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The Move Is On

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By Elizabeth Shean

This decision probably will not go down in history as one of the most intelligent I’ve ever made. But I’m not going to let that stop me.

I’ve decided to pack up Mom and move us back to our adopted hometown of Albuquerque. Let me explain.​​

We first came to Houston in 2013, when my late husband’s job was transferred here. While Houston isn’t a place we probably would have chosen to live, we have made the best of it. At the time, Mom had been living independently, but we all decided it would be better for her to move in with us. The arrangement worked out well.

Then, five months ago, my husband died unexpectedly of complications from a heart attack. Lee’s death has been hard on me in ways I never could have imagined. One of the more surreal aspects of losing him has been the realization that I’m living in a city that now feels utterly irrelevant to my life. We only came here for his job. Now there is no job. There is no Lee. It seems that the only remaining tie that binds me to Houston is my brother’s presence here. Throughout our adult lives, we’ve always been separated by no fewer than 800 miles, so it’s been great to see him more frequently than ever before.

But this sibling kinship does not seem to be enough to keep me here.

About three months after Lee died, I began to experience an unrelenting yearning to return to Albuquerque. I told myself to ignore this compulsion, not to pursue a scorched earth approach to dealing with my grief. Burning down our lives to get away from the pain wouldn’t benefit anyone.

Besides, how on earth could I consider moving Mom? People with dementia require structure and predictability. The process of moving would be exactly the opposite of that. Would it be fair to put Mom through this? To disrupt the very stability of her existence?

Despite my concern for Mom, this is precisely what I intend to do: sell my house and move back to Albuquerque next spring.

I told Mom of my decision a few weeks ago. She is doing her best to be supportive. But since our living situation has become unstable in her eyes, she’s been filled with anxiety. I try to balance concern for her needs with concern for my own. I hunch I’m dealing with a conundrum that’s common to family caregivers: How long should I have to put my own life on hold in order to take care of Mom’s needs?

I’ve never been one to shy away from even the most daunting challenge. Will this move turn into the biggest boondoggle of my life? I’ll keep you posted.


Posted by Teresa (October 13, 2016)

Don't put your life on hold. It will only cause resentment. If you feel it's time to move then go. Life is to short to wait around for "perfect" timing. You sound like a strong woman, just enjoy your life journey.

Posted by Magnolia (October 14, 2016)

We're also in Houston . . . for my job. My dream has always been to move to Oregon, but circumstances have not come together to make the move possible. My husband's dementia has completely changed our lives. I bring in caregivers to look after him while I'm at work. While we have no family here, I've been exploring the community and learning about the history of the area and meeting people in many different contexts and places. As our social family grows, I have more support and more fun right here. If you haven't made connections with people here and you have existing social groups there, by all means, go.

Posted by Elizabeth Shean (October 19, 2016)

Thank you, Teresa and Magnolia, for your supportive comments. Teresa, I think you're so right about the "perfect timing" issue. There's never a perfect time for anything. Maybe it's up to us to "make" the perfect time. Magnolia, it's wonderful you have been out connecting with people. That's so important. I'm sorry your husband has dementia. I can't imagine how that has changed your life! I hope your social connections will help you stay strong during this journey.

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