Re: Impending loss


I repressed the whole thing.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 6:07 AM
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My little brother's wife did the heavy lifting. My advice: get yourself a can-do sister-in-law.

Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 6:09 AM
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Maybe that's why my brother's girlfriend didn't marry him until after dad died.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 6:11 AM
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But siblings are great. There was a year where it was almost like we went back being a single nuclear family again. We were usually not all together, but we were basically running my parents' house in turns.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 6:21 AM
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I nearly moved recently and throwing redundant crap away felt great. Still have too much though.

Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 6:36 AM
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A sister who buys "emergency Scotch" is good to have, even if you are more of a bourbon drinker.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 6:53 AM
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Try not to be the only person in your family sneaking booze into a nursing home, is what I'm saying.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 6:58 AM
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My father-in-law paid? someone to come clean out his moved-to-nursing-home-father's house. They sold a few valuable items and then cleaned out everything else. Had lived in that house since the year he got back from WWII. I don't think I've been anywhere for more than 4 years in the last 15.

I am very glad my parents are moving in the next few year as they retire and won't be leaving that kind of thing.

Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 6:59 AM
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8.1:. We did that too.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 7:03 AM
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I don't know about the packing piece, but there are paid care managers who can help you sort out living arrangements and medical appointments.

Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 7:27 AM
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My mom is recuperating from a broken ankle, I will soon go help her limping self get back into her apartment. High level clutter, just shy of pathology. Narrow entry hallway cluttered with stuff. I will rent a truck and bring a roll of trash bags with me. Maybe a mask for the food. She's kind and well meaning. I will have to do everything before she gets in, since she will try to keep me from throwing away old packaging or trimming down her historic telephone book pile under the coffee table if I do that in her presence.
My dad is visiting for a while, I am relieved not to have to leave him alone with my fastidious son, not a success the last time that happened. He's also kind and well-meaning, but while he's here he wants my detailed comments on his 200-page magnum opus concerning the future spiritual development of mankind. Oh yes, maybe straighten out that minor IRS thing. Spending time with him leaves me thinking aboit how futile every single effort at anything is and of course death. I'm sure it's just a coincidence that I get less exercise while he's visiting.

Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 7:35 AM
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My parents are relatively healthy in their 70s and travel a lot but their house is a fucking disaster. My dad is a hoarder and they don't maintain the house at all. I have no idea what their financial situation is- Jews don't talk about money, I never knew how much my parents made or spent or saved- so I have no idea if they have money saved for when they need medical support. They're pretty responsible with spending so I assume if they're traveling so much they can afford it.

Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 7:41 AM
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And on top of everything, our university president just announced his retirement!

(I'm not torn up whatsoever.) He's pretty good, but fine. It was just funny because I'd been dwelling so heavily on grief and loss, and then everyone was acting at this assembly like it was a time for grief and loss. AFAIC it's just a regular retirement, so it felt a bit surreal to have all this extra kobuki around a retirement that is still a year from now.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 7:47 AM
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My M-I-L just moved into an assisted living place, and in the process we did most of the necessary downsizing; fortunately, she'd been decluttering for years.

My parents, on the other hand, are going to be a nightmare. They are both in decline (one more mental, Alzheimers-y, and one more physical, Parkinson's), and both have houses full of stuff. In my dad's case, he's never been tidy and the literal sanitation of his house is starting to be an issue since it's become very hard for him to do any cleaning, and I suspect he would treat getting housecleaners or something as a bourgeois imposition. Also, I think most housecleaners would quit in disgust.

Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 7:48 AM
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As with all of these things, having money makes it exponentially easier to deal with (on a logistical level - emotions are never easy).

Also, you really need to be able to have some conversations about this stuff. It's difficult, and you don't need to get into the minute details, but framing it as wanting to make sure your folks will be OK in their later years (as opposed to fishing for some sort of inheritance, which is gross and also no one should ever do this), can help smooth the conversation.

Having my own mom get sick young and die at the age of 49 was horrible for MANY very obvious reasons, but the one thing that it did do was make my dad (and now my stepmom) and the rest of us get very comfortable talking about both end-of-life planning from a physical need perspective and from a money perspective. My dad and stepmom regularly fill me in on what their estate planning entails (in part because I'm their daughter, and in part because, well, I'm designated as one of the executors of their estates so...).

