“I’m never leaving this house. Not until they carry me out of it.”
My mother-in-law stood in the doorway, leaning on her cane, looking into the garage where we worked. She talked about her wonderful, kind neighbors (they are). She recalled how crafty and inventive my father-in-law had been (he was), using items in new ways long before recycling, upcycling and reclaiming became cool (he did). She lamented that he didn’t share things with her, his stories from the war, his childhood, his whatever (he didn’t). She was still learning things about him in the year since he passed. She continued talking and talking about stories I’ve heard a thousand times over.
We worked while she talked. I used to think it was rude, but we’d never get anything done if we stopped to chat. We were fixing up the garage — cleaned it from top to bottom, painted the walls, painted all of my father-in-law’s cabinets (formerly of the kitchen) that still hold his tools. Joe will patch and refinish the floor and then we’ll move on to our next big project – either at the house he grew up in or the house we live in. A 50+-year old house, 15-year old house – they both require work and we have two to take care of. She doesn’t understand that the reason we always seem so busy is because we’re pushing to get things done so we can go back to our own house, where there is also work to do. Sometimes to even relax in. She’s grateful for the work, don’t get me wrong, but she doesn’t seem to see her role in creating it.
After hearing my MIL’s comments, I realized my hope of her moving into a community where she can chat it up with other seniors, or a condo where she can continue to live with my sister-in-law without the yardwork, was mine alone.
I try very hard to put myself in her shoes, to see through her eyes. Rationally, I get why she wants to stay. I understand her wanting control. I understand that one day I will (hopefully) be old and have a son and daughter (and maybe even a son- and/or daughter-in-law) like she does who make sure I’m content, in a home that is well-cared-for. But…
I don’t get attached to houses. I’ve always been okay with change as my needs have changed. I know, God willing, I will want to move to something I can manage before life makes the choice for me.
But that’s not her. And not my parents either – different situation, but they don’t seem ready to downsize. I hope one day they do.
“I know this isn’t the time, but I’d really like to redo the basement bathroom…when you get to it.”
I just kept on painting.