“Your mission, Suzanne, which you have no choice but to accept, is to pack up your parents’ house and move them to Florida. This will test your physical, mental and emotional fortitude. And this will occur during the hottest week of summer to make it even more unpleasant. This message will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck, Suzanne. You’re going to need it.”
After living in the same house for 42 years, my parents decided to move to Florida. Correction, Mom made the decision. Dad will tell you that he was forced to go. Dad hates the heat. No, he loathes it.
He loves Florida in the winter though. But now instead of going south for winter, they will go north for summer.
I knew this was going to be a monumental task. And even that was an understatement.
I said, “You need to hire a moving company. You have too much stuff.”
Dad disagreed, “No. We’re doing it ourselves. We don’t need to hire anybody. It’s not like we’re taking furniture.”
I protested, “I am going on the record that this is a bad idea. You have tons and tons of stuff. You need to hire a moving company.”
Dad replied, “No. We’re renting a U-Haul and doing it ourselves.”
Holy Mary, Mother of God! They didn’t kill me on vacation. So they’re determined to try again.
I argued, “You have to hire guys on the back end in Florida. I can not unload a 20-foot U-Haul in 90+ degree heat with 99% humidity.”
Dad said, “We can do it.”
I insisted, “No, we can’t. We’re going to die. Hire a couple of guys.”
After much consternation, Dad hired two guys to unload in Florida.
Thank you, Jesus!
Mom had started going through things a few months prior because she was determined to move. There were many piles—Keep, Donate, Timmy (my brother), Suzanne, and Garbage.
They went through their pictures. They had over 100 picture albums. That did not include the 7000 slides in Kodak slide trays.
Pictures with Timmy’s ex-girlfriends and pictures with He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named were tossed. Unless it was a group shot with family members who are no longer with us. In those cases, pictures of my ex-husband were kept.
They were able to get rid of a few albums. I kid you not, there were more boxes of framed pictures and photo albums than anything else I packed. Photo albums are heavy. My body had the black and blues to prove it.
The 7000 slides were weeded down to 780. Those were brought to a photography place and transferred to a DVD. I am proud of Dad for doing that. I know it hurt. At one point, he said we were asking him to throw away all of his memories.
No. We just don’t need nine pictures of the exact same thing. Pick the best one and toss the rest.
He also had to sell his baby, his ’96 Chevrolet Impala SS. It was a classic, but there was only room for one car in Florida. Poor Dad.
The most daunting task was packing up my mother’s china hutch. I should get a medal just for that. Her Lenox pattern is very pretty and the sparkle on the Waterford glasses is enough to blind you. But I never want to touch them ever again.
Place settings for twelve people with all of the plates, cups, saucers, dessert plates, cream and sugar bowl, salt and pepper shakers, water pitchers, gravy boats, pretty tea pots, etc. You name it, she had it.
Then, there were six, yes six, glasses for each place setting. In case you did not do the math, I did it for you. That’s 72 glasses. Who needs all of those glasses? Seriously?
I am a practical person. Whatever glass is available, I will use. I do not need a water goblet, a white wine glass, a red wine glass, a champagne glass, a highball glass and whatever the other one was called. Cordial glass, maybe? I don’t know. All I do know is that I wrapped and packed each and every one of them. And unpacked each and every one of them.
It took me hours upon hours. At one point, the real estate guy, who was there discussing the listing details with my parents, said, “Suzanne, you should take a break.”
Incredulously, I replied, “I can’t take a break. Do you see everything that still needs to be packed? I don’t have time for a break.”
He did not see the sorting of the Christmas ornaments. Mom had just over 800 Christmas ornaments and umpteen boxes of decorations. We went through every single one. She ended up giving me over 300 ornaments.
Mom held each item in her hands as she decided what to do. The rejects received a heartfelt farewell. “You know I love you, but I don’t have room for you. I’m so sorry I have to give you up.” And then she would put it aside in the reject pile.
Timmy and I received everything in the reject pile. So, do not fear. No ornaments or decorations were harmed or made homeless by this process.
I hauled four separate loads of precious family treasures back to Indiana. On the third trip, I was pulled over by two state troopers in my favorite state of Ohio. Sense the sarcasm.
Driving in the fast lane, I saw them coming up behind me. Note: The SUV was packed to the hilt. So, I could only see out of my side mirrors.
I slowed down and pulled into the middle lane behind a semi. My radar/laser detector had not gone off. So, I prayed they were not after me.
They pulled up next to me and the cop in the passenger’s seat stared at my vehicle. Hard. The trucker in front of me panicked and slowed down to 55 MPH in a 65 MPH zone. He probably thought they were checking his plates or placards.
The cops slowed, pulled in behind me and hit the lights and siren.
As I pulled over, I yanked down the radar detector. Then I rolled down the windows and turned off the vehicle.
The officer moseyed over to the passenger side.
With a smile, I greeted him, “Hi, officer! How are you?”
Taken aback, he answered, “Fine. And yourself?”
“I pulled you over for several reasons.”
Great. I can’t wait to hear them.
“You were speeding.”
Duh. But you didn’t clock me. So, unless there are eyes in the sky, you don’t have squat there.
“You crossed the yellow line.”
To get away from the semi who couldn’t maintain his lane. Better to move over than get sideswiped. And there’s an enormous concrete barrier between me and oncoming traffic. So, who really freaking cares? I’m not competing in a NASCAR race where crossing the line gives me an advantage.
“And you were tailgating the truck in front of you.”
Because he slowed down when he saw you in his mirror!
“And you slowed down to 55 MPH in a 65.”
Because the truck did. What am I supposed to do? Hit him?
I did not say a word throughout that entire monologue.
Looking at the crap, whoops, boxes of family treasures, behind me, he asked, “So, you’re transporting motor oil?”
Mentally scratching my head, I replied, “I guess there’s some back there somewhere. I’m helping my parents move. This is the stuff I’m bringing back for my brother and me.”
“Where are your parents moving to?”
“Where in Florida?”
“Yeah, this is my third trip back. In the last two months, I’ve driven almost eight thousand miles. And I have to do this again in a week and a half. And I have to finish packing them up in New York and then drive a U-Haul to Florida.”
“License and proof of insurance.”
I handed them over and waited. That was when I looked behind me. All I saw were liquor boxes and Mobil One oil boxes.
I laughed. Yup, I’m hauling cases of liquor and engine oil across the country. I must be some new kind of devious criminal.
He returned. “I’m just giving you a warning.”
Because you didn’t clock me and couldn’t give me a speeding ticket.
“Please slow down, don’t tailgate and maintain your lane.”
“Thank you, officer. Have a great day!”
God, I hate Ohio.
Moving day finally arrived. It was 93 degrees with high humidity. Apparently God decided to get Dad used to the tropical weather ahead of time.
Our moving crew consisted of three 71-year-olds and one 73-year-old. Luckily, my uncle had U-Haul loading experience, so he was in charge. I stood nearby, ready to dial 9-1-1, in the event of an emergency.
No emergencies arose and the guys did an excellent job!
The next morning, Mom, Dad and I embarked on the journey to Florida. It was a 1500 mile trip. We drove thirteen hours the first day, eleven hours the second day and six hours the third day.
Dad wrestled with the 20-foot U-Haul every inch of the way. He would not let me drive it. He was sore from fighting with it and said I’d kill myself. And it was so loud, he could not even play the radio. Poor Dad. I drove their car down. And he regretted not hiring a moving company.
I am always right about these things. No one listens to me!
When we reached their section of the complex, security would not let us bring the U-Haul in. So, we had to leave it over a mile away in one of their parking lots. Not the best thing, but we had no choice.
Mom was in heaven when we arrived. After checking into the guest house, she said, “I want to show you the garden and the greenhouse with the orchids and the beautiful walking path…”
I swear she was almost skipping she was so happy. Well, except when she saw a gecko. Mom is terrified of geckos. She jumped and screamed every time she saw one.
“Mom, they don’t bite. They’re harmless.”
“I don’t care. They run right across my feet. I hate that. Stupid geckos!”
Okay, sometimes geckos do that. But they don’t bite. I am hoping she gets used to them. Otherwise, there will be a lot of jumping and screaming in her future!
A mile and a half later, she finished the tour. We rested in the shade by the water for a little while. There might have been more to see, but it was 95 degrees with high humidity, and I was wilting and drenched with sweat. So was Dad.
The next day, they closed on their place. After completing the walk-through, they had orientation. During that time, I put paper down to protect all the floors. The moving guys were scheduled to arrive at 1:00 P.M. and it was 11:00 A.M., so I had plenty of time.
At 11:50 A.M., there was a knock on the door. A security guard and the moving guys greeted me. I told them they were too early and they should eat lunch. We still had to go get the U-Haul, over a mile away.
Long story short, the guys did a good job unpacking the truck and bringing everything in.
Then Dad and I had to return the U-Haul. Dad insisted he knew where to go. Well, he didn’t. Then I tried to lead and took a wrong turn. So, we both screwed up. But we made it there ten minutes before they closed. Thank God!
When we returned, I started hauling boxes into the right rooms and unpacked. My black and blues had black and blues by this point. We worked until late into the night. We might have worked longer but we couldn’t see. We needed lamps. I only had three and a half days to unpack all of the boxes and get everything put away. No rest for the weary.
Furniture was delivered the next day. But pieces were missing and the entertainment center was left unfinished and not up against the wall. They would bring parts another day.
Dad decided to put stuff in the storage area, which was a lot smaller than promised. That’s all I will say on that subject. Trust me, don’t get him started on that.
That’s also when Dad realized he left the padlock key on the U-Haul keyring, so he drove back to the U-Haul place. Luckily, the truck was still there.
In the meantime, painters, carpenters and other workers were trying to fix all of the things we found on the walk-through. So we had to work around them. It was like Grand Central Station.
Mom decided to wash the new bedding so she could make the bed.
While unpacking, I walked past the laundry room, and there was a flood.
I yelled, “Oh, sh**! We’ve got a flood. Where’s that maintenance number?”
Mom came running. “Oh my God!”
I ran into the kitchen, found the number and dialed it. “We ran the washing machine for the first time, and there is a huge flood.”
The lady on the other end said, “Okay, ma’am. I’ll send someone right away.”
In three minutes flat, there were five people at the door—two cleaning ladies and three maintenance guys.
Talk about awesome response time. Apparently, they do not like floods.
The water pooled under the dryer. That made no sense. But I told them to make sure that the bottom side of the dryer was dry because we did not want to get electrocuted when we used it. The cleaning ladies nodded.
Repeatedly, I heard the guys saying they could not figure out where the water was coming from. So, after thirty minutes of that idiotic banter, me being me, I stuck my head in the room. I looked at the washing machine. They had changed the settings.
“Guys, you changed the settings on the machine.”
The youngest one replied, “Yeah, we just wanted to fill the tub with water.”
I reached over and put the settings back where I had them and turned the machine on. “You need to have it on the same settings to duplicate the problem.” And I walked away.
Within minutes, one of them shouted, “Hey! I see where the water is coming from.”
When Dad returned from the woefully insufficient storage unit, he searched for some important papers that he had left on the counter. I knew I didn’t touch them. I was too busy emptying boxes. Mom swore she didn’t touch them. Apparently, they had vanished into thin air. The poor man searched through everything, including the garbage. To no avail.
Again, we worked until we could no longer see and could barely move. We only had two lamps that we carried from room to room. They really needed to buy some lamps.
The next morning, the cable guy and another painter showed up. The entertainment center was still in the middle of the room. But we hoisted the television into it so they could get cable hooked up.
Then all of a sudden, a screeching alarm went off.
Not sure if it was just in their unit or the entire building, I opened the front door. It was the entire building.
Little old people began opening their doors. The ladies on either side of my parents walked over and introduced themselves to me. I explained I was the daughter of the new people.
I asked, “Is this a drill?”
“No, it’s not drill day.”
Then I saw a young guy coming down the hall with a fire extinguisher in his hands. I jogged over to him.
“Is this a drill, or do we need to evacuate?”
“This is not a drill. Evacuate now.”
I rushed into my parents’ place. “The guy says it’s not a drill. We have to evacuate now.”
The painter lady left immediately. Gold star for her!
The cable guy said, “I’m going to finish this first.”
Dad and the cable guy went back to talking about cars.
I persisted, “Mom, we’ve got to go.”
“Well, first I have to go to the bathroom. Then I have to find my purse and my cell phone.”
Oh My God!
I went back out into the hall. No one had moved. Everyone was just standing around. I looked up at the upper floors via the open atrium. Same on all floors. Old people standing in front of their doors. I was trying to figure out how we were going to get all of these people out of the building without using the elevators.
Then it dawned on me. This place had better not burn down or I had done all of this work for nothing!
The 93-year-old neighbor lady said, “I don’t smell smoke, and I don’t see fire. I’m not leaving.”
The other lady shrugged her shoulders.
The 93-year-old continued, “I’m not leaving without my cat. She’s under the bed. She hates loud noises. She won’t come out. I’m not leaving without my cat.”
Well, I was more than happy to try to save as many people as I could, even though they were all their own worst enemies. But the cat was on its own because I would die of anaphylaxis trying to save it.
I urged, “We have to evacuate, ladies. We have to go.”
After five minutes, my mother appeared, purse and cell phone in hand. “Okay, I’m ready.”
As I finally convinced those around us to leave, the siren shut off.
The same young guy walked toward us. I met him halfway.
I asked, “So, crisis averted?”
“Yup. All clear. Everyone can return to their homes.”
I shouted, “All clear.”
And I watched all the old people turn around and close the doors behind them.
For the record, the cable guy and my dad never moved.
We worked until after 10:00 P.M. that night. Got up early the next morning and worked until I had to fly back to New York.
Before I forget, remember those important papers Dad couldn’t find? Well, turned out that they were mixed in with some non-important stuff. Mom had moved the entire pile and put it in a cupboard because she couldn’t stand the clutter on the counter. Mystery solved!
I was proud of all we accomplished. The only boxes I left unopened were electronics and computer stuff. Everything else was unpacked and put away.
Of course, the day I flew out, there was a hurricane to contend with. Both flights were delayed, but I made it back to New York that night. A high school friend picked me up and we had a nice, relaxing dinner.
I still had to load some things in my SUV and go back through the house to ensure we didn’t leave anything behind. I drove back to Indiana for the fourth and final time the following day.
That chapter of the adventure will be in my next blog. This is long enough already.
The good news is since you’re reading this, I lived to tell about it!
Before I sign off, I have two pieces of advice. First, hire a moving company, people. You’ll be glad you did! Second, if you move to Florida, don’t do it during the hottest week of the year.
Oh, and I learned that I possess awesome packing skills. Nothing broke unless you count the filaments in two light bulbs. Other than that, the move was a success!
Photos and text Copyright © 2016 by Suzanne Purewal