Tuesday, June 5, 2012

dutch treat

I haven't fallen off the face of the earth . . . I just hopped over to another time zone for a few days. My parents, brother, and I spent the past 5 days in Lynden, Washington, where we moved my Oma (Dutch for Grandma) into a retirement home.

The guys moved the heavy stuff, while Mom and I got
things settled just the way they had been in her old home
Danny and I have moved 11 times in our 14 years of marriage, but this was the quickest move I have ever seen. John and I arrived Thursday before noon, and by bedtime the whole house was packed. Friends showed up with a truck at 8am the next day and by noon she was all moved in her new place. By bedtime on Friday her boxes were all unpacked, beds made, and pictures up on the walls. It looked just like home. That left Saturday and Sunday to help Oma find things in her new apartment and get into a new routine. At first she kept saying she felt "like a cat in a strange warehouse" but by the time I left she was settling in and said she would like it there.

Along the way we discovered lots of treasures: photos, memories, friends old and new, and humor. Inviting my brother along to help guaranteed that humor would be on the menu. My kids call him "Uncle Hilarious" and know him for his tickling. Tickle he does, in spite of my protests. He and I flew the Denver-to-Bellingham leg of my trip together, and collected our first jointly owned barf bag. I add a bag to his collection almost every time I fly (he has a whole box of them in his basement -- it's an inside joke). We commemorated this trip by writing on the barf bag about our first flight together (that one we had when he was still a baby doesn't count).

Humor turned out to be an essential element to an otherwise difficult transition. Oma liked living on her own and didn't see any need to move. But at 91 years old, with a very unreliable memory, dizziness, diabetes, and incontinence, we all agreed that we couldn't wait any longer. The residents of her new home were more than welcoming, inviting us into their apartments and into their hearts. We soon figured out that "all the cool kids" had rolling walkers with a place for a meal tray, and that most of them took a good month to figure out the floor plan of the building. If Oma forgets her room number or how long she's lived there or what her husband did for a living she'll be in good company. Peer pressure already persuaded her to put her keys on a bracelet and a name tag on her cane. We're hoping that she'll soon realize she doesn't need to drive.

A sketch of Oma I made a few months ago
I love it that I had 4 days to eat meals in the dining hall and get to know all of Oma's new neighbors. John, Winifred, Elaine, Liz, Francis, Anne, Jack, Bob, Catherine, Loretta, Berdita, Janice, and the others are dear, dear people with stories to tell and smiles to share. I loved the way they lit up when I remembered their names. The staff who work there are so friendly. I hate it that I can't drop in every week to see them all.  If I didn't already have a career in mind, I would seriously consider something in geriatrics. It was an absolute treat to stay there with Oma.

A dutch treat, that is. Only in Lynden is the "V" section of the phone book longer than any other letter. There are enough Van- and Vander-something-or-others to populate a small planet. Nowhere else do people reply to "What's your name?" with their last name and then their maiden name before they divulge their first name (as an afterthought). I met one lady who groaned when I asked her her last name. "Jones," she sighed, and we all laughed. To fit in all she'd need to do is add "Vander" to the front of it! Dutch coffee flows freely in the dining hall, and you can even pick up Dutch conversations at times. When I left for the airport, Oma was singing hymns in the lobby with other residents.

Oma's new home overlooks a golf course and she can see
Mt. Baker from her living room window
I'm thankful to be home again with Danny and the kids, but really grateful to have been part of this important transition for Oma. Given some time, I'm confident that she'll be happy in her new home. The new apartments being constructed across the street will obstruct her view of Mt. Baker somewhat, but I reminded her that the best view is yet to come. While she wasn't too excited about this move, she's very much looking forward to that one. Meanwhile, she's in good company.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to hear the move went smoothly. A tough move for her though. I'm also glad you were able to spend some quality time there. Thanks for sharing the pictures too. I realized, while reading, that it has been a long time since I've seen her. I really hope she will find rest and a sense of security. I know it will do so for those who love her!