Ah, the family meeting. We had to get this started somehow. We broached the subject of my parents moving someplace closer to either my sister (up in VT) or me. I acknowledged that they probably weren’t feeling ready yet, but what was “ready” going to look like? When one of them took a header down the stairs? (Those are the exact words I used, by the way.) They didn’t argue about it (though ultimately, my dad dug in his heels about moving out of state – he’d spent his whole life in CT, dammit, and he wasn’t going to leave now. I think he was mostly worried about being able to watch the UConn Huskies Women’s Basketball games, to which they were – still are – seriously committed. . .). They didn’t quite jump right on the bandwagon, either.
Where they were living wasn’t exactly a place known for having a high concentration of quality healthcare. As fall became winter and winter became spring, I encouraged them to call me if they needed help with anything. This was a difficult thing for them – they’d always been self-sufficient. They never wanted to be the dreaded “burden.” But as the weeks wore on and the phone calls came more frequently, it was becoming increasingly apparent that we needed to accelerate the thinking about moving them because the burden of them not becoming a burden was getting, well, burdensome.
Confusion over bills was becoming routine, as was the need for me to often drop everything to run over there to unravel errors or play forensic accountant. (Despite the fact that dad had been saying, quite plainly, for a few months that he couldn’t really handle the finances anymore, mom continued to hand him the mail whenever it contained a bill or a statement. I still don’t know whether this was just 55+ years of married habit, denial, or a little of both. In any case, habit compelled him to think he had to do something with it when she handed it to him, which often ended with things being misplaced, split apart, or otherwise generally mishandled in some way.)
And. They did everything manually – they wrote checks for every bill, pretty much as soon as it arrived. At some point, however, they had completely stopped keeping a running total in, and balancing, the checkbook. They also had a habit of writing out the checks for their quarterly estimated income tax payments as soon as they came back from their annual tax preparation visit with their accountant (dad had given up doing their taxes probably a decade before). They would then stage the pre-written checks in their desktop organizer and make notes in the calendar for when they should send the payments. They’d log them into the checkbook register, but because they had stopped keeping a running total, no one was keeping track of how much was really available in the checking account. I quickly took that on as a part of my routine duties.
I’ve jumped a little ahead though. It was around then (mid-March) that I had a brainstorm: there was a very nice condo complex just 3 minutes down the hill from me. What if. . .? I bounced the idea off my sister, and in short order, I’d reached out to a realtor I knew who had lived there and whose name was often on For Sale signs in the complex. We wanted a unit where single-floor living was an option. Lo and behold, the (almost) perfect unit was available.
I mentioned the idea casually to my mother, to plant the seed. She said nothing, but didn’t put up an argument. A week later, on Easter, I brought it up as we were driving them to my house for dinner. I had teed up a virtual tour of the place on my laptop, which we showed them after dinner. They seemed more interested than I’d thought they would be. When I brought them home later that afternoon, I reinforced, again, that I knew the idea of moving probably seemed daunting, but if they liked the place (or any place there), they could buy it and we could take our sweet time moving – even if it took 2 years – at least they’d have it. (Of course, in my head, I was screaming, “Move! Now!! Please!!!”). I also reminded them that I knew their long-term objective, when they needed more care, was to have someone living with them, and that was great, but I wasn’t going to let that happen without the ability to check in every day, so to be only 3 minutes away would be awesome. I left them with that thought. Much to my shock and delight, they called me back that same night to tell me they wanted to buy it. I burst into tears of relief.