Adventures in caregiving: moving Dad

Dad with his two youngest great-grandkids, Liam and Colin Roland, at my brother’s house in Olympia, Washington

Last Wednesday, I wrapped up my writing day early so that I could drive to Denver and pick up my Dad at the airport. He’s 84 years old and legally blind–not that his limited vision slows him down much.

The airline had arranged for Dad to be escorted from the plane to the main terminal. I had reminded him to turn his cellphone on when the plane landed, so he could call me if anything went wrong.

Of course, Dad can’t see the buttons on his cellphone very well, which means the voice-dial feature doesn’t always work.

It’s a three-hour drive from my house over the mountains and across the Denver Metro Area to the airport. In good weather like last week, the first two hours are beautiful, with sweeping views across high grasslands toward distant peaks, and dramatic canyons winding through forests splashed with aspen groves. Beautiful or not, the drive always wears me out.

Buffalo Peaks across High Creek in South Park, on my route to Denver.

So by the time I got to the airport on Wednesday evening, parked, and figured out where I needed to meet Dad and the escort, I was whipped. But Dad wasn’t: he smiled when I hailed him, and talked non-stop from that moment until bedtime. (For all I know, he continued talking, but I couldn’t hear him!)

Dad’s excited, with good reason. After ten years in the Denver area (we moved my folks there in 2002 from Tucson, where they had lived for 23 years; my mom died last year, in February), Dad is making one more move, to western Washington. There, he’ll be close to the remainder of the Tweit clan: my brother, Bill, and his wife, Lucy Winter; their girls, Heather Roland, Sienna Bryant, Alice Tweit; and the big girl’s kids, my dad’s five great-grandchildren. (Four of the latter are pre-schoolers, one just hit his teen years.)

Dad and my brother, Bill, with the great-grands, binoculars raised, “birdwatching.” (Thanks to Heather and Sienna for arranging the photo!)

Once Dad decided that my suggestion of moving was a good idea, he was ready to go. He toured Panorama, the a retirement community I suggested near my brother and Lucy, picked an apartment there, and put down a deposit.

Hence my week-day trip to Denver. Dad, who has been away in Washington state for two months at an excellent Department of Veteran’s Affairs training for the blind and visually-impaired, was returning to get ready for the move. Which meant I would be doing the getting ready, and he would be cooperating good-naturedly (talking all the while).

Thursday morning I set to work, helping Dad fill out the forms involved in leaving his current place; calling moving companies to set up appointments for estimates on packing and moving his one-bedroom-apartment-sized household; sorting through and boxing up things like cookware he no longer uses with his limited vision; transferring computer files and helping him get set up on his Macintosh after a summer of using a customized PC….

By the time I climbed into my Subaru for the drive back home yesterday afternoon, we had picked a mover, signed a contract and gotten dates for packing, loading, and delivery; arranged for pickup of the things he isn’t taking with; and made a detailed check-list for what else needs to be done before moving day–in three weeks.

Aspen gold on the approach to Kenosha Pass, 10,000 feet above sea level, between Denver and Salida, Colorado.

And I was beyond exhausted. As the highway curved to climb the first of the three mountain passes, I spotted the season’s first brilliant gold patch of aspens, and pulled off on the shoulder, laid my head on the steering wheel and cried.

Last fall, Richard and I shared his final Rocky Mountain autumn on our way home from The Big Trip, our 29-year-delayed honeymoon. He died two months later.

After a while, I dried my eyes and pulled out my camera. I got out of the car and shot a photo, and then another, and another. The sun was shining, the aspen vivid gold, the peaks bare against a bluebird-blue sky.

When I had looked my fill, I got back into the car and drove home.