Today we moved Rex’s grandma out of her mobile home. She had lived there for 20 years, but when her only son, Rex’s dad, died suddenly, it became too much for her to live alone.
Grandma Stella doesn’t drive. She reminded us of that frequently in between sobs of grief and scattered thoughts.
“Did you know my son died?”
“Yes,” I’d answer, holding her hand.
“That bastard sold my car!”
“No one loves me,” she’d cry.
“But we’re all here. We have food. And will take you wherever you want.”
She’d light up. “Oh, how wonderful!” Then she’d go dark. “Do you know my son died?” Enter the sobs followed by a quick burst of anger. “THAT BASTARD SOLD MY CAR!”
Round and round she’d go, like a human version of Dory from Finding Nemo 3: The Dementia Years. Fear of finding her on the floor, and many calls from concerned neighbors, drove us to making better arrangements for her. And although she agreed to the move – which is more like a five star hotel than an old timer’s home – it was still very discombobulating for her.
When we came to pick her up this morning, her entire two bedroom coach was packed in old cardboard boxes and shopping bags with more notes than a college student at midterms.
“What the hell is going on here?” she’d ask.
“We’re moving, Grandma, remember?”
“No! No I don’t remember!” she’d bark. “I just want to drink my goddamn coffee. For Christ sake, I’m still in my nightie!”
This was true. She had damn good legs for her age, too.
No amount of coaxing could move her forward. She’d just sit down in her husband’s old rocking chair, her whole family in front of her, only to complain about being shoved into a new home where no one loves her. All the talk in the world about a movie theater, a lovely one bedroom apartment, cafe, restaurant and classes wasn’t cutting it. “It sounds nice, but where the hell’s the pool?” she’d moan.
The goal was to get her out of the house before the actual movers arrived to cushion the blow, but no such luck. There she was when Javier and Rocco showed up. For
whatever fucking who knows why reason some miraculous reason, she remained very calm while they were there. “Don’t forget my rosary…” “Don’t forget my brass ducks.” “Hey, do I need this bra? My tits haven’t seen this much cleavage space since 1967.”
While James sister and mom went ahead to the new place with the movers to get her furniture and clothes set up, Rex and I took her to Trader Joes to buy her
fruit and vegetables vodka and wine. While sampling the coffee, I showed her off to a lovely worker named Judy.
“Stella is 97,” I bragged. “Can you believe how strong she is to move into a new place?”
Judy was enchanted with Stella’s zest for conversation and split between her teeth (most everybody is, minus her new neighbors who will likely be tired of her asking where the elevator is by Day 2.)
At the end of our gab session, Judy remarked, “Stella, God is with you!” to which Stella retorted, “Cut the crap, Judy.”
A real testament to the fact that Trader Joe’s hires only saints, she casually replied, “But it’s true. I’m not a religious person, but I know God is around. And Stella, he is here for you.” What could Stella say? “You know what, Judy, I believe that you believe that!”
Then she flirted with a 50 -year-old stocker named Rene who gave her a free bouquet of roses on our way out the door.
I can’t help but think life is a lot like Stella’s move. It’s heart wrenching, exciting and ridiculously whimsical all at once. In between the tears and truck diesel and “where the hell did all my hangers go” confusion are samples of coffee, God and a handful of flowers.
Somehow, we make it through.
May your week be a good one, friends. And, if you’re in doubt, just be like Stella and clutch your pillow… taking it one step at a time.
Happily Ticked Off Tip #47: When life changes unexpectedly, grab your pillow if you must but don’t go to sleep – keep walking… one step at a time.