Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Moving Mom to Latrobe: the big picture

Some of you more astute readers may have discerned that over the last week the entire internet has seemed a bit more relevant, more cerebral, free of mind-deadening vapidity.

A surplus of thoughtful convention coverage?

Nope. I’ve been too busy to blog.

Busy doing what? I’ve been doing my part to increase Latrobe’s population from 8,081 to 8,082.

Note, I said busy, not biz-zay, the latter implying a growth that involves carnal couplings.

Not this time. No, the increase is due not to procreation, but relocation.

Latrobe, birthplace of Arnold Palmer, Fred Rogers, professional football and the first banana split is now home to my white-haired mother, Rachel Rodell.

I’ve spent the past week moving the widow Rodell, 83, from the South Hills condo where she lived since 1998 to the National Church Residences right downtown.

It’s a happy hybrid of assisted senior living and independence for a woman who’s becoming more and more cheerful as her memories dissipate.

The best part is she’ll be able to spend so many happy hours here with me, Val and the kids. She’s right now (above) enjoying a lovely day on the porch pretending to be reading the newspaper. Her comprehension is near zero.

I think they’re going to love her here. They do everywhere she’s ever been.

I took her to a church luncheon in Mt. Lebanon two weeks ago. I was crabby about the pending move and didn’t want to go. I selfishly thought I had better things to do

Boy, was I wrong.

All her wonderful old friends spent hours telling beloved Rachel stories from the old days. She laughed and laughed. She had a wonderful time. 

It’s just that two hours later she couldn’t remember a bit of it.

So now something she can’t remember is something I’ll never forget.

Knock on wood.

She doesn’t have memories, but she has lots and lots of pictures of memorable people, places and things she’s done. She must have 100 photo albums with nearly 50 pictures in each.

Smithsonian archivists researching Civil War exhibits have fewer assets than anyone interested in seeing what kinds of things me and my 4th grade pals liked to stick up our noses.

Efficient downsizing requires a cruel disdain for sentiment.

But wantonly tossing even one old photo album into a commercial dumpster feels like napalming a village of innocents, like setting fire to souls.

It’s what I plan on doing tonight. Val says I should keep each and every one. I understand, but there are just so many and just how many candid 20-year-old picnic shots does anyone need of divorcee in-laws I never liked to begin with?

Yesterday, my trusty buddy Mark and I U-Hauled away everything from the two bed/two bath condo. Everything but the pictures.

Mark shook his head in wonder. He looked like he’d rather be tasked with moving a a piano.

It’s way worse, too, with our digital generation.

Most of my Mom’s pictures are posed, formal, taken decades before even the narcissists could envision the advent of the selfie.

At one time each of those events was truly special. Few were those who were so lavish that they’d simply snap away potentially wasting actual film. The rolls were  carefully delivered to the Foto Hut for development and secured for special occasions when they’d be passed around and around. And you’d get scolded if you’d smudge one with a finger print.

I doubt Mom remembers any of that.

Her memories of bygone days have all gone by.

What kind of archive will I bequeath to my daughters? Will they delete or dump the photographic memories that to me are so precious I can feel each one of them filling my heart?

I shutter, er, shudder to think.

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