Week one of vacation has passed in a blur of traveling, visiting, clearing, chatting, and waiting. Not a particularly restful time but needful things were done.
I meant to take pictures but didn't manage to drag out the camera in time to grab shots of the happy new nephew or the dancing niece or relatives or my old home town.
I spent most of the week clearing out my mother's house, getting it ready for sale. She moved into an apartment with a better support system in November but the house was still full. It's a small, post-WW II house, about 1200 square feet with a full attic and a full basement.
Exactly how full? Well, we filled a 12-foot dumpster and the house still wasn't empty when I left. Somewhere over the last 4 or 5 years, frugality turned into hoarding. And hoarding coupled with memory problems meant that every nook and cranny was stuffed.
Some of it was easy to deal with: twenty years of nearly empty paint cans, broken and ancient appliances, empty cardboard boxes, empty bottles, packages and bottles of stale food, years and years of paid bills and receipts.
Some of it was odd: cracker boxes stuffed randomly amid the linen, caches of sanitary napkins, kitchen objects wrapped in tinfoil.
Some of it was smelly: cheese left on top the fridge, butter left on the the counter, and used kitty litter bagged up in a corner.
Much of it was sad: Bag after bag of fabric and sewing supplies, piles of craft supplies and projects for herself and her grandchildren, hundreds of reference photographs for her paintings. Each object represented a plan, a hope, a possibility. All that hope is gone now and that's the hardest part. Not the sorting out of family heirlooms and memories but the discarding of projects she'll never be able to finish.
She still thinks of herself as a person who can paint and sew and still has plans to make more art, more clothing, a new home. But the dementia has taken away much of her visual understanding and her understanding of spatial relationships. She's only partially aware of this and so her plans go on even though she can't thread a needle, draw shapes, follow a pattern, or easily manipulate tools like TV remotes or coffee makers.
She was a fiercely independent person and doesn't and can't understand why she is thwarted by the objects around her. She's much diminished. Her bouts of sadness and frustration come and go with her attention span. We hope for a long plateau before the next inevitable set of declines and the next move away from independence.