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April 17th, 2019 Leave A Comment

Grandma Drove the Bus

Up until July of 2018 my mother-in-law, who turned 88 this past March 17th had been living alone in a 3 bedroom house up above Thurmont, Maryland ever since Ed her husband of 50 years passed away in 2005.

Over the past several winters with storm related power outages and snow or ice making her steep driveway very hazardous, concerns for how much longer she would be able to live there by herself mounted. It was the subject of many family discussions.

A neighbor had taken care of the lawn for many years and performed minor repairs on the house from time to time. The house was in very good condition and well maintained so that was not an issue.

Still driving her beloved Toyota Rav successfully to the grocery store, post office and the gas station, it was longer trips of an hour or more one way to visit family that were becoming potentially more dangerous. Another driver’s wrong move combined with the reduced reaction times that are inevitable with age contributed to the need for a solution for her housing and need to drive. While it became increasingly obvious that something needed to be done no family member wanted to try to force the decision.

A somewhat chance trip north to Rhode Island in March of 2018, to see her grandson Eli graduate from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts enabled significant quality time to talk about her future plans. It wasn’t on our agenda but Lois brought up the subject and with quite a few hours on the road it was a great time to discuss her options.

She remembered that the father of one of Linda’s high school classmates lived in a 55 and up community near us in Annapolis, MD. I told her the name was Heritage Harbor. She wanted to know about the community so I reviewed the basics about the amenities including the community center, an indoor pool, exercise equipment and activities from square dances to game nights. We decided that it would be a good idea to take a look there at some point.

The Rhode Island visit was very enjoyable celebrating Eli’s accomplishments and Lois and her daughter-in-law Miranda’s St. Patrick’s Day birthdays all in one weekend. As we headed out on Monday the weather forecasts were predicting a major snowfall over much of Maryland including Thurmont so we were forced to detour to our home in Annapolis. This situation only served to reinforce that her time of living up there alone needed to end.

Once the snow ended and the streets were clear enough we took Lois on a tour of Heritage Harbor showing her the community and its proximity to all of the places here that she might frequent. We also drove her by several apartment complexes as well and noted how close she would be to us.

She concluded that the area was too busy with too much traffic and that she would not be comfortable living or driving here. When her neighbor Mike advised us that her driveway was clear of snow and that we would have no problems getting to the top, we took her home.

Very shortly thereafter while visiting her daughter Susie in Warrenton, Virginia she toured that area’s senior living facilities and apartments to get a sense of the possibilities there. She rapidly decided on a senior living center there not far from Susie’s house.

Her house was on the market in May and she moved into the senior housing in July. The property was under contract in July and settled in September. A final day of cleaning out the rest of the house brought all of her children and some of her grandchildren to Thurmont to bid farewell to a place which held fond memories for us all.

Once the house sale was complete and she was comfortably settled in Warrenton she decided of her own accord to sell the Rav and give up driving. Now she’s dining with others in her peer group, playing bingo and watching movies and generally fairing very well.

Our trip and the time it afforded for discussion, along with the weather related detour on the way home and the subsequent touring of two different areas all contributed greatly to the determination that it was time for a change. It is significant that Lois is and has been in excellent health and of a sound mind. This enabled her to be in charge of the process, driving the bus as it were from Thurmont to Warrenton!

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