The Move – Lesson 5: There’s Always More Room in the Car (Until There Isn’t)

Day 5 of The Move (90 year-old-parents relocating from Florida to Pittsburgh to live with daughter), Thursday, we got up early. Father in Law (FIL) packing more stuff in the car. I opened a random kitchen drawer to realize that they had both been “putting things back where they belong” instead of putting them in the pile to be put in the car. Added checking all drawers and cabinets to my list for that morning.

Went out to the car and shifted things out of blind spots again. Urgent text from work that required a return call. Huge fight in Tagalog in the kitchen about whether to bring I don’t even remember what anymore – fake flowers? Old magazines? Open packages of paper napkins? A box of toothpicks?

My Mother in Law (MIL) wanted to shower one last time in her master bathroom shower, which had been covered in harsh chemicals that had to dry prior to the re-grouting that had to happen that day so the realtor could take pictures and list the house. End of fight was MIL taking a precarious shower in the guest bathroom and insisting only her exhausted and frail husband could help her out of the tub. The realtor arrived and waited while she finished up and I cut my work call short to hover outside the door in case they fell. I knew I should be in the room, spotting her, but I also knew that would push her over the edge and we’d never leave. So I hovered.

The stager showed up and started trying to herd the cats. I sent her off to shampoo the bedroom carpet and got them settled with the realtor to sign their names a hundred times. Then I hovered by the car, making small talk with the neighbor with the cake who also brought me a gift (which was sweet and I was just too frazzled to think more than Great, where will this fit in the car, as I accepted it with the spirit with which it was meant). My FIL finally got my MIL out the door, clutching two magazines and a fake flower arrangement that had to come with us. We got her seated in the front seat, set the cake in her lap, and handed her the flowers. I tucked my FIL in the back seat, with his suitcase on his feet, and a kitchen vase sprouting a collection of spatulas and wooden spoons that she couldn’t live without in his lap. And then realized I hadn’t left room for her walker. So it went on top of the boxes after all.

“I can’t carry the cake and these flowers,” she declared, directing me to give them to her husband to hold. I pointed out that he was already holding something in his lap. Luckily another neighbor appeared to say goodbye and accepted my suggestion to leave the flowers with her until their next visit. (Next visit. Right.) I set the cake on her lap and got in the driver’s seat.

Then I was instructed to return for the leftover birthday cake. Which I did without argument, putting it in her lap with the other cake, backed immediately out of the garage and headed for the interstate before she could demand anything else.

It was 11 a.m. We needed to drop off the car at the Car Train by 2:30, it was 1.5 hours away, and I had never driven there before. I plugged my phone into the USB hub in my FIL’s car, set my GPS, and followed blindly.

“This cake is too heavy. You’ll have to find somewhere else to put it. I don’t have room for my legs. What is all this stuff.”

“All the things you couldn’t live without and there is nowhere else to put the cake, unless I stop at that rest area and put it in the garbage,” I did not say but wanted to.

We reached the auto-train with plenty of time and, I have to say, while not the orient express, it was a delightful experience. The rooms are basic and feel like train cars. We were on the same floor as the rest rooms, which meant our rooms smelt of chemicals, but we had to be there because they needed a handicapped room and there was no way they could have climbed the stairs to the upper level. Every single person we came in contact with was so nice, from the lady at the ticket counter, to the young lady that wheeled my MIL to the train, to the car attendant who exceeded expectations and remained positive and cheerful despite all the changes they put him through.

We had arranged for them to dine in their room. I would dine in the dining car – having never done it, I was curious, and needed a martini or two. They were disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to dine with them but quickly got over it. And I got my “Martini” (“I’m so sorry,” the waitress apologized. “We only had dry vermouth. I filled it up about half way and then poured the little bottle of vodka in. There wasn’t much but it looks like more with all the ice.” Full credit for effort. I walked her through making the second one.)

Here endeth the fifth lesson.

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