(SP @ 12 - we're also Jews, and yes, it's totally gauche to talk about money, but you may need to force the issue. I've read way too many stories of people who found out too late that their parents lived above their means and simply expected their kids to pick up the slack, regardless of the kids' own financial situation)

(and Moby @ 7 - when my stepmom's mother was dying at the very quality age of 93, she and her sister spend her last day at the nursing home, with a giant bottle of bourbon, periodically giving their mom small capfuls because she loved that stuff, and they, well...drank the rest and laughed and cried a lot).

Posted by: sam | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 7:59 AM
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It was very much easier because my dad had a pension and assets. Would have been very much more stress without that.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 8:07 AM
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My parents tell me they expect to use up all their assets with end-of-life needs, which is a good baseline-setting considering we've had dribs and drabs of inherited money helping out from time to time.

Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 8:45 AM
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I have a crazy family. It makes everything so much worse, but as others have observed, having solvent parents is a huge benefit.

It took years -- and three episodes of physical collapse where my father spent many hours passed out on the floor -- to talk my family into the obvious fact that my father needed to have constant care. When we finally did move him into assisted living, I had a brother go ballistic - to the point of hiring a lawyer to contest my father's wishes. This ultimately led my father to ban him from visiting in assisted living for about 10 months.

Ultimately, on the day before my father's death, the lawyer drew up a medical power of attorney so this crazy brother could take over my father's care from me and my two sisters. Apparently, they couldn't get my father to sign it, but the lawyer still presented the estate with a bill. As the executor of my father's estate, I recently sent a fuck-you letter to the lawyer, detailing the written evidence I had that there is no way my father would have consented to this. I don't expect to hear from the lawyer again, but we'll see.

And my crazy father himself declined to do his taxes for the last 12 years of his life, although shortly before his death, after considerable argument, he allowed me to start working on them. My father was an active stock trader and a half-assed record-keeper. I filed 24 tax returns last December with the help of an accountant.

Meanwhile, I have been getting mediocre-to-bad advice from professionals (except the accountant, who is a genius).

Through this, I learned an important lesson that applies to many areas of life: If you take responsibility for something, the folks who abdicate responsibility will nonetheless be happy to abuse you for not doing things the way they would have.

Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 8:46 AM
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I have a vivid memory - I doubt I was more than 10 - of my father acting as executor to a friend who had died of AIDS, on the phone with a purported creditor. "No, check stubs are not proof of a debt... not to me," he said. A little later, off the phone, to us: "He could have been paying [friend] for sex for all I know."

Now that I type this all out, I wonder if this was my dad being privately shitty / unexaminedly homophobic.

Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 8:50 AM
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18.last words of wisdom.

My parents have been steadily decluttering and throwing shit out which stresses me because some of that stuff I'd like to have though admittedly I got rid of most of my stuff before moving overseas (and I've been keeping it light on the personal acquisitions in anticipation of eventually having to move).

Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 8:55 AM
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18.3: Your brother should pay the lawyer would be how I see it.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 9:06 AM
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21: That's one thing that I told the lawyer, who originally sent the bill to my brother (but was billing the estate). The lawyer later filed with the estate.

From my brother's point of view, the point of the episode was to make sure everyone knew what he had tried to do. We didn't know until I got the bill.

It's hard to convey what a crazy fuck he is, but even as my father lay on his deathbed, my brother was trying to convince himself and others that it was he who had my father's best interests at heart, and his other siblings were railroading him to his death.

Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 9:25 AM
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Even crazy people have to pay lawyers they have hired.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 9:42 AM
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I'm not counting on any parental support- their parents helped pay for college for me and my brother but our parents haven't helped his kids or offered to help mine, so I guess they got a pretty sweet deal which may be how they can afford to travel everywhere.

Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 9:47 AM
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I've heard good things about travel.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 9:52 AM
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That was a lot of pronouns.

Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 9:53 AM
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For awhile, it sure looked like we were going to have a catastrophic situation with AB's hoarder mother, but that blew over, and now she has friends and is 10X more functional than she's been in the 18 years I've known her (and tbh possibly more functional than AB's described her being since the early '80s).

I mean, at some point we'll have to either empty her apartment or pay someone else to, but whatever. She's 77 with no signs of decline beyond typical absent-mindedness and that weird social inappropriateness of older people.

My dad's just turned 75, health is basically fine, no signs of decline at all (well, hints of the aforementioned inappropriateness--nothing overt, just miscalibration, if you will). At some point we'll have to empty his large, crowded (but not hoarded) suburban house, which will be a drag.

