Mom and Dad 1937

Luckily, my husband was all for having my mother live under our roof, difficult as she could be. She loved men and he enjoyed letting her be charming. Luckily, too, we had understanding friends. One is not only a dog-lover, so one more dog under the table was not a problem, but she is a gynecologist who knows “old ladies” inside and out.

I had to sell Mother’s home and put her belongings in storage to be divided up or sold later. Some of her favorite pieces of furniture and decorative objects would be sent to Tucson to make her feel at home. In a sense, we were combining households. The only inconvenience was that we had just downsized. That meant we had to find a larger house and few were available in our neighborhood at the time. Moving out of the neighborhood would have created a whole new set of problems.

By that time I had been given Durable Power of Attorney, and Mother’s new lawyer guided us as we set up a plan by which Mom would pay $600 rent each month. This contribution to the mortgage made it possible for us to buy a house that had room but needed some remodeling (a bathroom to make a second master suite).

Mother had been diagnosed as having dementia. As her daughter, I understood that some of what was “odd” about her behavior was her lifelong desire to be unique. I assumed her aesthetic tastes had not diminished. She had told me some years before that, even as a child, she walked around with her hands framing her eyes to make nice compositions. She hated ugliness, and loved beauty, including nature.

Two aspects of her new home would be very important: one was that she had to choose her own colors and patterns for her bedroom (the biggest one). I brought home paint color charts and she selected sky blue (which she had used lavishly in her last home). I took her to the fabric store to get a sense of what she liked, and we brought home four samples for a bedspread, which was going to be the major decoration. I tried to get her to choose; she insisted it was our home and I should choose, and finally I did, a Ralph Lauren floral close enough to what she had before. Her antique bed, dressers and dressing table; the Swedish cabinet she and Dad used to house the TV; and her wingback chair, twin to Dad’s, but newly slip-covered, were moved in. Eventually, she let me hang a portrait of Dad where she could blow a kiss to him as she crawled into bed.

The second aspect was to give her easy access to the out-of-doors. That will be the subject of Part III of this personal, senior living series.

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