Packing Up My Parents

About a month ago, a very big thing happened. My parents moved out of their home of 34 years. We loved that house. I’d spent my teenage years living there. My brother and I enjoyed the flat driveway for basketball and hitting the tennis ball against the garage door. We loved the big backyard with huge trees, until it was our turn to mow it. The great room had a catwalk that we used as a stage for a way-too-lengthy puppet show one Christmas. We had the best neighbors that turned into lifelong friends.

But my mom and dad knew the time would eventually come to think about moving. My mom has Parkinson’s Disease, and she isn’t as steady as she used to be. They’re also in their seventies, and a number of their friends have downsized. They didn’t have a need for lots of stairs, four bedrooms, and an enormous yard. They didn’t want to shovel in the winter and rake in the fall. They downsized to a reverse, one-and-a-half story home, in a maintenance-provided community. They did exactly what they needed to do. And they prepped for this move SO well.moving truck

First, they cleared the clutter early and often. When I settled into my own home about 13 years ago, they would subtly leave a box of my old “treasures” at my house when they visited. My mom always said “Save or toss. It’s up to you.” Looking back, I’m thrilled this was what they did, because it saved all of us from having to sort through all the things when the actual move got closer. By the time they found a new house and made an offer, the majority of my brother’s and my stuff and had already been removed. Now it was up to them to decide what to do with everything else.

My dad retired from his law practice in December and immediately began his new job of transporting a zillion things to Savers. He joked that he had his own wing there, full of items he and my mom wouldn’t need anymore. Again, I’m so proud of them for being rational about what they couldn’t live without and knowing what could be donated. This saves us from having to sort through everything at a later date.

My kids have struggled with this change of venue. My son, who really has difficulty with beginnings and endings, spent a number of days crying about not being able to go to the old house. Again, my parents knew exactly how to handle it! They had us over to the new place on many occasions, each time pointing out the new paint (which were the same colors from the old house) and flooring, and assuring the kids they would have the same bed to sleep in when they came for a sleepover. When old carpet was ripped up from the living room, they put it in a corner in the basement so the kids would have their own space to play. They put shelves downstairs for their toys and asked what else they wanted in their space. Will has even helped decide which painting should go on which wall of the new house. This really gave the kids a feeling of ownership, and their first sleepover there was a huge success!

moving boxesA few days before they moved, I stopped by to help them pack. It was a rare, beautiful spring day, and I longed to sit on the patio and soak in the beauty of the backyard. As soon as I walked in the house, I said, through tears, “Aren’t you guys sad to leave this place?” It was almost an accusation, because I really hadn’t seen them shed a single tear. I’d introduced them to my husband here. I got dressed for my wedding here. I brought my babies here. I was wallowing, and mom calmly said she’d had her moments of sadness here and there.

Today, even when I drive within a few blocks of their old street, I tear up.  But I find so much solace in the fact that my parents are insanely happy in their new house. This is what they wanted, and what they needed. I’m continually grateful that we didn’t have to pull them out of the old house, kicking and screaming. They knew they were ready for something more manageable. They knew this was what they needed to do. They were ready. And I’m happy.

Jen was born and raised in Overland Park. After going to Indiana University for college, then living in Washington, D.C. and Chicago, she grew exhausted of circling for a parking spot and headed back home to be near family. She and her husband Matt are parents to a 10 year-old boy and a 8 year-old girl. Jen teaches kindergarten and her husband teaches high school, so they wonder how they’ll relate to their kids during the middle school years. She spends her free time cheering on the Chiefs, Royals, and Hoosiers, hanging out with family, laughing with her teacher friends, and fostering a love/hate relationship with boxing. She also loves traveling, Target, coffee, wine, sunflowers and all things pop culture.