That's really it. My mom's long gone, AB's dad is in Germany (and similar to my dad, but with a younger wife and many relatives to handle logistics). My one uncle died last year without my cousins bothering to tell us(!), and my other aunt I haven't seen in 28 years, so she's effectively a stranger.

Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 9:54 AM
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get yourself a can-do sister-in-law.

We had one! But she and my sister divorced, and I don't know who'll be the executor for our dad. Neither of us is really that person.

Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 9:55 AM
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Since I am the oldest child, and the daughter, and went to law school, I am designated to handle both of my parents' estates when the day comes. They are well prepared, though. If I indicate any willingness, they haul me through their records. My Dad has prepared binders, organized in the order I will have to tackle things. They are both very eager to talk about end of life, and say they want no care but the ability to off themselves, which makes me sad to think about and also relieved.

Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 10:49 AM
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I don't know if it was clear that they've been divorced a long time. So I'm having similar parallel conversations with them.

Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 10:52 AM
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My mom wants to off herself, my dad wants to live in senile bliss. His own father was a very happy-go-lucky Alzheimer's patient, so it's not irrational for him to imagine he'd still be enjoying his days. However, if my mom offed herself, I bet my dad would be much sadder.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 11:28 AM
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"Mom, have you ever considered murder-suicide? Here's a pamphlet from the NRA."

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 11:36 AM
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The solution is to require all marriages to have a 20+ age difference. Then old person marries younger spouse, old person is cared for until death, survivor remarries younger spouse and is cared for until death, and on and on. And people can tell stories about how their ex's ex's ex's ex was a civil war vet or something.

Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 11:39 AM
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I suppose you get used to it, the losses and the sorting? Not that it gets easier, but maybe it gets practiced? I don't know. Right now it's very frightening. Tell me how it's going for you. Or how it went for you.

With respect to all the sheer stuff, when my mom died there was a huge amount of it, and as my brother and I cleared it out over the course of multiple week-long sessions, I realized that my mom would really have appreciated us helping her do that years ago, when we were visiting for the holidays or whatever.

After she suddenly passed, we'd do a couple days' worth of bringing her old clothes to a thrift store; I'd remark that these sure were things she hadn't worn for decades; I'd note that the upstairs was much nicer without those old things; and realize that she *really* would have liked us to help her do that a while ago.

So I'd suggest introducing a conversation like: "Boy, I've been doing some clearing out of old stuff at home, and the house is so much nicer now! Do you want us to help you do that at your (mom & dad) home as well? I can't believe how much cleaner and nicer our own house is now! It's awesome!"

This way you're inviting them to participate in going through old stuff, remembrances and all that -- it's fun.

Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 11:42 AM
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My dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September and gone by Jan 1 the following year. The last week was pretty bad, and the last 2 months weren't exactly fun, but it was a fast end. My two brothers, sister, and I -- and spouses other than my can't-do brother-in-law -- took turns from early October through the end.

He was trying to get shit organized so my mom wouldn't have to deal with it. Sold the Vancouver Island vacation home furnished, so moving out wasn't as much of a hassle. Sent me out there in late December to look for a box of documents that turned out to be in the garage in Florida. Oh, well.

I did get to take several Subaru loads to the dump just before the closing, and a Subaru load of antiques and art from the walls. Gave away a bunch of things like the old Crown Vic and the table saw, to the neighbors.

We managed to talk my mom into leaving Florida for the East Bay, so she's close to my sister and learning to tolerate my brother-in-law. And seems to be doing very well.

I'm really transitioning to playing for the other team, as I get ready to be 60 in a couple weeks. Daughter and grand are going to be visiting soon, and I have a pretty good idea what to do with the very few things we have of value. (The grandfather clock has been in the family since 1809 -- you don't own a thing like that, but are its custodian for a few decades. It's not particularly valuable if someone tried to sell it, just needs a decent place to stand, which neither kid yet has.)

Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 11:47 AM
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So I'd suggest introducing a conversation like: "Boy, I've been doing some clearing out of old stuff at home, and the house is so much nicer now! Do you want us to help you do that at your (mom & dad) home as well? I can't believe how much cleaner and nicer our own house is now! It's awesome!"

