A Lesson My Aging Mother Taught Me

 

It had been brutally hot that summer. And throughout the state, towns and cities baked in the sun’s punishing rays. My mother’s half acre, bordering the West Warwick/Coventry line, was parched and arid but that didn’t stop her from hiring two sketchy-looking individuals to prune the forsythia bushes on her property. Why? She intended to keep the property meticulously, just as Dad and she always did… even in a summer of no growth.

When I pulled into the driveway, the two men stopped drinking water from the hose and looked at each other as if to say: “The gig’s up,” while I went into the house, asking “Mom, what are those men doing in the yard?” She answered: “I hired them to prune,” whereby I went out, gave them both $20.00 for their trouble and explained my husband and I were moving in that day to help Mom (we weren’t); I just wanted them to think that.

I had great cause for alarm. It had been the summer when an older woman in Little Compton had been murdered, following her hiring of a stranger to paint her home. She worked in a nursery, was loved by many, but that didn’t stop the cruelty that befell her when the man she trusted savaged her. She was easy prey because she was older and lived alone.

I’d already encountered signs of Mom’s diminished capacity.

She’d open her purse, directing clerks to “take out what I owe you, dear“ from a billfold stuffed with money.

I found an envelope holding two twenty-dollar bills she intended to send to the electric company.

My brother hired one of those “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” companies. A representative came to her home, explained how it worked (she was to wear a device around her neck to press if she needed help, a device that would send a signal to the phone and if no answer, the company would send in the life-saving team.) What happened in real time? She doubtless forgot the reason for the pendant (might have thought it a Catholic scapula), pressed it inadvertently, and left to come to my home.

Back at her residence, all Hell broke loose, with fire trucks, ambulance, and police cars converging.

When police called to ask if I knew where my mother was, I said “Sure…she’s coming into my driveway,” they sheepishly told me they’d barreled through her locked door, thinking to save a senior who was down. It took me two weeks to repair the wreckage.

I took her car away, after she uprooted a fire hydrant, when she swung too wide, collided with it, and dragged it in watery trail.

She’d been lost on occasion, ending up in neighborhoods far afield from hers.

So, with great anguish, two siblings and I removed Mom from her home of fifty years and moved her into a retirement home. Mom was furious…wouldn’t speak to me (the only one of her four children still living in Rhode Island) for two whole weeks.

I stayed away through the hoped-for adjustment period.

When I finally ventured to visit her, I found her socializing with others. More importantly, she’d put a wreath on her door—a sure sign she was acclimating. She enjoyed the varied hot meals the facility provided. She had friends—folks raised in the same era who all shared a similar frame of reference.

It was then I realized: Mom had been lonely in the ten years since Dad died. Oh, she tried mightily to continue on in their tradition.  She had the house painted every few years; she continued cultivating her peonies and rosebushes; she filled the bird feeders.

The neighborhood (much younger now) knew her as “that lovely Mrs. Kelly, wife of the former principal of West Warwick High School.”

But she was merely holding her place in life. ..going through the motions.

Now among her own, she flourished and her community appreciated her, so much so that in the following spring, they voted her “Sweetheart of Greenwich Bay Manor.”

We’d given Mom permission to enter another stage in life.

Colleen Kelly Mellor (colleenkellymellor@yahoo.com), a monthly contributor, taught all levels, from kindergarten through grade 12, for 30 years.

 

Where will you retire? (we found our perfect home where we least expected it)….

My book–Boomerrrang (2 Boomers Find and Leave Their Dream Retirement Home) will be ready soon. I’ve had a couple of readers get back to me with their impressions. It’s being formatted properly. And some people are patiently waiting–folks who asked “When’s it going to be ready, because we’re going on our own retirement home search soon? We’d like to use your journey as a guide.”

All readers will merit from the advice I offer as two who lived almost ten years in a town consistently named one of America’s top retirement towns. We didn’t just casually choose it, either; we spent years searching for the place we felt was “just right.”

Now, I offer my advice as a six-figure realtor for those who want to buy wisely….not like some who bought blind and lived to regret it. Some lost their entire nest egg–the money they saved over a lifetime.

Where’d we end up? I think you’ll be surprised to hear.

