knew there would be adjustments. I love Mom but she’s old-school and a little blunt—sometimes more than a little. At times her concepts on parenting differed from ours. We came to help, but never lost sight of the fact. We were in her house, not ours.
A main priority was maintaining normalcy in Cristian’s life while we adapted to our new environment. This meant, not missing his My Gym classes, exploring new parks for him to play in and devoting time to him before during and after the move.
The rest of the weekend was a blur of boxes, bins, and garbage bags. The stack of boxes shrunk as things took shape. More than 70 bags of clothes were donated to the Salvation Army and I filled an entire donation bin—one of those huge containers one sees in your local supermarket parking lot.
Over 100 bags of trash and stacks of discarded cardboard boxes, and recycled items, ensured I’d become fast friends with the garbage men. Maintaining the relationship Dad forged with them over the years was important, because months of dumping, organizing and decluttering still remain.
The house has a finished basement with a separate kitchen and bathroom. We set it up as our apartment, with a newly constructed play zone for the baby—The Cristian Zone
Tuesday night Esther, Mom, Cristian and I drove out to Eastern Long Island for my cousin’s wake. It’s sad when someone dies so young—you wonder what might have been.
The next morning, Esther went to work while Cristian and I took another trip out east for the funeral. Leaving the church for the cemetery, my phone rang. A neighbor named Valerie had more bad news—this time about Mom.
Mom’s had issues with varicose veins for years. I planned on asking for a referral to a specialist during her next round of doctor’s appointments—we never got the chance. Valerie and my cousin Annie were visiting when Mom’s vein popped, spewing blood, a lot of it. She also fell out of the chair she was sitting in, crashing to the floor.
Valerie called an ambulance and escorted Mom and the paramedics to the hospital. I called Esther, and asked if she could meet them at the Emergency Room. Turning the car around I hurried home.
Thanking Annie for her for help and wrapping Mom’s leg as I took her home. I then dropped Cristian off with the babysitter before heading to the hospital. Esther updated me on Mom’s condition-which tests were run which still remained. When I finally saw Mom, she was literally white as a sheet. She lost about a pint of blood and the doctors debated whether or not to transfuse her.
Bob joined us in the ER—the three of us listened as doctors updated us on her condition. After spending most of the day in the ER, Mom was admitted to the hospital and placed under observation.
The next two weeks were spent visiting Mom in the hospital and consulting with doctors amazed at the lack of common sense. During my first visit I was sent home for her walker. Isn’t a walker something a hospital provides? I guess not.
Although Mom looked better, she still didn’t look right. Hospitals seem in a rush to discharge patients before they get sick—I thought treating sick people was a hospital’s function—silly me.
Two weeks later, Mom was sent to a rehab facility to regain strength and balance. Cristian and I visited every morning—it was therapeutic for Mom and her roommate. Mom’s room was a popular destination during our visits, nurses, aides and physical therapists stopped by to play with the baby.
During a visit Esther’s phone rang. Her facial expression told me, it was bad news. Her aunt called from Puerto Rico informing her of an uncles passing. He was only a few years older than me. This was our families fourth in the past year—that’s too many. I wondered if the Grim Reaper has the family on speed dial.
After a month in the hospital and rehab facility Mom was sent home, we were happy. When she was away, Esther and I felt like children left alone while their parents were on vacation. Fortunately for all involved, I didn’t do the Risky Business Dance.
Since Mom returned home I’ve worked with social workers, visiting nurses, and home aides and we’ve had appointments with specialists, managing her care. When it gets overwhelming, I look at Cristian. His big smile and bigger personality tells me, take a breath and just roll with it.