This is REALLY what I should be doing. It's occurred to me before. It's such a mushy, open-ended task that I've had trouble being concrete and definite about it and actually booking a plane ticket and committing to a week here or there.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 12:09 PM
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It's really hard to find a whole week for me.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 12:16 PM
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I would bet having more kids makes it more difficult.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 12:17 PM
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36: I'd just start with a preliminary conversation about how clearing your own stuff out at home has proved to be so great. Mention the kinds of stuff, ask if they have that kind of stuff that would be great to clear out: this tries to nail down what it is, so it's not such a mushy task. Is it old clothes? Is it age-old memorabilia stored in trunks in the attic? Is it those cruddy pieces of furniture in the spare room? or whatever.

And it doesn't have to be a full week to do something: a long weekend, maybe. But really 4-5 days is better, so it's not presented as some kind of rush job, but a joint family project, complete with reminiscing and all that.

And right, since you have a bunch of kids, you'd maybe have to leave Jammies in charge at home while you go visit the parents for a project. You can tell the parents you need a break from the kids anyway.

Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 12:32 PM
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Or take Pokey along for bonfire therapy.

Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 12:35 PM
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His own father was a very happy-go-lucky Alzheimer's patient

My father's advancing senility also worked this way. He was kind of awful to me when I was a kid, and while I made my peace with him as an adult, my main happy memories of him are from the last five years or so of his life, and particularly the last two. He approached his declining acuity without fear, and with humility. All of his adult arrogance melted away. The phrase "second childhood" really fit him, and you could tell his caregivers genuinely liked him.

Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 1:28 PM
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I hope I'm less of an asshole when I get old than I was as a child

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 2:00 PM
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I LOLed at 32 because I am a heartless monster.

Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 9:47 PM
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I've been doing the Death Cleaning thing for almost eight years now and the infinite amount of STUFF has finally gotten manageable. The kids have told me what they want and I've gotten ruthless about the rest. If I don't get around to tossing all of it the kids or the landlord can do it easily enough.

However, the chicken-shit party balloon people have started adding oxygen to the their tanks so I need to design a different exit strategy for when I get the nasty diagnosis.

Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 09-25-18 9:54 PM
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people can tell stories about how their ex's ex's ex's ex was a civil war vet or something.

"My husband's first wife's first husband knew Cromwell, and liked him well."

Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-26-18 1:50 AM
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I'm sorry for the impending losses, heebie. I have helped with a few sorts/cleans and will comment later. In brief, the best I can figure is it depends how much a person's stuff represents them to you (and how close you were). In laws have an easier time because they have fewer really strong associations. Sometimes, it's awful. My aunt let my sister, her husband and me walk through my grandmother's house when we were there this spring for her partner's funeral. I was mostly OK until I opened the drawer of Grandma's dressing table, and there was this overwhelming smell of her perfume. She'd been too ill to wear it for probably 15 years. It took me a while to pull myself back together.

Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 09-26-18 4:03 AM
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I have something long and horrible to put in this space, but pseudonymously. A man with a thick accent, a bad delivery, and no slides, is talking (I think) about Kripke and machine intelligence. I can honestly say I understood nothing at all, but while sufficiently detached to read unfogged, I'm not going to edit and upload my misery piece.

Another conference delegate, quite a famous Cambridge college head, greeted me warmly by name and then emailed me a 3.7mb pdf of a book he's got coming out next week, which he hopes I will find interesting.

"This has preposterous and absurd consequences" says the lecturer with sudden passion.

Posted by: NW | Link to this comment | 09-26-18 7:47 AM
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I think my parents and the in-laws have made their plans and saved properly. My dad was a lawyer for a while and his parents did not age gracefully (Alzheimer's and alcoholism), and he resolved to handle it better than they did. I haven't read their living wills myself or done an inventory of the barns to see how much decluttering they've done, but I think they're trying. Similar stories on Cassandane's side.

The thing I dread is finding the time for it. I work a 9-to-5 and live 500 miles away from the closest parents and none of that is likely to change any time soon. I think I get a decent vacation package by American standards but that's not saying much. Even if the parents are as on top of things as I hope, I still would want to spend some time with them in their final days and weeks, and I assume there will be some heavy lifting and paperwork after they're gone. I assume I'll have to take FMLA, and even then I'll only do the bare essentials to keep the surviving parent or the estate from falling apart and still feel terrible about it.

My sister is currently a housewife (is there a term for that with better connotations?) and lives closer to them, which would help, but I should still be there for the essentials, and I have no idea how we'll handle Cassandane's parents.

Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 09-26-18 8:32 AM
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47 sounds so much like a dream I would have, or lourdes would have, from which one wakes up brimming over with thwarted will.

Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 09-26-18 1:14 PM
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A longer comment now that I have time. My grandparents moved into a house my great grandparents lived in, and it is quite full of curios and personal effects. My aunt is cleaning it little by little, a few hours a day. I think she is finding it easier now that my grandmother is dead for some reason. I found my grandfather's WWII enlistment photo, to everyone's delight. She is packaging up old letters and sending them to distant family members. She will donate many semi-valuable things to charity and auction or trash the rest. She has been working on it for nearly a (frequently interrupted) year. My sister and her husband, when taking mementos, made bizarre (to me) choices - a random pop-up children's book with early Disney characters I'd never seen off the shelf, a small candy dish (Amberette if you're into that stuff) they never used. It was weird to watch. Never "Oh, this reminds me of our grandparents."

Cleaning out AJ's grandmother's house was something I helped with. I offered to get it ready to sell after she ran out of savings in assisted living (part of the plan, not a shock). I refused to sort anything personal, just agreed to throw out obvious junk, repaint the walls, tidy, make a few cosmetic updates and accessorize a bit. The kitchen was a horror. When they moved AJ's grandmother, they were worried it wouldn't work out, so they left everything pretty much untouched. Sure, they emptied the fridge, but they din't empty the freezer or cabinets. For three years. And how often does a single 90 year old with mild Alzheimer's bake, so decades of old dry goods. There was flour with bugs, sugar fused into rock, things broken into dust. Closets are gross, too. Old ladies often carry cough drops, right? Know what happens when cough drops fall onto the closet floor and a house gets humid? And the smell of the carpet. I delighted in throwing away all her fake plants. The dust they collected made me violently ill one Christmas. At the end, when there was a clean, tidy house that brought in an additional $5K above the intitial suggested price, an uncle told me "I did a lot of work for someone who wasn't even family."

My father has cleaned out almost all Mom's stuff. A few Christmases ago, he gift wrapped jewelry I requested and signed the tags as being from Mom. That was kind of rough with the first gift (from Mom?!?) until I figured out what was going on. I've been decluttering there for years, since I finished college, but he kicked into high gear after Mom moved into memory care. The only room left is the kitchen, which is hard because the cabinets aren't overflowing and Dad does cook pretty well. It's easier for him if things are going to a good "home" rather than a dumpster.

I guess what I'm saying is some are easy and some are hard, and sometimes you just throw it all out and sometimes you just put a bunch of it in a box "to deal with later" and then it sits in your basement instead. Sometimes the stuff is so much the person that you have to pause and reminisce (or just wallow in sadness), and some is hilarious, and lots is utterly mundane.

Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 09-26-18 6:43 PM
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Sometimes a tree falls on the house and your sister makes everybody speed up because she's starting to be afraid something will happen before you can sell.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-26-18 6:48 PM
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Interviewing. Again. It all gets very tiresome.

Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 09-26-18 9:57 PM
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52 Good luck

Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 09-26-18 11:13 PM
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Yes, good luck, Mossy!

Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-26-18 11:30 PM
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Thanks. Distinctly unpromising interview though.

Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 09-27-18 12:15 AM
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I'm sorry to hear that. Hope better ones happen soon.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-27-18 5:12 AM
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I just went through this with Dad two years ago in October. I was lucky in that he loved to collect, so we were able to bring in an estate auctioneer and make him handle most of it. People only pay pennies on the dollar at an estate sale, so it's definitely good for ease, not value maximization.

They were right that if there's anything that'd you'd like, grab it--it's not worth enough to anyone else, so grab that spatula--it'll only sell for $1 or $2 anyway. One thing is that the auctioneer had strengths and "got taken" in ways that had me suspicious -- like getting $1 a bottle for the wine that Dad bought obsessively at $10-40/bottle on average, with quite a bit of more expensive stuff just lost. (Part of my suspicion was that he works with restaurants and the like again and again, so keeping them happy over time might mean more than maximizing the value from any one sale, even though he was paid on a percent commission.)

Before the auctioneer, my brother and I decluttered for 3 or 4 days -- mostly looking to save important papers and toss the paper that was everywhere. We then had my aunt up for a Saturday and divided out whatever had memories, etc. My brother went home with a trailer full of furniture, while I got off relatively easily. (I hated the clutter that consumed my Dad's life, so I was a hard pass on just about everything sentimental.)

That said, my aunt began approaching my wife with "You should take this, what if he misses it later?" so we wound up with a bunch of Dad's teaching awards and photos. My wife's come around and we're now slowly disposing of slides and photos of people and trips that didn't involve anyone we recognize.

