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Seeing as how my friends here have helped and commiserated over the problems we've had with my aged in-laws decision (?) to move, here, to a four seasons environment in a complex commmunity from a senior community in California, I'm going to indulge in sharing some thoughts now that they flew back, this morning, from whence they came, with my mother-in-law now insisting they have a strong support system there (i.e., 3 old ladies with troubles of their own), even though a lack of support system was why they moved in the first place.

It's very sad and difficult, although their departure will make our lives easier. I've been plying my father-in-law with decent beer and sausage and pizza, things his wife will never get him and he will probably never taste again, because she doesn't understand with his end stage heart failure, his arteries have been so clogged for years, a bit of good tasting pepperoni (he only eats a couple slices) isn't going to be what kills him. There's nothing for him back there—he sits in his chair reading the paper and watching TV—but at least here, he had his daughter visiting. There he will be alone. Her real reason for going back is she has her three friends with whom to gossip, and she failed to find new gossips, here. In other ways, her life there will be much harder (other than climate), since she won't have anyone bringing over dinner or helping with errands or doing all those thousands of little things that require strength, stability, and dexterity (opening cans, changing light bulbs, putting a key on a key ring). Chances are they will end up without functioning electronics, because even the simplest remote is too complicated. God knows what will happen if she gets sick or injured and even temporarily incompacitated (which happened, here, several times—she blames our weather, but she's far more likely to break a hip, there, because she thinks she can still do things she can't).

What made them a burden, especially my mother-in-law, wasn't the times they really needed help. And, it wasn't doing the light-bulb changing type stuff when we were visiting or making an extra portion of dinner. The real problem was that my mother-in-law wasn't willing to accommodate and change the ways she liked to do things, even though some of the things that are important to her, she can no longer do without help, and the help meant our time doing things we consider a waste of time. I'm sure this is typical of housewives of her generation for whom time has never had value. So, for example, she insisted my wife take her bargan shopping, although all she was saving was maybe a few dollars per excursion (usually less) and my wife's time is theoretically valued at something like $150/hour (not that we see that) and her time not working is precious. Or, she refuses to learn how to use the computer, then asks us to send messages for her on such topics as reminding one of her nephews that a niece is having a birthday. Things mount up.

Another huge issue has been getting rid of crap. I suppose it is a Depression era hang-up, but you don't hang onto crap for 50 years with the idea that you or somebody might want or need it someday, especially not across a half dozen moves. Since they are moving into a smaller place, they had to downsize (they will still discover they haven't downsized close to enough) and disposing of stuff like old ties (I doubt my father-in-law has worn a tie in 10 years, and he probably won't again, since he hasn't the strength to go to funerals) or his old student-cello (worth $100) that he tried to learn early in his early retirement, gave up, and has hauled for 4 moves since then, has been hugely traumatic for them. Naturally, instead of throwing stuff away or holding a garage sale or giving to charity, they tried to foist everything on us—almost all ended up in our trash can or with my hauling to charities (did get me to clear out some of our accumulating crap at the same time). How much old gift wrapping paper and rags does one need? A cheap coat rack from the '50s is a cheap coat rack, not an antique. Blankets for a full sized bed are of no use for those who do not own full sized beds and have no immediate or long term plans to do so (they have singles, we have queens). Plastic bags and plastic knives and forks are disposable items, not things you wash and reuse.

Finally, there is my mother-in-law's Bush-league thinking. I don't think this is inherently an aging problem, it's just that, like GWB, thinking through nuances, weighing pros and cons, problem solving, before making decisions is, and according to my wife, always has been, beyond her. Just a few last days examples that are symptomatic of bad, bigger decisions (like moving and, we fear, finances). While we were vacationing—got in a couple of nice 12-15 miles hikes through mud and slippery slopes in heavy downpour and thunder storms (Lake Superior's gales of November came early)—the in-laws stayed at our house, since their furniture was in transit. Before their car was moved, my mother-in-law drove it over and parked in the part of our driveway we share with our neighbor with the minivan, despite explicit instructions from my wife not to. Naturally, she got swiped (my wife swiped one of our neighbor's visitors once, who didn't understand how these old houses and their driveways were not meant for anything bigger than a Model-T). My mother-in-law was terrified of having to back up through our long driveway (the unshared part) with a bit of maneuver to get to shared part, which everyone normally treats as a wide lane. The street is officially a sticker-only parking zone to prevent it being used for football Saturdays, but no one normally tickets (they don't even ticket on football Saturdays). So, my mother-in-law made the worst of 3 choices, and will now have a major trauma getting the car fixed in California, because she fixated on what she saw as a problem without understanding the real risks.

Then, she didn't want me to carry her big suitcase to the car last night, so I wouldn't have to get dressed at 5 AM. You can't drag the thing downstairs without scratching our floor (or get it down the staircase on wheels), and I'm the only one with the strength to carry it easily (my wife probably could, but she shouldn't have to). The problem for my mother-in-law was she wanted to fold neatly their pajamas and the idea of carrying a few light things to the car in the morning and finishing packing there was very upsetting to her. She was also complaining about having to fit everying into one suitcase. The airline, of course, would have allowed a suitcase for each of them, but he can't drag one, and she conceived of herself as having to drag two, which she couldn't. In the real world of decisions, of course, her daughter was going to see them to the check-in and when they arrive at SFO, the place is crawling with red-caps. At no point will my mother-in-law need to carry anything but carry-ons.

Trivial stuff, but when you can't even solve these kinds of problems, what will their lives be like when they have to deal with trivial bad decisions, that blow into big ones, like the car accident?

Oh well, they are gone, and I've gotten this off my chest (your appropriate response is "thanks for sharing" with unsaid undercurrents of irony). I hope there are no disasters for them and they are happier there than they were here. I think I've found Iand disposed of) most of the crap my mother-in-law hid in the cupboards and under the beds and in the dressers while we were gone, because we weren't here to say, no!. We're going to celebrate by drinking beer out of the bottle and eating in front of the tube, like the ill-mannered louts we are.
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