Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Moving Grandmother

Over the weekend, my grandmother (my dad's mother) moved into a new apartment. She lived in her old place for about 30 years. Before I talk about the trials and tribulations of moving a 75-year-old woman to a new apartment, let me explain how this happened.

As I understand it, the main reason why my grandmother decided to move from her old apartment was due to the exorbitant cost of her gas bill. How high was it? About $600. For only her apartment. In a two-apartment building. Fortunately, my grandmother still works (she's a bus driver) or otherwise, she would still be trying to pay that bill now. That bill was her motivation to move out of the apartment she called home for 30 years.

She started looking for a place on her own and hooked her up with someone one of her friends knew. The agent took her to see an apartment that supposedly looked a lot like what she was going to get. However, when she, my dad, and my mom saw the actual apartment that the agent found for her, they were disgusted. According to my mom, the place was a dump that had garbage and clothing still everywhere and needed work done. Obviously, my grandmother was not going to be living there.

After that experience, my parents took the initiative to find my grandmother a place. Eventually, they found a place and went to see it. The lady was a lot nicer and so was the apartment. The rent was reasonable and wouldn't have the same huge gas bills. There were some issues to be worked out, but given that my grandmother really wanted to be out of her old place before June, she ended up getting the apartment.

There are quite a few differences between my grandmother's old apartment and her new one. For one thing, her new apartment is roughly half the size of her old one. Her old apartment was bigger than some condos. It had a living room, a dining room, two bedrooms, kitchen, and a den. The new place has two bedrooms (one of which is being turned into her den), a living room, and kitchen. While her old place was one of only two units, her new place is in a larger apartment complex with other tenants. She had several friends on the block where she used to live but now she only has one friend within walking distance. Her old block looked nicer than the block she's on now, but her new place is in a better neighborhood. Her new place is about 10 minutes closer to where we live and she is closer to where her sisters live.

The move began on Friday when I went with my dad, my grandmother, and two of my great aunts to get the keys to the place and give the agent the first month's rent. We brought a bunch of smaller stuff from my grandmother's old place in our three cars. This was the first time my great aunts and I had seen the place. My dad, who works nights, hadn't gotten much sleep that day and it showed. He started to get a little irritable when he realized that some of the issues that they had told the agent about when they first saw the place hadn't been taken care of. The biggest issue was that of adding an alligator gate to the back door of the apartment. The back door was not exactly the strongest and my dad was particularly worried about my grandmother being secure.

Then, there were new issues. There were water pressure problems in the kitchen and one of the eyes on the stove did not work. My grandmother and great aunts complained about various things in the apartment. The agent was starting to get a little annoyed when my dad kind of went off on her. "Kind of" is the right way to describe it, since he really didn't get as angry as he thought he did. However, the agent then really did get annoyed and frustrated. My dad is someone who hates for anyone to think he's a bad person. His lack of sleep caused him to have almost instant regret and for the magnitude of his mother moving to an unfamiliar place to hit him. He got kind of emotional and immediately went to apologize to the agent. He got emotional enough where there were a couple of times I had to take him aside. Eventually, everything got settled and the first part of the move was complete.

The next day, my grandmother officially moved from her old place to her new place. I had to work that day so I was spared of having to do much more than what I did the day before. However, my poor dad helped out again as the movers came and moved boxes and furniture. This move made it clear just how much stuff my grandmother has. She has always bought tons of stuff. If it was sold on TV, nine times out of ten, she would have it somewhere. But it was amazing for me to see (after the fact) just to see not just how much stuff she had but how big it all was. Her bedroom dresser takes up almost the entire wall of the bedroom in her new apartment. That new bedroom barely has enough room for the dresser, her two nightstands, her chester drawer, and her TV. She had an apartment-size washer and dryer in the kitchen of her old place. Now, the appliances take up about half of the space in her new kitchen. She gave the movers her living room couch because it was way too big for her new apartment.

One of the things that makes moving my grandmother so challenging is her personality. She has a fierce, independent spirit and will frequently question things when they aren't the way she thinks they should be. As her only grandson, I have the distinction of being one of the few people whose opinion she seems to trust without a whole lot of question. In comparison, my dad has to pretty much defend himself all the time. It took quite a bit of talking for my dad to convince my grandmother that she needed to leave one of air conditioners at her old place because it was old, falling apart, and difficult to move. When I told my grandmother that her smoke detectors were too old to keep, she didn't put up a fight. Oh, how old were those smoke detectors she had in her old place? They were Montgomery Ward-brand smoke detectors.

My dad had a rough time on the day that my grandmother officially moved out. Apart from the fact that he was still pretty sleep-deprived, my grandmother had him running left and right. He told me of how he was putting together her bed frame when the cable company came to hook up her cable. Her new apartment already had one hookup in the living room, but my grandmother only wanted hookups in her bedroom and in the den. She wanted my dad to stay with the cable man and he did. When the cable man told her that she would now have three hookups, she got mad…even though one of those hookups was always going to be there. After the cable man left, she then got mad at my dad for not finishing the bed frame even though she told him to stay with the cable man. That whole day certainly frustrated him.

With all the confusion and frustration, things are starting to look up. I went with my dad on Monday (yes, Memorial Day) to help my grandmother get her place together. We finally got her bed up and got much of her bedroom looking okay. We also put in the newer air conditioner that she brought back from her old place. It was a hot day outside and my dad and I were there for hours. It was definitely hard work but I'm glad that I helped my grandmother out.

I think the move has frustrated everyone because it's such a big change. You don't move from the same apartment you've lived in for 30 years without some trouble. It's times like this that you get an idea just how vulnerable old people can be. My grandmother has always done a lot for herself but this time, she's had to depend on her family a lot. I shudder to think where she would've ended up if my parents hadn't stepped up and found her a decent place.

The lease for my grandmother's new apartment is only for one year. One of our relatives is looking to purchase an apartment building and has guaranteed that my grandmother will have a place if she wants it. It's going to be a while before my grandmother will really be able to think of her new place as home, but I'm hopeful that things will work out in the end.

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