We are steps away from finally selling my parents house. The house I grew up in. And yet, I am not overcome in the slightest with nostalgia or tasting the bittersweet pangs of remorse and sadness. I am elated beyond measure that it is finally happening. Moving back to St. Louis three years ago, I made a pact with myself to get my parents out of this house. It isn’t a bad house, it has its quirks and charm. It is spacious enough and has major selling points. If my mom wasn’t sick… well, no. A split-level home is hard on anyone who ages, but if you have MS it’s not only impractical- it is a hazard to her life.
My mom has MS. She is one of the lucky few that has spent most years of her illness in the Passive-Remittive phase of MS. Meaning, she would have a sudden drop in motor functions, but then it would stagnate at that level for years (sometimes even decades) before she would have another sudden drop in motor functions. My mom uses a walker around the house. She uses a wheelchair outside of the house. She can still do her dishes, vaccum the floors, make my dad his epic lunches and live a somewhat normal life. She just can’t go outside without the help and guidance of another human being. My mom spends a lot of time indoors. She does all the puzzles in the daily newspaper. She takes long naps and reads from her kindle. She gets depressed easily, and her pessimistic streak that would only come out occasionally- now has become a part of her personality. I believe, nay- I know, this is due to the lack of mobility within her life.
My dad suffers from Dreaminess. This isn’t a scientific diagnosis, this is just my observation on how my dad attacks the world. He is a simple man, so his dreams aren’t lofty or outrageous. They just aren’t based in reality. When asking him what type of place would he like to move into, he waxes about a cul de sac where our whole family has a house on it and we all live right by each other. He talks about trailers in the country, even though mom’s neurologist is in the city. He gets one idea and by the end of the conversation he has morphed it into another idea. These are all feasible ideas, but they cannot fit with what my mother suffers from. Dad sticks his head into sand, Mom pessimistically sighs and says “Trish, I’m just going to die here.” and nothing changes.
I have turned out dramatically different from my parents. Either I was born with a different set of genes that my grandparents sent me after skipping their children. Or, I have learned from their mistakes and have made a conscious effort to be different. Or, I have allowed traits that I admire in others to be something I try to emulate. Regardless, I don’t tackle the world and problems the way that my parents do. Not to say that I don’t start out with a shit-load of doubt and negativity. Not to say that I don’t desire sand to hide my head in and ignore situation. I have to negotiate with myself daily on how I am going to view and react to my situations. I have to actively think about a positive spin and remind myself of it. I’ve worked on my empathy muscle and on my positive attitude so that it became my default position. This is my taught behavior, but this is why Roland and I live such an extraordinary life. This is why we do so many awesome things. This is not something that happens to my parents, because they’ve conditioned themselves to not expect good things to happen to them.
This isn’t fair. My parents have not had it easy by any stretch of the imagination, and to expect them to be like me is comparing apples to oranges. Their perseverance and determination has given me the relative lap of luxury to be the person I am. They didn’t have the choices I have, they didn’t have the opportunities I have. My father had years of lay offs and deferred dreams to not believe in good things happening to him. My mom has had years of slowly losing autonomy and independence, until she now lives in a world completely dependent on the people around her. These are no small matters, and for their 34 year old daughter to just pawn off and diminish their struggles because I don’t think they were doing the right thing by themselves, is shameful. I’ve forced my world vision onto their lives. I’ve pushed and pulled the last three years, knowing that I’m doing “right by them” but I’ve taken away something too. I’ve taken their daughter from them, and replaced her with a very self-righteous, demanding adult woman who thinks she knows better.
But I do. My mom’s life is about to drastically change. The home they are hoping to close on is a one floor villa. It will be easy to build a ramp into and out of the house. The shower is already equipped to slide into. Pulling up carpet and replacing with laminate flooring will be easy enough. My mom will be able to get her wheelchair in and out of the house on her own. She will be able to take out a cup of coffee and do her puzzles in her backyard. In the sun. With fresh air. Her autonomy will be restored and with this, she will gain confidence and hopefully energy and a new will on life. Because of this, my dad will also get some of his autonomy back. He won’t have to worry about Barb as much and can focus a little more on his desires and needs. He won’t have to plan out, days in advance, if mom will have the energy to get out of the house, because it will be simple enough to get her out now. This house is going to change their lives more than I can imagine, in ways I haven’t thought of yet. This house is my first gift back to my parents for making me who I am today.
As we are nearing the one month mark until they have to be out of our house and the new family closes on my childhood home, there is no bitter, there is no nostalgic overtones. There is a sense of accomplishment, a pride in my abilities to motivate people to action, and a deeper love and respect for my whole family. My Aunt Sandy is such an amazing person. She’s been so helpful as we round this last corner. My sisters have been pushing for the last 10 years and have given up on getting my parents out of their house, but if it wasn’t for those years of work from them I wouldn’t have been able to get what I’ve done, done. My mom’s siblings and their husbands and wives have been so helpful, so open, so involved and excited for my parents. Mutz and Otto have to be smiling and loving it, wherever they are, to see their children banded together to help each other out. This struggle has given me so much respect for my family and reminding me how blessed I am with my extended family and their ability to unify towards a goal. This experience has been painful and upsetting, but also beautiful and hopeful. Much like my life in this house. I am excited for the next chapter and the future for my parents so that Roland and I can go to my parent’s house for years to come to get drunk and talk politics and listen to my dad’s vinyl collection!