AS IRRITATING as they may sometimes be, family is what you start with, and, what many of us hope to end up with. People don’t normally aspire to be alone for the long haul.
Lynley’s aging parents visit from Pennsylvania twice a year. They show up in their 2000 Mercury Villager crammed with rotting bananas, grapes, and enough paper napkins ripped off from fast food joints to service an elementary school lunchroom for a week.
Dad drives. Mom sleeps. Then she gets out of the van and says, “I can’t believe I made it” like she’s been the one driving. We can’t believe she made it, either, without Dad throwing her out at 50 mph (he drives UNDER the speed limit so every road trip is interminably long!)
They always stay with us. Lynley’s young married daughter, their ONLY grandchild, used to put up with them for a night or two. But that was politically insensitive to the young couple, so Jack, being the bigger man, agreed to let the in-laws invade our home for the duration, twice a year.
The in-laws stay. And stay. Lynley’s mom talks. And talks. With her mouth full. With her mouth empty. With a mouth like a leaky faucet that never quits.
Once finally worn out from words, she sleeps. And sleeps. And, thankfully, sleeps. About 10:30 ish in the morning, after her dad had been awake since the break of day reading by the light of the window (he is as electricity-phobic as an Amishman) Jack decided to scream; a gut-wrenching, hurt your throat scream. “FIRE! FIRE! HELP! HELP!” His shrieks reverberated through the uncarpeted home.
Chuckling at Jack’s “experiment,” dad went down the hall to the guest room to see if the noise made a dent in his wife’s slumber. Nope. She lay as motionless as if in a coma.
The only way to rouse the dead? Turn on the TV. Even at low volume. She’s so Pavlovian about it.
TV, TV, TV, slurp, slurp, slobber…
Lynley and her mom lock horns on about anything. Cooking, doing dishes, buying clothes, etc. Her dad joins in. They peck away at her mom, but the old lady won’t take hints. She keeps her slow, steady drip, drip, drip of drivel until no one knows what she’s talking about. She interrupts at every topic and turns it into a “me fest” of unrelated material.
Lynley’s parents are looking to move to Missouri, near Lynley. Which is also near Jack, since Lynley and Jack have a TwentyFourSevenMarriage (check out the YouTube channel with that name).
There are advantages to the folks living close.They’d be forced to downsize from the Pennsylvania home they’ve lived in since the Johnson administration. So, no decades of clutter for us to rummage through after they pass on if they sell and move away.
Jack learned of their interest in relocation and found a home in a nearby town (about 10 minutes from Lynley and Jack’s rural home). They looked it over and seemed to love it.
Until the next day.
Just when mom thought dad was going for it, he pulled the rug out. “Living room is too small.”
So much for downsizing. Jack and dad looked at several houses in and around Springfield, the city about half an hour away with a real hospital and everything. Two real estate agents got a whiff they were looking, and smothered them with e-mails of the latest real estate availability.
They checked on houses diligently, peering in windows if there was a for sale sign in the yard. But Dad finds fault with everything he sees. That’s because he wants to live on a railroad track. Yes, literally.
Dad loves trains. He wants to live NEAR a noisy train blowing it’s ever lovin’ horn. Hmmm. And, he doesn’t want to mow. Keep the yardwork to a minimum. But he needs room for his model train set. I think I can, I think I can, chugga chugga chugga!
Amid the house search, Jack’s sister informed the aging parents of a retirement home she associates with. The home wooed them with all their luxuries. They liked the free lunch, but Lynley’s mom, according to Jack’s sister, didn’t stop talking about herself on unrelated topics. No one could get a word in. I believe she would still be talking to the retirement home tour guide if they hadn’t stuffed free food into her mouth long enough for the hapless guide to make a run for it.
They loved the luxuries and the conveniences of the retirement home, but the next day, they hated the money part. You know, the $3,000 bucks a month.
How about living in Jack and Lynley’s basement, her mom suggested after we hinted that might be a possibility. (Jack was in a weak moment, and he is desperate for a remodel of the unfinished basement.)
Honestly, they are strongly considering it. Jack actually came on board with the idea as dollar signs danced in his head. “They could pay for half our taxes, and utilities, and half of everything..” he mused.
“They could pay for a land survey, and a well, and decks, and with the sale of their home in PA, they could pay for…” Jack is still calculating the benefits. Nothing like a little greed to get a permanent dysfunctional family reunion going!
While popular opinion seems to be that aging adults would jump at the chance to live with their adult children, that isn’t necessarily so. Less than a third (31%) of those surveyed for a Gallup & Robinson research project on aging and quality of life said they would live with a younger family member when they could no longer live on their own. By contrast, more than half (51%) expressed willingness to have an older parent move in with them when they could no longer live on their own. Most of us want to be independent. Children, if they are mentally and physically healthy, generally separate from their parents as soon as they are financially able to do so. They no longer want their parents laying down the rules. Adults, too, want to make their own rules. The idea of living with one’s adult children, no matter how well you get along, can be disconcerting. The intimacy of shared living space can simply mean too much of a good thing.
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