To help Mom & Tom

Note: this post is mostly to update members of our family about what’s happening with my mother and her husband Tom, but you other readers might find something of interest, anyway – got elderly parents?


Regarding the title of this post: my mother and father divorced in the early 60’s (don’t remember the year, I was away at college and then the Navy), and afterwards my mother, who is English, married Tom, who is from Ireland. They are a delightful couple, and were probably meant to be together, but were just delayed a few years in getting it done.

And, over the years, I have not stayed in close touch with Mom – no particular reason, it just happened that way.  Mom and Tom lived for a number of years on the gulf coast, near Galveston, and survived the near-misses of a number of hurricanes over the years.  Their front door was about 100 yards from the waves, and so they wound up evacuating several times over the years, always to return after the wind and water relaxed their grip.  In 2008, Hurricane Ike hit them dead center, and there was no going back afterwards – their property was literally ERASED, and they basically lost everything except her purse and their old car.  The water was rising on the wheels as they drove to safety.

After Ike, Mom and Tom wound up being shuttled from pillar to post by FEMA, finally getting a small government settlement which enabled them to buy an old many-times-repaired mobile home, and a small plot of land.  So, they’ve been living near Livingston, Texas, and since it was so far away, I sort of waited for the phone to ring if they needed anything.  I wasn’t against going for a visit, I just didn’t make any plans to go..

Recently, Kate said we should take our recently-acquired travel trailer down there to see them.  We originally planned to go camping in Colorado (Colorado was flooded), or maybe northern New Mexico (more flood warnings), so it was easy enough to shift our plans to make a long-delayed trip to Livingston (not far from Houston) to get in a visit, see what they might need.  We phoned them to let them know we were coming, and during that call Mom mentioned some repairs that were needed on a section of their floor, so I loaded up all my power tools in the back of my pickup, we hooked up the trailer, and away we went.

It took most of two days to get there, and by the time we arrived, the skies opened up with rain, rain, rain.  We were to be under rain clouds for over two days, something to do with a tropical depression moving through.

We had made reservations at Lake Livingston State Park, very near where they lived, so we went straight there and got our travel trailer set up first (raining, raining).  Then, we went over to see the folks (raining, raining).  This was a first-time meeting between Mom and Kate, since she and I have only been married since 2009.  Kate won her over immediately, no problem there, and Kate and Tom became good buddies right away, also.

We had a bite to eat, and then I started checking out the flooring problem.  There was one section where water had been getting in and that weakened the flooring under the carpet.  It was fiberboard, pressboard, whatever you call it, and definitely needed to be replaced with something better.  I did some measurements, did a little planning, and then made a run to Lowe’s to pick up some lumber and some insulation.

At some point in all this, I took time to message Mike Dixon, a friend who had recently moved away from Corydon and was now working in the Houston area – I figured it’d be a good time to see him again, if he could get away from his ironworker job.  As it turned out, he was rained out from his work that day, and was delighted to hear that we were so close, and he would plan to come see us that day.  I didn’t mention to Mike about the work – I wasn’t trying to sucker him into helping, I just wanted him to come visit.

I got back from Lowe’s with the materials and got started with the floor repair effort, and about that time Mike arrived.  He had gone first to the State Park, then tracked us down at Mom’s place.  Very good to renew that friendship!

Mike walked into their house, and after all the greetings he made a quick survey about what I was doing, then jumped right in.  I didn’t realize it, but he had a great background in carpentry and construction, so he was a God-send for this project.  He pretty much took over on that project and zoomed it to completion.  Much stronger floors now, all insulated and finished!

It was about that time I casually mentioned to Mike that I planned to replace the steps that led up to their deck, which was at their front door.  We were outside surveying that problem (raining, raining), and Mike said, “Come on, we’re going to Lowe’s!”

I said, “Mike, it’s pouring down rain, are you sure?”

He said, “Hey, I work in this stuff all the time, no problem!”

