My father-in-law's birthday present, 58 years ago.
I knew you guys would be all, "Oh, you're a saint!"
I'm SO NOT A SAINT. Just ask Josh or anyone else who knows me in real life. On my good days I am cheerful and flexible and fun. On my bad days I am high-strung, fussy, and moody. And that was before we moved into my father-in-law's house. On top of my basic very un-saintly personality, mix in the family drama that crops up with unsurprising regularity, and then picture me stomping around in a huff.
Ain't no one handing out any halos or wings around here.
The funny thing is: I'm surprised at how easy it has been, overall, to uproot myself and live in someone else's house. I was afraid I might not be able to do it. One day, when my mother-in-law was still alive, I went back over to my own house to pick up mail or something. I walked around whimpering happily at all the familiar sights, then sat at my kitchen table just bubbling over with joy at being home. That day I worried that I would not be able to step up to the plate and do what needed to be done.
But as I said, it has not been that hard. It turns out that I can be quite happy and comfortable over here. The hard part is getting our own house packed up so that we can rent it out. When the hell are we supposed to do that? We are too tired after a long day at work, I've been taking a 6 hour class on Saturdays (Spanish for Educators, gracias very much), and I go to see my own parents on Sunday.
I guess we are going to have to press other members of the family into service to help us out. So, if you are related to me and you see my phone number pop up on that screen, be forewarned. There is a ton of crap to sort through and boxes to be carried to and fro.
Josh and I have discussed the pros and cons of this plan backwards and forwards many times over. And just to reassure some of you: I don't feel forced into this in the least. Josh and I squabble from time to time, but mostly we are really good at operating as a team. If I really couldn't do this I would say so, and Josh would be okay with that.
But in the end, moving out of our house and in with my father-in-law is the only thing that makes sense. He shouldn't be alone. Not because he can't manage the activities of daily living. He can, sort of. But because his heart has been broken.
This was brought home to me with a whumpf last night when we returned home from celebrating his 91st birthday over at my sister-in-law's house. (My mother-in-law always made a big deal on his birthday. She told me one time that it was because his family was large and poor and they had never celebrated anyone's birthday and she was horrified by this.)
Pop-Pop had told us that he didn't want us to do his birthday this year, but we didn't feel like we could just ignore it, you know? We may have just made him sadder. I don't know.
I came in the front door just minutes after Josh and Pop-Pop had arrived home (we were in seperate cars) and found Pop-Pop sitting on the stair landing, looking at a book.
It was the book that my mother-in-law (Joell) had given him on October 29, 1953, the first birthday they celebrated together. The book was The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and it was her favorite book of all time, a book that in some way defined her. (In fact, my niece Maddy read an excerpt from that book at Joell's memorial service).
Anyway, I walked in the front door and found him sitting there on the stairs. At first I thought he was feeling tired and was resting before the climb up the stairs. Then I saw what he was looking at and, goddamn, I had to dig my nails into my hands to stop myself from bursting into tears right then and there. I said something lame like, "Oh....there's that book that Joell gave you..." and he said, "Yeah. I was just thinking about her. It was a good life."
Josh was equally tearful after witnessing this sad vignette. When we were alone in our bedroom he said to me, "And that's why we're here. Can you imagine him going to bed alone in an empty house?"
The answer to that question is obvious. No. I can't imagine it. I'm glad we can do this.