The following post was written shortly after my second trip to Utah in 2008 to visit Mom at her assisted living apartment. The first visit was enjoyable but had some high stress moments.
She had been in assisted living for five months. I did not know it, but she was second guessing her decision and wanted to return to her home. I also did not know that my sisters were afraid Mom would convince me that she did not need to be in assisted living and that I would check her out and take her back to her home.
I am not sure why they thought that, because I though I made it clear that I felt Mom should have gone into assisted living in 2006. That was based on how slowly and unsteadily Mom walked during one of my 2006 visits. We went to the cemetery to see Dad’s grave and the rest of the markers in the family plot. Mom wanted to walk over to my nephew’s grave in another part of the cemetery. A five-minute walk took thirty minutes.
The first trip was planned around a conference I had in California. I spent a few days in Utah, flew to the conference, and returned for another two days in Utah before flying home to North Carolina. The trip also gave my siblings in Utah a break since Mom was doing more complaining about being in assisted living.
Two particularly stressful conversations occurred during that visit. The first conversation came before California. It was about how much Mom missed Dad and the jealously she felt since he was able to die at home. Mom had never expressed feelings of jealousy.
The second stressful conversation came as I was leaving to go to the Salt Lake Airport to fly home. I stood up to leave and Mom yelled, “Sit down.” My mother never yelled. It shocked me. She started crying, “Don’t go, don’t go,” and was very upset. The personality changes bothered me greatly.
I was finally able to leave about ten minutes later. I drove over a nail on my way to the airport, which gave me a flat tire. I think I was the last person who boarded the plane.
The second 2008 visit occurred because Mom was thinking about putting her home on the market. She wanted me to come out so she could start distributing items in the home. I scheduled that trip to be in Utah on my birthday for the first time in nineteen years. My son also flew out on that visit, his first trip to Utah in six years.
My son, a heavily pierced and tattooed tattoo artist, was afraid about what Mom would say about his tattoos and piercings. That was one reason he had not flown out west. She, meanwhile, was afraid at how he would react to her physical condition. Each asked me several times to warn the other person of their concerns. I finally told the two of them to stop worrying about what the other person would think about their changes since 2002. They were very happy to see each other and their visits were fun.
Mom and Dad were happy when the Bountiful Temple came to their town. They attended regularly until their health deteriorated. I went by the temple one morning during the second visit and shot photos so Mom could see how it looked with the summer landscaping.
I also caught the sunrise over the Wasatch Mountains from Antelope Island State Park the morning of my birthday. Antelope Island is the largest island in the Great Salt Lake. The park is west of my brother’s home on the mountain. He has never seen the sunrise from Antelope Island. He thinks I am crazy for getting up early and driving to the park to watch the sunrise.
The most interesting conversation was a two-hour chat between Mom and my son about tattoos. She watched several episodes of “Inked” on MTV before our visit so she could learn more about the art of tattooing. She said that she never wanted a tattoo, a sentiment that I shared, but she thought it required amazing skill to inject the right amount of ink to create a living work of art.
That conversation wrapped up when she asked my son if his tattoos made him happy. He said, “Yes.” She replied, “Then I am happy.”
Mom knew my son was gay. My sister outed him a few years before this visit. Mom replied that it did not change how she felt about him. She loved him because he was her grandson and he had always shown love to her and Dad as his grandparents.
A House of Books . . . and More
I grew up in a house of books. Dad mostly read church books, and had a large collection of work related books that predated my birth. Mom loved novels, history, and poetry. When they moved to the new home in 1967 one item on their list was lots of space for books.
The upper left photo housed part of Dad’s collection of church books. This was the living room. I estimate this is about half of his collection of church reading. The lower cabinets had Dad’s stereo system. There is another set of cabinets to the side that had his tape recorders. The game room in the basement had speakers that were wired into this system. My parents liked listening to music. I think most of the children inherited that trait.
The upper right photos had the Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedias and year books, Dad’s work books, & some of Mom’s novels. This was the downstairs family room. They had another bookcase in the upstairs study with more of Mom’s books and the current books Dad was reading.
When Dad retired he averaged four books a week during the winter months. As my parents accumulated travel videos family room bookshelves became the video bookshelves. I think Dad tossed out his collection of work books, and Mom’s books found their way to other smaller bookcases spread around the house.
The shelves on the lower left housed the model car collection. This was the game room when we moved in. It had a full size ping-pong table, a full size pool table, and the double desk Dad made for my brother and me when my brother was nine and I was six. We used the desk through high school and into college. Once we moved away and model cars were no longer of interest these shelves turned into Mom’s travel and genealogy bookcase.
The room in the lower right corner was a bedroom. My brother & I shared this room for a couple of weeks until one sister married and the other decided to go summer semester at BYU. I got the room my sisters vacated. This became my brother’s room till he went on his mission. I got the room until he returned. I reclaimed it from him when he married a few months after I returned from my mission.
My parents turned this bedroom into another study after I married. Every home needs an upstairs study and a downstairs study.
The two studies did not include the “offices” they set up in the game room once the pool and ping-pong tables were removed. Mom’s desk, files, and bookshelves in her corner had her most recent genealogy research. Dad’s desk, files, and bookshelves in his corner had PC stuff. He use to replace his PC every six months so it would be “current.” He supplied most of the family with spare six month old PCs for years.
A new piece of PC hardware arrived a couple of weeks after Dad died. He ordered it the last evening he was downstairs on his PC. He became bedridden and died the following week. I asked Mom how she felt when she received a package addressed to Dad after he died. She said it felt good because it showed that he kept his interests till the end.
The rooms in this home underwent a lot of changes from the time we moved in during 1967, when I married and left home in 1978, and the following years through Dad’s death a few years ago and Mom’s move into assisted living at the end of last year.
We had a TV as long as I remember, though Dad did not think much of television and Mom seldom watched. I was surprised on my first visit after moving to NC to find they had five TVs – three downstairs and two upstairs. Lots of times the TVs were on but they weren’t watching. I think they may have wanted more noise since it was a large home for two people.
With Mom’s decision to sell she wants it emptied and the contents distributed. Given the cost of shipping I chose mostly books. Mom added some of Dad’s awards to my list.
Seven boxes arrived early last week. I didn’t unpack them till Saturday because it still seems premature to me, but I think Mom wants to enjoy distributing their personal items while she is still alive.
It seems strange that this is no longer “home.” When I left it for what will probably be the last time I did not have time to be sentimental. Mom had a couple of errands she wanted me to run for her, and I wanted to get back to Ogden to spend my birthday evening with her.
I have a lot of memories of this place. At all times it was my parents’ home – reflecting their interests at the time and their lifelong love of reading. This whole experience seems a little surreal.