Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Sorting Dad out

All last week, I was driving Dad's car around packed to the roof with everything he owns. I alternated between feeling depressed and feeling liberated by the idea of owning only as much stuff as will fit into the inside cabin (and trunk) of a Toyota Corolla.

Eventually, I knew I had to begin sorting through it and I'd been meaning to ever since we gathered it all up from Laura's place, and a few days later, added a couple more shopping bags marked RAY from the great sorting out that Mom was doing before her move.

But my life works like this: I leave the house before dawn to get Katie to school and I don't return until its getting dark--and it's time to make dinner. Plus, while I was driving the stuff around, Mom kept calling to ask me to help her pack or unpack.

Don;t ask me why I drove the stuff around. Maybe I thought I'd sort it in between appointments or pull over on my way home from work. Maybe I liked having it with me--tightly packed in the backseat. Maybe I wanted to keep an eye on it.

But anyway, last Friday, when I got to work early, I had the thought that maybe, I could just take the time to do it NOW.

It was 7:45 am and the empty parking lot stretched around me, reminding me of the time when I was 20-something and drove out to Jones Beach at 3:00 in the morning to watch the sun come up.

I turned off the ignition, leaving the battery on so I could listen to NPR while I worked. Then, I opened all four doors of Dad's car and began pulling things out. I started with his clothing--which my husband had consolidated from six cartons to two large laundry sacks. I dumped the contents onto the asphalt and. drawing on my memory of the WHAT TO BRING TO THE NURSING HOME memo, I began.

I examined each shirt, sweater, pair of sweat pants. If there was a stain, torn collar, or if a garment looked old, I tossed it in one bag. If it looked good or if I remembered that I'd seen dad wearing it to a special occasion like a party, I folded it neatly into a pile on the backseat. IN the second laundry bag, I stuffed everything that needed laundering or was covered in cat hair from Laura's pets.

As I worked, Morning Edition playing softly on the radio, the landcaping company pulled up and six latinos got out with leaf blowers and made a lot of noise for about 20 minutes. They must have wondered if I was a homeless person, living in my car. Why else would a woman be standing in the middle of an empty parking lot, surrounded by clothing and personal items. Maybe they thought I had slept there, back behind the buildng where no one would have seen me.

They were so loud that I forgot the radio was still playing and when they left, and I remembered, I thought Id better shut it off before I drained the battery. Just to be sure, I tried the ignition and click click, the car wouldn;t come on. I pulled out the key and crossed my fingers that, as i worked all day, it would recharge it self. (Note: It did)

Anyway, back to the sorting... I looked through five or six cartons of files and documents dealing with his work--as an advocacy coordinator/consultant for people with disabilities. What in the world should I do with all of this? I kept asking myself. FInally, I rearranged things so the files went into the trunk and I pulled the rest of dad's things into the prking lot. Opening boxes I discovered: A carton of medical supplies--syringes and needles from the injecable vitamin therapy that Laura got Dad on but then couldn't follwo through on because, though she is a anurse, she can't stand giving injections. I guess that, since Dad must have oaid for the syringes, she thought he should have them--or maybe she thought the hosptial might like to have them. I tossed them in the dumpster along with four boxes of alchohol swabs, three boxes of gauze pads and two of latex examination gloves. There were person toiletry items: toothpaste, ibuprofen, gold bond powder. And a box of odds and ends: A brass "R" paperweight, grandson Cerulean's little sock, a picture frame (empty), some pens--all of which I saved. I mixed things into different groups--making a box of things to save, a box of things to ask dad about, a box of things that I didnt know what to do with.

When I was finished, I put it all back into the car, tossed half the clothes in the dumpster. And went into the office to work. There I made myself a cup of green tea, and began opening angel letters--reading stories of all the miraculous ways the angels take care of us...

I have to say that, since this Dad thing really took off, I have been pretty sure his guardian angels are in charge--putting him into the hands of the gentlest, most supportive hospital and nursing home staff imaginable, allaying all of his fears and doubts, Sorting things out their way, while I take care of things down here.

No comments: