“Mom, the woman will be here at 11:30. Are you ready?”
“What’s her name?” the mother asked, slumping in her recliner and crossing her arms defensively.
“Beverly, I think. She is the company manager. It’s just for an estimate of the moving costs. It will only take about 30 minutes. If you don’t like her, we’ll interview other companies. We’ll get at least three estimates.”
“Well, I made some lasagna. After she leaves, we can have lunch.” Her daughter looked up at her as if she was going to ask a question, but instead she started to check her cell phone. After a while, she said, “Beverly should be here any moment.” The doorbell rang as soon as she finished her sentence. A well-dressed, well-coiffed woman with a pleasant smile stood at the entrance.
“Hello, you must be Delia! And… are you Adriana, her mom?” she asked the older woman who did not get up to greet her.
Beverly sat in front of her potential customers and opened her briefcase. “So, you are moving to the Lilac Gardens, aren’t you?” She asked the older woman. The daughter smiled and answered, “No, my mom is not ready for assisted living, let alone going to long-term care. She’ll be moving to the apartment right next door to us.”
Beverly seemed surprised, but she just nodded. She started explaining the services her company offered seniors, from downsizing to managing everything else. She took a tour of the house, made a video, and then sat in front of the two women. “There is significant decluttering to do here. Your mom will have to make a lot of decisions about her stuff.”
“Her new apartment is not that small,” the daughter answered. “But she might have to throw away a few things, that’s true.”
They continued talking, while the old woman sat stone-faced. This is what being old means. They think you are a “rimbambita,” an idiot. Why is she talking to my daughter instead of me?
Beverly finally smiled at the old woman: “You have so many paintings and sculptures. And too many clothes. You will have to choose what to keep. Everything that you don’t need we will dispose of.”
These objects tell the story of my life. Each one represents a chapter. Each object has a meaning and carries a memory. It is all I have. All I have is my past. I don’t know about my future. I can’t think about the future. It could be very short.
Adriana looked at her daughter, who was calmly discussing figures with Beverly. She has gray hair, la bambina… She was a baby not so long ago… How did all those years go by so fast? My God, am I so old? Finished? But I am still me. I am as sharp as a tack, I drive my car, I go to the gym….
An image flashes before the old woman’s eyes. On an ancient street, in a city half a world away, a frightened little girl runs, arms outstretched, crying: “Mommy, Mommy!” A young woman swoops the child in her arms and whispers, “Mommy’s here, don’t be scared.” Look at her now. And look at me. I am the one who’s scared. If I listen to this Beverly woman, I will have to throw away everything. She sounds professional though…
The moving company manager left with her notes, and mother and daughter sat quietly for a while. Delia broke the silence: “Mom, we have talked about this for a couple of years now. We feel more comfortable if you are living close by. You see, Robert and I are still relatively young, but the years go by for us too. It’s much easier this way.”
The old woman nodded. “I know. It is better this way. It’s only that… Beverly is right. It’s true, I accumulated too much stuff. But it is difficult to let go.”
“No need for any scorched-earth methods, Mom. You keep what you value the most. I knew this would upset you, and that’s why I did most of the talking with the woman.”
The older woman rose from her chair. She smiled and touched her daughter lightly on the shoulder. “Let’s have some lasagna, Delia, and a sip of wine. Aren’t you hungry?”
Anna Foschi Ciampolini is a short-story writer, editor, translator, and journalist. She is a cultural and humanitarian activist, and was inducted in Vancouver’s Italian Cultural Centre’s Hall of Fame. She lives in Vancouver.