So, we went to Lowe’s, where he chose all the right materials to put in a sturdy set of steps out front, and then insisted on paying for everything!  My goodness, what a fine fellow!  I already knew he was a good friend, but that surprised me, for sure!

We took everything back to their place, laid out everything, took some more measurements, then he pretty much took over again (raining, raining).  I thought maybe I could hold an umbrella over him while he worked, but that just didn’t work out – those umbrellas aren’t really *that* big.  I basically stood by to be the “gopher” on the job (hey, Jim, would you mind doing a gopher [‘go fer’] and bringing me those boards?”  He was the Master Builder, I was the peon – suited me fine 🙂

Kate was filling in on helping, too – bringing stuff, holding things steady, all that.  She’s a worker, for sure! And, (raining, raining), the steps got built – Mike never slowed down, never seemed to tire.  I was amazed and impressed, and…. VERY thankful!  I might have been able to figure out how to do the steps, but it would have taken much longer.

Later, we took Mike out to eat – he had to get back to town to go to work next day.  What a nice guy, what a pleasure to see him again!

Next day, I was working on some kind of wiring project for Mom, don’t remember what it was, but I heard a crash and commotion outside the back door.  I ran to see, and discovered that Tom had gone out onto the little deck at their back door to retrieve something he wanted to give us (old camping stove), and when Kate stepped out the door onto the deck, it collapsed under them.  No, Kate is not a heavyweight; it just happened that their combined weight was too much for the termite-weakened structure.  Nobody got seriously hurt, thank goodness, only a few scratches.

Yes, took some measurements, and then took off for Lowe’s again.  When I got back, Tom and I put everything together (by now the rain had gone away) into a much stronger back deck structure – should hold much better now! And, now that the rain had stopped, Kate painted all the railings on the new front steps.

Now, we come to the bottom line.  Mom is not doing all that well – congestive heart failure, doesn’t have energy for much of anything, so all the work falls on Tom, who is certainly willing to do it.  Tom does all the driving, since Mom cannot, but he is starting to show signs of dementia, and sometimes does *dangerous* things in traffic, like turning in front of oncoming vehicles, or doing U-turns at odd times.  And, his license comes up for renewal in January, and he’s not likely to pass that test.  His next eye appointment is in February, so that’s too late.

Something needs to change.  Kate volunteered to look into ‘Section 8 housing’ for folks who are in dire straits, and Mom & Tom said they’d be happy with that idea, but would like some details.

As of today (September 27, 2013), Kate has identified a local institution that provides the Section 8′ housing.  They will provide a warm, comfortable place to live, much like a hotel room, but with a kitchenette.  There’s a laundry room there, and she can get her hair cut for free.  They will have to pay for electricity, but not water, and they’ll have to provide their own meals, for the most part.  The county provides a bus service for the residents, so that will help tremendously.  And, Tom likes to walk, so the quiet neighborhood will suit him fine, I think. Some of the churches bring in ‘group meals’ about once a week, so that’ll be nice.  Mom and Tom have a pretty limited amount of money coming in from Social Security, so this will allow them to live pretty comfortably on that money.  We went over there today and took some photos to send to Livingston so they can see what they’re signing up for.

We’re still checking on things, but it looks likely that they’ll be moving up here in a month or two, and we’ll be able to provide family support for them with visits, etc. 

Maybe things are looking up for Mom and Tom.


2 responses to “To help Mom & Tom

  1. Jim, I really enjoyed your blog about your Mom and Tom. We missed you at Quills but I see you have been and will be busy. (You seemed to do a very good job holding that umbrella over your own head by the way!)Dealing with aging loved ones is really hard physically and emotionally but it looks like you are doing a really good job. Every day you can give them with whatever independence they can handle is a great gift indeed. Love to your Mom–you might remind her that we in Corydon think she has a really great son. Sue

  2. Seems it was a Godsend that you and Kate arrived in Texas at just the right time! I think it was arranged that way… He works in mysterious ways! The stars have been aligning for your Mom and Tom. Sounds like they’ll make it here in time to see Santa this year!

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