Role Reversal (a.k.a “This Lady Used to Change My Diapers”)

Wow, what an intense ride these last several months have been. Mom has almost completed the transition of moving from Minot to Fargo. It’s shocking to look back and realize that the person I counted on to change my diapers forty-some years ago now looks to me to keep from getting swept up by the world around her.

I’ve wanted Mom (and Dad, before he passed away) to move to Fargo for quite a while now, but the timing never seemed to be quite right, Dad’s Alzheimer’s care was a complication, and perhaps more pointedly I had allowed myself to be too passive in this situation. The seeds for the thoughts of becoming more active in Mom’s transition to Fargo were planted a few years ago, in one of the best (and hardest-hitting) sermons I have ever heard: The Sanctity of Life (Dr. Matthew R. St. John, Bethel Evangelical Free Church). Please, if you have a few moments … take some focused time to listen to that message. It’s worth your time.

Last summer it became very evident to me that I needed to become more active in convincing Mom to move to Fargo. Mom is still able to live independently and her mind is still clear, but there are signs that she is not always able to make the best decisions any longer. And I certainly couldn’t allow her to spend another winter alone in Minot. So it all came down to this: I laid out a 12-point plan for Mom to follow, and told her this time I wouldn’t take “No” for an answer. I respectfully told her that I was going to be right this time, and that she needed to allow me to help her move to Fargo. And so began the process of moving Mom to Fargo, to be close to us.

There have been many landmark moments over the last three months.

The Condo in Fargo

I helped Mom find and purchase a condo that is just blocks away from work and church, and not too far away from home. It’s a great place for residents age 55 and older, and the residents there are so friendly. It’s close to work (I bring my lunch to the condo to eat with her almost every day), church, and a grocery store. She’s starting to participate in the condo’s weekly coffee times and monthly potlucks. Even though any social activity usually leads to her saying, “I miss Irvin so much…” she’s actually willing (with a well-placed jab in the ribs) to participate in the condo’s social activities. That’s big progress.

Preparing the House in Minot

This was a scary project for me. There was so much stuff that needed to be dealt with. And how am I going to move her Mom’s antique organ out of the basement? It was this part of the project that had me most often saying, “I wish I wasn’t an only child!” Thankfully I had the help of my wife, in-laws, and some cousins I hadn’t seen in way too long to get me through the projects: deciding what should go to Fargo, packing up boxes, moving boxes, and preparing for the auction in Minot. As an only child that was born to older parents, I really never had the opportunity to get close to any of my cousins. But I’m so thankful for Dennis and Verdeen, and Freddie and Rose and their willingness to help get things in order with the house. I thoroughly enjoyed getting reacquainted with these cousins again!

Selling the House in Minot

Mom had moved into the condo with enough of her stuff to feel comfortable there, and the house in Minot was starting to get to the point where it could be put on the market. With people looking for housing due to the Minot flood and the oil rush in western North Dakota I didn’t think it would be too much of an effort to get the house sold. And wow, did the right offer get presented to Mom! She was the recipient of a full-price offer (made within three days of going on the market), the buyers didn’t even blink at anything that showed up on the home inspection, and the buyers want to move quickly. We just sent the last bit of paperwork to Minot, the sale could be completed in the next few weeks, by the end of this year!

The Auction

I didn’t know how this would go. Would this be too emotional for Mom to experience? She had one emotional moment during the auction, but was able to “recover” quickly. When we reached the end of the afternoon it felt as though she had closure. The auction ended, and we left Minot for the last time. She had been living in Fargo for several weeks by the time we had the auction, but as long as she had stuff in Minot, she never really “left” Minot. Both Judy and I commented that after the auction was done and she returned to Fargo, she seemed more pleasant to be around, and at peace with the move.

For me personally the auction turned out to be a much bigger project than I had anticipated. We got the house cleaned up and everything up to the auction site with only about an hour to spare. And while I didn’t move anything particularly heavy, I did move a lot of stuff. I mean a lot! I honestly don’t remember the last time my knees felt so rubbery for so long. I really need to exercise more!

Life in Fargo

And now, after all the hard work, Mom is finally able to start experiencing all the things we had hoped for her. She goes to church with us. She comes over after church for dinner, and stays for supper. She’s experiencing her grandkids. She’s meeting neighbors at the condo. She can come over to our house whenever she wants. I can check on her just about every day during lunch. She’s going to our kids’ school concerts and programs. She’s living again!

So there you have it … the quick version of the story that’s consumed my life for the last few months. Maybe now I can get back to a more frequent blog posting routine. Maybe I can start reading books again. Maybe I can play piano some more. Maybe I’ll get caught up at work. Maybe I’ll just relax for a bit! Looking back, and almost certainly looking forward, I can see God’s fingerprints over everything that’s happened with this move. I’m so glad it’s done (pending the completion of the sale of the house in Minot), and while it’s been a huge effort, I’m glad that I am in a position to help the lady that used to change my diapers.

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