Sunday, October 4, 2009


I’m going to start right out with a major lesson: Don’t forget the all important exit plan. Call it what you want: Plan B, Mistake Reversal Strategy, U-Turn Policy, or your “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here” clause. It doesn’t matter what you name it, the purpose is indispensable. The game needs to be played knowing the outcome may not be what you intended it to be and you have to have some alternatives in place. Moving to Wisconsin has proved to be, at times, more than we could handle given the fragile condition of all the Shavers and Melahns. On one hand, there’s the former matriarch of the Melahn family reduced to being followed like a toddler unable to remember where her shoes are (usually under the coffee table or in her closet and sometimes miraculously still attached to her feet) or why that darn garbage disposal doesn’t work (we unplugged it for obvious safety reasons). My youngest sister takes my mom to work five days a week for a good chunk of the day but the rest of time falls on my shoulders and like the good son, I have become her shadow not only for her own protection but for the protection of my own family. This brings up the other hand, Emmy and Rick. There has never been a mean bone in mom’s body. Laughter and a laissez-faire approach to life have been the hallmark of her personality up until now. Now, there can be times of true anger and the recipients have been all of us. When she gets up in the morning it can be particularly confusing for her. She hobbles through the house repeating the same questions from the day before, “What’s this mess?” “Why’s that light on downstairs?” “You’re not living here?” It all plays out like a scene from “Ground Hog Days” but not in a funny way. Before we left I worked on visualizing the burden this would place on me, I failed to calculate the effects on Rick and Emmy. She’s my mom and I can shrug off any hateful comment but Rick and Emmy absorb the slurs like knife inflicted wounds. They both know the bad times have nothing to do with them but they remain defenseless unable to feel anything other than as unwelcome guests.

So we had to formulate our plan B. We established a goal of moving into our own place as soon it is economically feasible.  We chose not to put a time limit on the move. We didn’t want to defeat ourselves if we were unable to meet an arbitrary deadline. We discussed the minimum requirements needed in a new but temporary home, and we discussed the need to keep the move close enough to my mom’s so I could still keep up with her during the evenings. To keep our goal real we have started looking at what’s available in Madison. In the late afternoon we take drives through different neighborhoods. Emmy points out the homes that meet her requirements: a big yard for her and Buddy, a two story house with a traditional façade, a screened-in porch for summer evenings. She oohs and ahs over canopied streets pointing to virtually any home that even remotely fits her qualifications.

Rick and I went to visit a converted tobacco warehouse that caught our eye. We scan the internet and look at ads in the paper like pirates looking for treasure. It gave us hope to see what you could rent here for one third the cost of our last New York apartment. Hope lives in dreams and goals and now we are beginning to prioritize.

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