Robert Meyer
The apartment
By Robert Meyer
January 11, 2017

Normally I stick with hard opinion pieces, but occasionally I delve into personal experiences that I think can serve as a catharsis for readers. This is such an occasion.

I ordinarily take time off between Christmas and New Year's Day. This year was no exception. Sometimes I take the first week of the year off as well, hoping to miss a few cold days of work while burning the last days of my yearly vacation allotment. I did that this year, and I can't remember ever being busier on a winter vacation, during nearly two weeks that I dub my "Vacation from hell."

The day after Christmas my car key froze in the ignition. I could start and stop the engine, but I couldn't turn the key to a position where I could extract the key and shut off the power. I took the car to my local dealership and they told me they were too busy to work on it for a couple days, so they gave me a loaner car. That is where my trouble began.

The next day I was in the parking lot of a local financial institution, when another driver backed into my rented car. The damage appeared to be so slight that I would have just forgotten the whole incident had it been my own vehicle that was hit. Since it was a rental car though, I wanted a police report to document the incident. I immediately reported the accident to my dealership and they asked me to return the car. I was stunned when the auto body manager estimated the repair at a bit over $1,000.

I talked to my insurance company and they informed me that often accidents in a parking lot are considered 50/50 propositions. More specifically, nobody is assigned particular blame as regards paying claims, but often each party is responsible for damages to their own vehicle. Since I carry a $1,000 collision deductible, a claim against my own insurance would be worthless and possibly detrimental. That means if the other driver's insurance company balks at paying, I get stuck with the bill.

If that was my only issue, I could've probably shaken it off. But for over a month I've faced a far worse family problem. Early in December my siblings and I have had to intervene to get my aging mother in an assisted living situation. The outworking of that decision has emotionally torn my life with feelings ranging from guilt to depression.

It was over 35 years ago that my mother moved into her apartment. I remember the day well. Before that time she spent six years living in a home taking care of an elderly woman, who was younger at that time than my mother is now. When the woman passed away, her son had to sell the home, and he gave my mother and me some of the furniture since each of us had to move into new places. My allocation of furniture was at my mother's place. She told me that Tom (the woman's son) was upset that I didn't take the day off to help in the move. I might have done so, but I had already missed a few days of work recently and was worried another absence would get me in trouble.

35 years ago was longer than I have been at my current job. Last summer my mother began showing signs of worsening Dementia. She refused to take her medications, and over a short time it was obvious that she was no longer capable of talking care of herself.

Over my Christmas vacation, my family spent time sifting through old papers, memorabilia, Christmas cards and the like. I was saddened at needing to dispose of these items. On the Friday of my last vacation day, we removed the last of her large furniture items. I was relieved, but sad. A few years ago she spent a lot of money on nice furniture. I couldn't store it because I didn't have much room, at home and she can't take much where she is now. I have had to consign or donate most of it to charity. Every trip to the apartment left me carrying a pall of sadness. Now only a few items remain in what was once a thriving homestead. It is truly the end of an era. I am struggling with the same sick feeling I had nearly 13 years ago when my older brother passed away and I was doing the same apartment cleaning. Most of the things I inherited from my brother were lost in a house fire a few years later.

Each time I visit my mother, I am reminded, that rationally, we as a family made the right decision – the only reasonable choice we had. But I struggle to wrap my arms around the results emotionally. Add to all that the nagging realization that many of us are going down this same road of decline eventually is bothersome. I get the feeling that my two older sisters are handling the transition better than myself. Perhaps it is because they already dealt with this with their in-laws, while I have not.

My experience recently is hardly unique at all. Nearly every family will deal with this process at some time, and each one of us has several bad breaks during our lives. Actually, I should be thankful that I accomplished some other essential personal business during my time off, which I never mentioned in this piece. It's just that I can't focus on much of that now. My job had been very hectic before my sabbatical, but now I'm looking forward to getting back.

Each time I'm present in that part of town hereafter, it will be difficult not to think about the many visits and family get-togethers that happened over the years at the apartment.

© Robert Meyer


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Robert Meyer

Robert Meyer is a hardy soul who hails from the Cheesehead country of the upper midwest... (more)


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