You know those forwarded emails whose purpose is to get to know your friends? They ask a series of light questions like, What are you wearing on your feet right now? Diamonds or pearls? Hugs or kisses? How many states have you lived in? Etc. They also ask the question: "Living situaton?" to which most people reply such things as, married, 3 kids; or big city apt., or what-have-you. Well...the most concise thing I could say recently was, "Weird." Lots of people know my weird living situation, but I continue to find people who I thought knew, but don’t. So let me explain:
My husband and I live in the woods on five acres of Arizona woods. We have no children; it’s just us and some cats (We formerly had two special, cute, beloved dogs, also. Oh, and several chickens. And some turkeys. And a nightly racoon visitor we named Steve.) At Christmas time 2005, we had just bought some land in Alaska and were planning for him (my husband, not Steve) to spend the summer of 2006 working there. More like 5 months when all told. At Christmas we came down to Phoenix to be with family and my husband noted that my mom was starting to show her age more than before. He thought perhaps it was time she not be living alone, and maybe I should go to Phoenix to live with her and care for her. My response? "Um...I’m married!" But then, just two months later, she got herself into a pretty serious situation, and we knew... We knew that’s what we should do.
We thought, well, we’re going to be totally apart for 5 months anyway. At least when he gets back we’ll only be 200 miles apart instead of 4000. 200 is doable on weekends and holidays. So, I quit my job as a church secretary and moved in with Mom. We knew it was the right thing to do. We received much affirmation to add to our own inner conviction. I’ve been here 3 years. When The Fisherman comes home in September, he goes to our 5 acres and resumes his guitar teaching at a local school and in various communities "on the mountain" as it's called where we live. We've gone back and forth to see each other. We have a commuter marriage. What an amazing and sweet thing that he saw my mom's need first and was willing to take the raw end of the deal by staying alone all winter so I could - so we could - give to my mom this way.
At first my presence here was more as a companion, addressing the loneliness and security issues of my now over-80 year old mother. Even so, within that first year, Mom was in the hospital three times. I don’t know if she’d be here now if I hadn’t been here in the night with her. One brother lives very close-by but Mom may not have called him, not wanting to be a bother and also hating to go to the hospital. She quite possibly could have ignored her symptoms for too long, trying to let them pass, which probably would have meant big trouble.
Gradually, her needs became a little greater as her body became weaker. Recently, my role has definitely changed. I am a real caregiver now. I don’t think I’m very good at it in some ways. In other ways, I do fairly well. I find, however, that our own particular mother-daughter dynamic is getting in the way a bit. So, she and I are both going through some challenges.
Well, that’s the explanation of my weird living situation. I feel like I have three homes: our Arizona mountain home, our Alaska "home", and my place here with Mom. When I run into people I haven’t seen for a long time (particulary at church where you don't always get to talk with people you see in passing every week) and we actually get to talk, many times I get the questions: Do you drive down every Sunday? Are you back living in Phoenix? What’s Rusty doing? I’m sure some folks have even wondered if seeing me without him means we’ve split up - (Ugh! I hate even writing that. I don't take offense at their probable wondering, but NO we have definitely not!) I have yet to come up with a concise, quick answer to questions about our living situation. It just can’t be done. There’s too many cities and too many jobs involved. Living situation? Weird.