Moving, Memories, and Mercy

Today, I packed up my dad and moved him out of his home of 45 years to a one-bedroom assisted living apartment in Owasso. I had a plan. I was organized. I was ready.

What I did not anticipate was being flooded by 40-plus years of memories in that home. As it all started to rush through me, I wiped my eyes and accepted this day wasn’t going to be easy.

The memories started when I walked up the driveway of my childhood home. I remembered riding my bike into the garage day-after-day and where I dismounted and parked it. When I walked into the kitchen, I remembered my parents working together every Thanksgiving to prepare the turkey and stuffing. I could almost smell the fresh herbs and everything in the oven. When I walked into the family room, I remembered where we put the Christmas tree and I could envision my mom and dad hanging ornaments while Christmas records from Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra played in the background.

When I walked down the hallway, I remembered where I watched my parent’s first dog, Magi collapse from a stroke right in front of my bedroom, and I remember how much my mom cried that night. When I walked toward the study, I remembered my dog, Lincoln. He was the sweetest companion and he would follow me everywhere.

When I walked into the bathroom, I remembered the ridiculous amount of time my mom spent in there. To say she primped is being kind. To say she was vain is accurate. This is the woman who reapplied her make-up every night before she went to bed “just in case” there was a fire.

When I walked to the front door, I remembered all of our friends who have passed through that door. When I walked to the backyard, I remembered the countless hours I spent out there practicing tumbling, ballet and cheer. When I walked into my bedroom, I remembered the quiet place where I could retreat, read, write, and dream. When I walked to the back door, I remembered watching my dad leave and return from work every day, walking across our backyard to the flower shop and greenhouse business he owned throughout my childhood.

And when all the furniture was packed, except for the living room couch, I looked at it and remembered how much I loved curling up next to my mom on it to watch TV…and then I remembered what she looked like the last time I saw her on that couch the Thanksgiving before she died.

Then, I walked into my parent’s bedroom. It looked the strangest of all the rooms in the house without furniture. I carefully removed the crucifix on the wall that hung above my parent’s bed. Now, it hangs over the same bed in my father’s new home.

One certainty in this human life is change but memories connect us back to those moments — good or bad — to remind us how we got where we are today and how to take another step forward.

Memories from my childhood are fraught with bad moments but last week I only wanted to remember the good ones.  Even when recalling bad memories, I couldn’t help but think about the humor I found in all the dysfunction and how much that humor saved me.

It has taken me nearly five years since I lost my mother to move my father to Owasso and it has not been easy. It is amazing he is still alive. There were times I felt like giving up; and how I did not give up on him through some really terrible situations can only be explained by God. I rejoiced in hope. I endured in affliction. I persevered in prayer. (Romans 12:12)

Gratefulness is demonstrating appreciation to others for what we have and how others have helped us.  I am grateful for every memory because it has brought us to this day.  I am grateful for the gift of surrendering my will every day to God, because I’m not strong enough to do any of this alone. 

My dad and I are closer – physically, emotionally, and spiritually – than we ever have been, whether we like it or not.  Today, my dad‘s new residence is a couple miles from my home and work. After I moved his belongings and decorated the apartment, I felt a sense of peace for me and my dad that I have never felt.  When my dad saw the apartment for the first time, he turned to me, expressing gratitude and said, “thank you.”