03 June 2008


My Mom will be moving from the Independent Living section over to the more nursing home-like section that someone jokingly called "Dependent Living" in the Continum of Care Community where she lives.

The first and biggest part of this process was six or seven years ago when Mom moved out of the 3-bedroom house that she lived in for 30 years and into a one-bedroom apartment. Between my Aunt Dotty and Mom's friend Barbara, much stuff was wrestled away from her and given away, thrown away, left with unsuspecting friends and family, and probably mailed to random addresses. Mom, bless her heart, is a sentimental packrat. Had she time enough and space, she would keep everything that ever entered her life by way of another person, including phone messages and drive-through receipts. Deep in her heart, Mom thinks that the Collyer brothers were right.

When she first asked me what I wanted from the house in which Igrew up, I said the piano, the dollhouse, and the lamp she painted with two ceremic ladies on it who looked a little like Sara and me in that one was blond and the other brunet (known to us as "the Leta and Sara lamp"). I did get those three things and, oh sweet merciful heavens, so much more. So very much more.

Because when Mom is being forced to give things up, it's easier just to agree to take those things and pretend that they will be cherished forever as she would cherish them. It's rather like telling little children that their dog has gone to live on a farm because many, many of those things went to the Pennyworth some time ago.* Please don't tell Mom.

We are now deep into the second phase, from one-bedroom aparment to one room. Getting one's mother ready to move into Dependent Living is remarkably like sending her to camp for the rest of her life. She won't need furniture or dishes or anything like that, but she will need roughly two week's worth of clothes, which will be marked with her name, and toothpaste and a toothbrush. She won't have a lot of privacy, so valuables are coming to me or going into the safe deposit box. A lot of boxes of stuff are coming to me prett' near intact so that Mom and I can sort it after she makes the move in a couple of weeks.

Thank God for my aunt. She came in from Cleveland for a week and cajoled, bullied, and simply wore Mom down so that lots and lots and lots of stuff was given away. I'm too much of an enabler. I'd ask her book by book what she wanted to keep, whereas Dotty simply points to an entire shelf, announces that Mom won't need them any more and packs them up. We'd never be ready in time** if it weren't for the more Achtung side of Dotty's personality. Bless her.

So Saturday morning we three were going through Mom's jewelry. I asked for a few things, not much because I don't wear a lot of jewelry, mainly rings and earrings, but Mom doesn't have pierced ears and she wears a size 5 1/4 ring and I wear a 7.

But I did find something I wanted. Something I'd asked for more than once over the years that Mom could never remember if she still owned it and if so where it was. When I got cast in Agnes, I asked Mom if she still had her old Zippo lighter. The one that, I think, Daddy gave her when they were engaged. The one with her name on it.

We found it in the jewelry box. And now I have it. Dotty showed me how to fill the lighter fluid reservoir and it works a treat. It sounds like a Zippo, which is the first thing everyone notices when I show it to them in that "lookee what I got!" way - that it make that Zippo sound when you shut the lid.

Mom gave me her engraved cigarette case several years ago which I did use during Agnes but we didn't find the Zippo until the day before closing and introducing a new or different prop late in the run is just a bad idea. And the $1.79 electronic ignition lighters that I bought at the convenience store near the theater did the job just fine and it seemed sort of disloyal to stop using them. I still have one in my purse.***

So I'm very glad to have my new Zippo. And I'm also noticing that for a non-smoker, what with the Zippo, the cigarette case, and the ashtrays I seem to have more than my fair share of smoking paraphernalia. All of it given to me by Mom, who actually quit smoking the day she found out that she was pregnant with me.

* Even though it's very close to both my home and my office, I cannot ever volunteer at the Pennyworth and don't dare stick my nose in the door, lest I start buying back things I've managed to let go of. The packrat gene runs strong.

** And we still might not. The schedule was set by them not by us.

*** Another was given to our stage manager, Frank, as an informal present. He can't light it by snapping his fingers near it the way he can the Zippo,**** but he likes the little built-in flashlight it has.

**** Frank has several interesting talents. Most of them, as I like to point out, are a little useless and a little louche. I probably like to point this out because they are, each and every one, the sort of trick I find fascinating and will never be able to learn how to do.

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