Posted by: Mooseking | Link to this comment | 09-27-18 4:55 PM
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Most days I feel like the single parent of a toddler again, except this time round the child has an incurable disease. She's 101. Yesterday my mother complained about her false teeth not fitting: there was a clacking when she talked. So she took them out to be smeared with fixative, and with them came a piece of plastic she had been sucking for the last half hour while she talked. It was an almost new hearing aid: a fancy and expensive gadget that sits inconspicuously in her ear, so as not to offend her vanity. Four days before both her hearing aids had vanished, along with her spectacles. She had no memory of losing them when they went missing, and no memory of where she had found the one she put in in her mouth four days later.

Later I found an entry in her carers' notes which said that the missing hearing aid had turned up in her armchair the morning she was found sucking it. The other one has never turned up and neither have her spectacles. Perhaps she hid them she does not want to be where she is and would rather not see or hear it either. But I really had no choice but to put her there.

One of the consequences of extreme old age is that women get frequent urinary tract infections and when they do the most obviously affected organ is the brain. Last November my mother was delirious for three days and nights without sleeping at all and then she slept for three days without stopping. While she raved I sat at her bedside as long as I could, sometimes for 12 hour shifts, and held her hands or pulled them gently off the bars she used to help herself out of bed. She writhed in slow motion almost all that time talking with absolute fluency and incoherence in several languages. It was clear that she believed she was dying and I expected that, too.

She didn't die. Because she was still living in her little two storey house, with the bedroom at the top of the stairs, I arranged for 24 hour care while she was convalescing. She would wake up several times a night and often try to walk to the bathroom at the other end of the landing, past the head of a flight of stairs. Quite often she would fall when she was on her own. It was impossible to think of a way to make the stairs safe but the carers were also impossibly expensive.

Earlier this year, she had another infection, and the morning carers found her crawling in the passage at the top of the stairs, but she had obviously been up and down the staircase twice in the middle of the night. She was in a state of great distress, convinced that there was another woman in the house who had made the mess in her bed.

So there was finally no escape, morally, physically, or financially from the end she had dreaded so much for so long. One of the awful things about her dementia is that it has left her cognitive apparatus intact. I used to comfort her, in the earlier stages of the disease, by saying that even if she had lost half her marbles, she could afford to because she'd had so many to start with and this is still, terribly, true. She knows perfectly well what has happened to her; she just keeps forgetting it. "That thing that happens to old women ... that's what I've got", she explained to me last week.

She still has her manners, which run nearly as deep as her pride. She'll smile and charm her carers when she can hear them, and when they play nicely with her. But she will often eat with her hands, because she hasn't got the motor control to manage a knife and fork very effectively. The slow and shaky progress of each spoonful towards her open mouth is a long agony of concentration for her, and of a kind of angry shame for me as I must watch.

"She's wonderful for her age", people say, and it is true. Sometimes I answer them truthfully too: "She worked at Bletchley Park, you know. You'll find her in the history books."

Posted by: obviously pseudonymous | Link to this comment | 09-28-18 1:11 AM
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My dad's (younger) second wife took care of him - bedridden - for two years before he died at age 85, with some help from us. I'm now almost the age she was when she did that, and I didn't realize at the time just how hard that was. ms bill and I are very close to her and, with her nieces and nephews, will probably take care of her when the time comes, hopefully not soon.

My mom's third husband and my younger sister took care of my mom for about a year before she died at 83. She was mostly mobile but progressively failing through that time. Then he died unexpectedly six months later.

And ms bill's siblings on the other coast took care of her parents before they died, although ms bill, never a traveler, made multiple trips to help out.

In sum, there were six hard years there not so long ago in which most of our older generation needed a lot of care before dying. Meanwhile our kids were going though high school and university. Lots of highs and lows during that time.

Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 09-28-18 9:11 AM
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58 My sympathies, obv, that's really rough.

Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 09-28-18 9:27 AM
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Yes, that's very hard all around.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-28-18 9:30 AM
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I am supported by obviously pseudonymoa*; it would be much worse without her.

Not IRL a flightless bird.

Posted by: obviously pseudonymous | Link to this comment | 09-28-18 9:46 AM
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Oof, that is hard. My grandmother, who passed away at age 100 a few months ago, was very similar to what you describe, except that she was in a graduated living facility with increasing levels of assistance, so the steps of care were much easier to navigate.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-28-18 10:35 AM
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