still in southern oregon (days 4 and 5)

The view from here
The trip so far has been both busy and relaxing. Yesterday we visited a farm where some tiny piglets were a big attraction, as much for my mother as for our toddler grandnephew. There were various other farm animals, and my mom was in a state of joy and wonder. We also spent a lot of time just hanging at home, and had a big family dinner at M&M's place, where we're all staying.

Both my niece from western New York State and my niece from California took off. It was completely wonderful to see them both. They both are well and happy, and it's a joy to see that. They are also very different from each other, in some ways complete opposite, but both so accepting and respectful of everyone's life choices, and both relate to other people so well. 

It's been great to see my Mom, despite her diminished state. She still knows me and Allan, knows all her children and grandchildren. I don't know how long that will be true, and I imagine it will hurt when she doesn't know me, but for now, I'm happy to be with her where she is. We listen to her repeat the same stories over and over, and make ridiculous observations, and tell us about how great her new place and the facility is. She often seems vacant and out-of-it, but occasionally pipes up with some lucid memory. I guess that's how dementia goes.

Taking the things

During this trip, those of us who don't live in the area were invited and encouraged to claim and take anything of my mother's that we want. She has always wanted to give us her possessions while she is alive. She has everything she needs in her new place, but of course it is quite small, and most of her things remained in her old apartment. Splitting it up is super easy, because none of us want the same things. And we must empty the old apartment, so my brother and SIL can rent it out.

Niece from New York State took valuable crystal (that had been my grandmother's) and china, and shipped them home for herself and her mom, my sister. Niece from California took some furniture that she can use in her workspace, tying it down in her truck and driving off . 

There were only two things of my mother's that I valued. The first was the baby-grand piano that was originally my grandmother's. That was always meant to be mine, but when the time came, I gave it to one of my nephews, who I knew would play it and value it. My family was shocked -- everyone always assumed the piano would be mine -- but it felt right to me. And I ended up with a piano anyway.

The other things I wanted was my mom's horde of costume jewelry, and the jewelry armoire that held a portion of it. My mom loved to collect necklaces, bracelets, pins, and earrings, enough that she needed furniture just to store them all. There is a sizeable overlap in our tastes, so much of what's there, I would actually love and wear.

I started to feel strange about the whole thing, like we were scavenging, or somehow hastening her demise, or even that we were stealing from her.

On this trip, I've told her repeatedly that C and E took some things of hers. I told her who took what, and it made her very happy. I told her that I would like her jewelry armoire and the jewelry, and she was thrilled. I asked, are you sure, is it OK? And she said in her amused way, Don't make me tell you again! I did this a few times, until I felt satisfied it was all right.

One of my niece-in-laws is a very talented artist and jeweler, and we went through the jewelry collection together, to see if there was anything she wanted, even if only to cannibalize for projects. It was fun looking through things together. We kept finding more and more jewelry, tucked in various drawers and tiered boxes.

Allan and I spent the whole day at the old apartment, sorting things into categories: stuff my mom can still use, stuff brother and SIL can use, stuff to donate, and trash. Allan also sorted through the books, putting aside a pile that we are hoping Powell's will buy for store credit.

And keeping the things

We also found my mother's travel journals, a diary she kept while staying at our house in 2019, her college diploma, and her Master's thesis, along with a zillion birthday cards, some of my writing, and other family mementos. 

Among the papers, we found an essay she wrote for a course on memoir writing, which none of us remembered. 

The assignment was "pivotal points in my life". Her piece focused on going back to school to finish her education when her youngest child started school, then teaching at a local elementary school. That pivotal time led directly to another: leaving my father. She was very articulate about why she made that choice, and expressed gratitude and joy at how her life turned out. It was amazing to read this in her own voice. 

We're going to scan the piece and share it with all the children and grandchildren and partners. 

Tonight we had dinner at the Phoodery, a new attraction in Phoenix, Oregon -- a collection of food stalls by local vendors, with family-style seating in a pavillion and green space. It just opened, so it was quite crowded, and everyone is hoping the place will remain popular throughout the year. Phoenix was devastated by fire in 2020 (as if that year needed more devastation), and hopefully this is part of a comeback. 

After driving my mother home, we stayed up late talking about the dire political situation in the US, especially why the Democrats are so lame. 


Amy said...

Oh, god, does this resonate for me. It actually made my heart beat faster, remembering my own experiences with my mother---the dementia, going through her things, all of it. I feel for all of you.

Kyahgirl said...

That story reminds me so much of when my own mom wanted to disperse some of her things to us kids. She was so happy to see things she valued going to a good home. My mom never really wrote much about her life but she would tell wonderful stories if you could get her to sit down long enough. Treasure that.
I’m glad you are enjoying your trip and seeing so many relatives. Oregon is gorgeous.