My mother says we have moved to a “stupid state.” She bases this assessment on the following:
- The highway and traffic systems are wild, wooly, and weird.
- There are more counties, with infrastructures supported by the taxpayers, than seems strictly necessary for sound governance.
- The news broadcasts consist almost exclusively of predictions about when the rain will hit each particular city block.
I am aware that my mother is having some difficulty with the transition to her new living situation. She tries not to complain, but I can tell based on her frequent mentions of the “stupid state” and her abject despair whenever she is faced with any reminder that she has moved (like getting a piece of mail that has been forwarded from her old address). I suppose it is natural for anyone, much less an 84-year-old woman with chronic kidney disease, to grapple with the trauma involved with a change of this magnitude. I know I have my moments, as well. Still, I do wonder if I did the right thing in moving her to our new state.
The original plan was that Max and I were going to remain in the old state while my mother was still alive. She had a very active, happy life there. Despite her significant physical infirmities and limitations, she still worked full time during the summer. She was the queen bee of the volunteer docents at the local reservoir. She knows more about water than anyone not employed by some water district has any right knowing. She had lots of friends and acquaintances there. She was driving, something she stopped doing before moving (see “stupid state” reason number 1). My brother, who has physical and financial issues of his own, lived close by. She had access to excellent health care basically for free because of the wonderful insurance plan she has been patronizing for the past 50 years. Still, when I bought the house in our new state, there were a few things in her life that were starting to disintegrate. I thought she might want to move and it didn’t make sense to postpone our move for her sake if she truly would just as soon go, too. She surprised me by saying she thought she would like to move.
Although my mother talks about the “stupid state,” I think there are really three main reasons she has some regrets about moving.
- Her health insurance plan does not operate in our new locale. This has been a constant refrain since she contemplated moving. After nearly 50 years with the same company, it is a jolt, especially since the old plan operated completely differently from any traditional health plan. Basically, it was run sort of like a privatized socialized medicine system. The insurance company actually employed doctors, ran hospitals, and staffed pharmacies and labs within their own facilities. A patient makes an appointment, goes to the facility, pays her $5 copayment, and all needs are addressed in one location. While inexpensive and very efficient, the health plan was also pretty paternalistic. Patients didn’t have to worry about finding a doctor or lab or paying much of anything. However, if a patient isn’t happy with the doctors or facilities provided by the insurance plan, she is pretty much out of luck. My mother loved her care providers and the ease of the experience, so “having to go to their doctors” was a blessing, not a problem. I’ve got her signed up for a Medicare supplement policy now, which should mean that she should not have any significant costs. Still, she is worried about a myriad of scenarios, most of which are extremely unlikely… that she will have to pay the doctors and file claims for reimbursement, that she will somehow end up paying the maximum out-of-pocket costs every year, that she won’t be able to find a doctor who will give her an appointment, that she won’t know where to go to get lab tests. I’ve got her scheduled for her first doctor’s visit next week. Hopefully, she will like the doctor and everything will go smoothly. If so, I think that some of “health insurance” objection to moving will fade. If not, the upside is that she CAN go to another doctor.
- If she was still in her old home, she would have been working in the accounting department of a school district food service department during the summer. Although my mother officially retired from her job at the food service department almost 20 years ago, she has been going back as a temporary employee during the summer every year since. She loves it. She has always been a social butterfly. At the school district, she visits with her old friends. People make a big fuss over her. She does an important job processing applications for free and reduced price lunches. Everyone aids her and makes allowances for her physical limitations because they love her and she really is very good at what she does. Now, she chokes up when she talks about how she would be working at the school district if she was still in her old home. The sad truth is, though, I am not sure how much longer she could have kept up with the job. When I bring up the possibility of volunteering now, she puts me off. Since she has moved here and I am with her more, I am seeing that she is much frailer and more tentative, both physically and in making decisions, than I ever thought she was. I’m sure she would have gone to work this summer, if she had not moved, but I’m not sure it would have ended well. Maybe it was better that she “go out on top” and stop because she was moving rather than because she became incapable.
- My brother remains in the old town. It is hard for any parent to leave a child. My brother’s health and, with it, his reliability to assist my mother, has been diminishing for the past five years. I know she worries about him and it was probably doubly hard to leave a child who “needs” her. On the other hand, there really isn’t anything my mother could do for him ten miles away than she cannot do 3000 miles away.
On the plus side, my mother says she feels better physically than she has in years since she has moved across country. I think she is secretly happy to have left her volunteer empire, as she expressed that it felt good to not have the stress of the timesheets and all the phone calls. The mobile home where she was living (which she bought for $6000 in 1996) was falling apart around her. It was filthy and decrepit. She always said the mobile home bothered me way more than it bothered her, but the fact remains. Now, she says she loves the new mobile home here in the great southeast and that she feels her living conditions have improved considerably. I am at her place at least four times a week and take her out often, to run errands and to go fun places. I think she likes that, even though I can’t really compete with all the activities and interactions she had in her old environment.
There are arguments on both sides of the move issue. I truly don’t know if we made the right decision. I am sure that, as Robert Frost pointed out, there is always the “road less traveled” phenomenon. Whichever decision we made, there would always be “woulda, coulda, shouldas.” If my mother had not moved, my brother might not have been able to take care of her needs because of his own medical conditions. The wiring in the old mobile home might have failed and caused a fire. She might have gone to her volunteer job one day and been unable to get back in the car.
A friend of mine once said, when I was obsessing ad infinitum about some decision or action, “stop shoulding all over yourself.” I guess that is the problem. I want an answer that is guaranteed to be the right one, with no questions or regrets. I don’t get to have that. Also, people do get to feel the way they feel. Ultimately, my mother was the one who made the decision and if she has wistful moments, that’s okay. It doesn’t mean that she thinks it was necessarily the wrong decision to move. I will do what I can to help her be comfortable and happy in her new home. And if she ends up deciding to change her mind and move back west, she knows I have her back on that, as well.
So what are your thoughts? Do you struggle with making the “right” decisions, too? Have you discovered any successful strategies for living peacefully with the paths you take? Share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a beautiful day, no matter which road you don’t take!