Friday, March 15, 2019

Don't Forget to Check Your Teeth

Frank and Joan Manley with his first race car, a Deutsch-Bonnet
When my father and step-mother began to drift toward the unraveling edge of independent living--both health and mobility-wise--I flew to Bellevue, Washington. Several times. Eventually to diminished receptions as we drank lattes and good gin while putting off discussing the hardest things amidst the deteriorating circumstances of two brilliant lives lived in the literal fast lane (sports car racing and officiating and tours in far-off countries investigating airplane accidents). 

Here's what my year of rescuing my parents from the places and life they loved that could no longer sustain them taught me: there. is. no. best. way. There's only way. Way too hard. Way too messy. Way too complicated. And whenever it happens, for them it's always going to be way too soon. 

Unless it's way too late, and then--as a home care worker in Washington advised me--the next of kin can be held criminally libel for . . . I'm not sure what. But as an only child, I took heed. 

After months of researching independent living units in Kansas City, where their only child and three of their grandkids and their families live, and a doable drive from my step-mother's extensive Nebraska family, I embarked on yet another downward path to wisdom. What to do with the stuff--from a table made from a zebra skin (including legs, now illegal to sell in the USA, so donated, with like artifacts, to a local museum) to household records dating back to 1962. Post-its were applied: "Moving Van," "Donate," "Pack," "Estate Sale," etc. I spared them the "I've got Junk" truck labels. But there were two loads. 

Letting go is not for sissies.

Then all that's left is preparing a house to sell, arranging the estate sale, a car sale, emptying the safe-deposit box and moving accounts, checking on meds, getting the cats their shots and buying two soft, squishable carriers for under middle seats, asking your son to come lend two hands and a good brain, and buying four more plane tickets. Finally, in spite of the loose ends flailing around you like brain fog, you arrive at the airport, secure wheel chairs, and start to roll through what to my parents must have felt like the Wonderland rabbit hole. 

Joan Manley, now a young 97, and granddaughter Nancy 
Klein enjoying Happy Hour at Brookdale Wornall

And then . . . we discovered my father--world traveler extraordinaire--had put his wallet and passport into his checked bag. A fabulously understanding worker allowed us to go through in spite of that little hiccup--with wheelchairs, walkers, canes, a carryon with important papers and the family jewels, lattes, sack lunches, and two cats in carriers. Once on the plane in the front row of economy for the three of them, me across the aisle one row back in the middle so I could stow the other cat, my father needed to use the bathroom--fortunately just steps from his seat. But it was not an easy negotiation. I assisted, but still, we delayed the flight. On take off, the cat in the front row relieved itself as well. As soon as we were airborne, wet paper towels flew at my son who had charge of that feline. 

As I sat there deep breathing in a middle seat--willing the second cat to maintain control of its bodily functions for the duration of the flight--I made the inane mistake of shaking my head and wondering--almost aloud--what else could possibly go wrong? That's the exact moment I felt the bridge on my upper right side slip loose and settle onto my lower teeth. 

I rested my head against the seat and let the irony wash over me as we sailed over Washington State headed for Kansas. I desperately wanted to laugh, but how to explain that to the strangers on either side, and what if the bridge fell out into my lap and bounced onto the floor? With kitty under the seat, my purse and carry on were in the overhead compartment. Eventually, I ordered a drink through clenched teeth and discretely wrapped the appliance in a cocktail napkin and stuffed it into my pocket. I thought about wiping it off and jokingly asking the flight attendant if it was too late to check it, but even I know a bridge too far when I see it.

#SCCA #sportscars #seniorliving #pettravel #aging #caregiver #brookdalewornall #racing #flying #i'vegotjunk #passport #dentalbridge #looseteeth


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