So, stay tuned. I’ll be doing public talks, too, designed to inform you before you buy. best-shot-white-squirrel-brevard-on-limb

See the little buddy in the photo? One of the remarkable aspects of the western North Carolina region we settled in–white squirrels. He and his buddies live at the music school in Brevard, NC. It would appear that North Carolinians (of all stripes) have good taste.

In this book, I’ll tell how we chose our community; what to watch out for, when buying; particular challenges in the South for Northerners; how we sold by ourselves (saving approximately $17,000); on and on. There’s lots of humor in the mix, as well.

The biggest plus:  You can use my tips for buying and/or selling anywhere–even in Rhode Island.

Our Japanese Nights, Wheat Fronds, and a House That Was Meant to Be……………

kerry in geisha gearA Letter to my grandchildren (one of many in my campaign to keep connection, while they’re so far away….)

Dear Luke, Sam, and Finn…

Our home is light-filled and it  just seems “happy.” I’ve lived here for 27 years and Grandpa has lived here for 16 years (he moved in and took care of me when I became sick.) But Grandpa and I have been together for 26 years in all….

I love my house…the back gardens where we put the troll house, the arbors, the plants…the trees…the bird feeders…the pool—the scene of the “Great Dolphin Races.,” when you boys came to visit and race the inflatable dolphins in the pool.

Anyway, I think the house is magical because I think it was “supposed” to be my house. I’ll tell you why….

When I first bought this house, I was told I lost it—that another person had come in with a higher bid—AFTER the realtor told us our offer had been accepted (two other people wanted this house.) I was so angry. We had offered full price- with no conditions.

After a couple of days of bitter disappointment, I got the call that said this house was ours after all. An amazing thing happened. The guy who tried to buy couldn’t get financing (the money.) So, we won the house.

When we moved into this new house, my mother (remember—the one whose grave I brought you to last summer– your Mom’s Nana) gave me a fancy plate she’d bought in an antique shop. The plate had wheat fronds in the background.  There were two children in the picture—one a girl of about 16 and a smaller child of about 6 (so—a ten-year gap in ages of siblings. Sound familiar?). The wheat fronds on the plate were identical to the wallpaper all through our new house. Another thing? I’d never seen wallpaper like that anywhere but in this house.

Occasionally, in the house where your Mom grew up (and later Amanda, too), we used to have “theme dinners” such as Japanese night, etc. That’s when the kids HAD to dress like the ethnic group whose food we were celebrating. On this occasion, I believe Mom’s friend Rachel joined us (she was at our home a lot). Your Mom (in pic at top of this post), dressed in a floral sheet, wrapped around, with her hair and face done up like a Geisha. Amanda was dressed as small Asian child, too….And we all had to use chopsticks.

So, look at the plate my Mom bought as house gift before she’d ever seen our new home..The figures on it look like your Mom and Amanda and the wheat fronds look like  the wallpaper of the new house.

I swear:  when I saw this plate, it gave me chills.

Today, the wallpaper is gone and the walls are painted. But I will always remember how this house came to be mine and how it reflects your Mom and Amanda.

I believe houses can be happy and spirit-filed, just as I believe some houses are sad and they take on the troubled personalities of their inhabitants. In fact, I even think some houses are evil and that doubtless is the theme of many a horror story (I’m thinking author Stephen King here cuz he’s written that type of thing in his books.) By the way, your Mom tried to meet the horror writer once, when we were on vacation at Key West and he was staying at the same resort. She had just won a big award in our city—the top essay contest, and since he was a writer, she wrote him a short note, asking to meet him. He never responded.

That was a pretty interesting trip, for your Mom and I were out (she was 12 or 13), walking along a street in Key West when all of a sudden, a torrent of rain came down from ???, a storm that cause flood waters to rush down the street, and the bamboo blinds in the restaurants swung out in the wind. We took off our shoes so they wouldn’t get destroyed and we waded through knee-high waters. We were laughing. It was quite the time.

In fact, I bought a Japanese silk jacket on that trip that I still have today (it’s in pic) it. It looks like the one the girl is wearing on the plate.

Look closely at the plate…Do you see the child searching in the field of wheat fronds? (Maybe it’s younger sister Amanda? While Kerry looks on. )

jacket--japanese

plate--asian

P.S. Your Dad is below in one pic, holding one twin in front of wallpaper wheat fronds. Whose top of a little head is in front of first photo of Mom, pg. 1? Clue….She’s got red hair and is pretty young.jim sweeney, twin, and wheat frond wallpaper