Family Time

There has been a bit of Radio Silence since Memphis.  Part of that surely has to do with the cultural and personal impact felt and noticed following our visit to Graceland.  I mean,  it is hard to recover from such an event!

Gradjiates! (Shayna on the right)

But recover we have.  First with a couple weeks of family stuff.  My niece graduated from college near St. Louis.  It was great to see Shayna matriculate,  of course – in three years,  no less!   But her parents seemed pretty happy, in a deer-in-headlights-way.  It seems BOTH of their kids are now officially out of the house! 

The Bus Visits Family, Too…The mechanic in Alton that helped us re-animate

We even had a Bus-laying-on-of-hands by the very first bus whisperer,  Helmkamp Automotive in Alton, Illinois while we were in nearby St. Louis. 

I had noticed some grease on the hub of the front wheels.  This can be the sign of a failing wheel bearing,  something one does NOT want to happen catastrophically.  So since we were going to be in the area,  I asked Todd to look at it.    It turned out the grease was from the brake calipers,  and the bearing was totally FINE. 

This was,  technically a first – expecting a problem and finding none!  Usually it is the other way around!    

But we repacked them anyway.  Todd said that servicing wheel bearings every 40 years is not bad, preventively speaking!  We’ll do the rear bearings when we are done travelling this summer.

So Todd could get an early start,  we stayed overnight at the Alton Moose Lodge, which was about 2 miles from the shop.  We went inside for a beer, and ran hard up against a bit of local culture.  Liz was wearing a Cubs Shirt and the Moose Lodge was full of Cardinals Fans in full battle regalia.  YIKES!    Fortunately the Moose is a FRATERNAL ORGANIZATION and the lodge not just a bar…the locals were pretty friendly considering we were the enemy!

Kicking Back With Dad (and Sue)

After St. Louis (and Alton),  Liz and I spent a week in the Twin Cities, visiting various components of my family.  Primary focus was helping Mom move to a new apartment – an independent/assisted living community near downtown Minneapolis.  A LOT of challenges with this,  as you can imagine.   

Mom had moved a year or so ago into a different community; a move and downsize that was managed by my sisters and brother in a HERCULEAN effort.  We were on the road, so I knew sort of intellectually their level of effort at the time.  But this move,  in person, and even with help (which I will mention in a second), made the true contribution of blood, sweat and tears made by Sarah, Rachel and Bill VERY evident. 

Good thing SHE picked it…

So,  Mom gave it a year,  but decided she did not like the first community.   When she announced she was going to move,  and asked “What did I think,” I could only answer financially (It was a wash…she could afford it).  I was actually thinking this is the worst decision ever and how will any of us survive, especially Mom. 

Maybe I was actually confusing the proximity of Apartment#1 to MicroCenter Technology Store.  The manager let us park the bus in their lot for a week while we visited mom – no doubt he looked up my purchase history — a frequent shopper perq for sure! 

Anyway,  regardless of what I really thought, I thought immediately that we had to do this one differently!  We engaged a group called “Gentle Transitions” to manage this for us. 

Part project-manager, part social worker and part crisis management expert.

This is an organization that seems to have found a niche in our aging society.  They manage most of the nuances of downsizing and relocating elderly folks,  where change and disruption of routine can be catastrophic not only for  Mom but for Mom’s family. 

They do floor plans.  They organize elevators with the buildings.  They pack and handle donation of furniture, kitchenware and other household goods no longer needed in a smaller, managed-care home.  They engage the mover.  They even take pictures of the fridge so they can put all the notes and magnets back EXACTLY they way they were!  Then they unpack,  hang pics,  make the bed,  put away dishes and toiletries, etc.   They are really good at understanding the HUGE issues a move like this created for the elderly and their family.

It’s not perfect – still a lot of stress for Mom and decisions to be made  (Floorplans,  like military plans,  do not survive first contact with the enemy) and adjustments on the fly.  

To help with the adjustments, GT can dispassionately ask “Do you really need that XXXX” without the emotional toll of children asking parents to unload treasured JUNK.   For example, a futon that was shown on the plan was donated instead – it would not fit in the living room with space for a walker.  Mom still had a 16-place set of dishes…she has not hosted a dinner in several years for more than,  well,  ONE – and the building has a delightful food service, should she want to.  She had 6 cans of Tarn-X but gave all her silver away last year.  New bathroom had little-to-no storage Mom could reach,  so Liz and I made an Ikea run and assembled a couple small cabinets.  Stuff like that. 

I would say objectively and subjectively,  this move was 99% better than the one performed organically less than a year before.   The next one will be even better!  (AAAccckkkk.  Did I just say that?  I surely hope there isn’t a next one!)

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