We spent this holiday weekend in Georgia packing up the contents of my father-in-law’s house. He has recently married a very nice woman who is not any sort of packrat, and he seems to be relieved to move in to her house and just hand over everything from the old house to us. There is a lot of stuff there. I mean a LOT. So taking charge of it all has meant selling our old couch to make room for a very, very old antique side chair and end table, and moving around cabinets in our kitchen to make space for the oak secretary his grandfather built and the glass display cabinet his mother kept her china in, and totally rearranging our former office to make it a real guest bedroom, complete with his great-grandparents iron bed, and working out where to put the old treadle sewing machine. And there are lots of tubs and boxes of little things that need to find some place to be. It’s all very cool stuff, but gosh there’s so much of it! And we didn’t take 1/4 of what was in the house. My FIL will be having an auction to pare down the rest, which is mostly Christmas, Christmas, Christmas. That was my deceased MIL’s favorite holiday, and the acres of lights and animatronic critters that inhabited her lawn and got her on the front page of the local paper every year will be up for sale. I like to think of her Christmas spirit showing up in little bits on everyone’s lawn in town. Everybody get’s a piece of the Gingerbread House.
I just realized that I think of that as her house, always her house, though it was their house together for 47 years–since they were teenagers. She just had such a big personality that he faded into the background somehow, and was mown under by her preferences, her wants, her need for more and more things to fill the holes in her life. And now he’s out front with his new wife and new life, lighter and happier than I have ever, ever known him to be. So, we’ll help button up the past, and take responsibility for as much of the stuff as we can reasonably cram into our own house, and help to set him free of it. Everyone gets to move on to the next leg of their journey. And we get to give new love to the antiques, and set a few of them free ourselves.
Our house has become a pocket of chaos. My father-in-law has recently remarried, and so has moved out of his house and is planning on sending much of its contents home with us when we are there for the 4th of July. Since we know we have a ton of stuff coming in, much of which is of the antique, family heirloom variety, we are furiously rearranging and selling and redoing to make space.
The upside of all of this is that the black hole that was my desk has now been emptied, revealing the lovely tiger maple library table it really is. It’s now in the corner in the living room, and is the new home of my sewing machine and the bin of cloth that I keep meaning to turn in to fun new clothes. In celebration, I went out and bought myself the pattern to make this: http://mccallpattern.mccall.com/m6741-products-46521.php.
I have a really light ice blue crepe fabric that I think will flow nicely in this shape, and so it’s now my goal to put this dress together this summer, and figure out how one actually fits a pattern to themselves. My mom used to do this all the time, but she had my grandma or me to help with pinning. Mr. L may find himself taking a crash course in being the seamstress’s assistant. Or I might try to make one of these: http://www.madincrafts.com/2012/06/custom-sized-duct-tape-dress-form.html
Likely there will be some frustration, as my sewing skills are a bit rusty. I’ll post results as I go, though. Here’s hoping for fun, and cheap new pretty dresses!
Dear Ebay: Thank you for the fun new summer purse!
The theme this week seems to be that old age comes for you sooner than you think.
My friend just wrote me that her dad, who is in his early 60’s, is in the mid stages of Alzheimer’s. He has to have heart surgery in June, and the family has been warned that anesthesia and narcotics from the surgery could exacerbate his disease. There is nothing to do about it but hope and pray–it’s not like the heart surgery is optional–but they have to be prepared that he may come out with a better heart, but a worse mind than he went in with.
My mom just cancelled a trip to visit us because her partner had a stroke and she needs to stay to care for him. She herself has been having a number of problems starting with an ankle injury she had years and years ago. She had surgery on it last year and it hasn’t healed well, so she is now worse off than she was and becoming concerned, at 62, about her own mobility. She needs a cane to get around still, and though she is supposed to have surgery on her other ankle, that now seems like a very bad idea. Her partner is already in a wheel chair due to diabetic leg amputation and now is dealing with stroke recovery on top of that, and how she will be able to push him around without ending up in a chair of her own is a great concern. Neither of them are willing to discuss more intensive care with either of their children, though. I understand it, but I worry.
My uncle, who just visited, had his own mini-stroke last year. He came out of it with a minimum of damage, but I noticed while he was here that his balance is less good than it used to be, and he tires very easily, and he has a lot of trouble remembering words, particularly when he’s tired. He’s doing very well, but 65 is not, after all, the new 50, and the name of his game is maintaining as much as possible and slowing decline. Improvements are not so much on the horizon.
We take for granted in these days of medical miracles that everyone will live to be 120, and be out windsurfing until their dying day. But it’s not so. Some people will be very active, but many, many more will not be hale and hearty into very old age. They will have what I have heard called The Rusty Years; they aren’t necessarily Golden. It’s scary to think that as fast as the last twenty years of my life from 20 to 40 have gone, the next twenty from 40 to 60 will be even quicker.
This is me and my uncle, for whom I am named, toasting Cinco de Mayo with our mojitos. He and my aunt came to visit, and we have spent the last several days seeing the sights, and showing them our little corner of the South. It had been 6 years since we’d seen them at our wedding–far too long. My mom was supposed to come, too, but a last minute medical emergency with her partner prevented that.
My uncle was a hippie; he has his ticket from Woodstock and everything. He broke out of our small town where all social life was held in or around the conservative church, and started a career in broadcasting in the city. He only ended up living a couple of hours away from our hometown, but it was a completely different culture, and he has flourished there, working for public radio. when I was little, he used to come to our house with his guitar and sing me folky songs. I still know The Man Who Never Returned because he sang it to me. He and my aunt were the most exotic people I knew growing up, with their artsy life and their social justice ideals and their political activism. They are still Bohemian, even if they are now of the Bourgeois variety. I always thought I’d grow up to be my mom, but I really grew up to be Uncle Ray. Even the relationship dynamics between he and Aunt P are like the dynamics between me and Mr. L. It was like spending 6 days with mirrors of yourself, and seeing your strengths and foibles from the outside. Fascinating!
They are on a plane back north now, and everyone gets to go back to their routines. It was a nice little break, though, and a good time reconnecting. I am glad they came, and I am determined that we will see them before another 6 years has gone by.
I realized I have taken a lot of pictures of my feet lounging with a book on my lap this spring, cresting a kind of triptych of my reading and the advancing season. Here are four.