Moving the folks (Part II)

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A number of readers have commented to me on my column last month, in which I shared some observations on the occasion of my parents (ages 82 and 91) moving from their condo into an assisted living facility in Austin, Texas.

No one has actually asked me why my parents would decide to stay in Texas when my brother and I, their only children, live in the greater Washington area. But I think it’s worth an explanation.

For one thing, not only my parents, but their parents and grandparents lived in Texas. They have dozens, possibly hundreds of dear friends and family there who go back not only decades, but generations.

Even more important, however, are their “new” friends and neighbors: people whom they’ve grown close to in the last few years from their condo development, synagogue and in the course of daily life.

You see, Texas is a very warm place. (And I don’t mean because it was 107 degrees the entire time I was helping them move, and because the severe drought this entire past year has recently led to raging wildfires just outside the Austin city limits.)

I mean that the people are warm and friendly. Strangers say “howdy” as they pass you on the street or in the aisles of the grocery store.

While I was sitting on a chair in the hallway of their new assisted living facility, waiting for a staff person to return with a key, I was addressed by three different residents strolling by, each of whom made a welcoming or complimentary comment or stopped to chat.

In contrast, when I took my parents to visit an otherwise lovely assisted living facility here on a visit last winter, they attempted to strike up conversations with the residents in an elevator, outside the dining room and in the lobby. The reaction, in all cases, was either silence, a bemused grin, or a clipped response, as if to say, “you’re not from around these parts, are ya’?”

I hasten to add that my parents received much warmer welcomes at other communities in this area than they did there. It may have been a fluke.

But still, when my dad later said to me, “it’s too cold in the East for us,” I think he meant more than the weather.

And as for their newer friends in Texas, they have truly proven their genuine love for my folks through their actions. For several weeks prior to the actual move, neighbors and friends — even a former home health aide — came by repeatedly to help my parents sort through their memorabilia and clean up the house for sale.

They brought them food, drove them around for appointments, referred them to movers and real estate agents, you name it. Some even provided hands-on help for the actual move and many have continued to check in on them regularly at their new community.

It takes a village to care for older people as much as it does for children, and I can certainly say my parents have a caring village in Austin.

Of course, what’s a village without a village idiot? Here I refer to some of the estate sale people we encountered.

One of the first articles I wrote for the Beacon over 20 years ago was about a local estate sale lady and the wonderful services she rendered.

In writing the story, I visited a home where she had set up display cases to sell her client’s excess furniture and clothing, jewelry, knick-knacks, even buttons. Since then, I have always recommended a professional estate sale for downsizing households.

So imagine my surprise when I learned that nowadays, in Austin at least, it’s very difficult to find people who do estate sales at all. And when we finally located one, her fee was 40% of the proceeds plus being allowed to keep everything that does not sell!

Because time was short and she came highly recommended, my brother booked her for the sale during the days immediately after the move, when I was to be there.

But when I dared to raise a question about the terms — “what is your incentive to sell my parents’ valuables when you get to keep whatever does not sell?” — she simply emailed me back a few days before the scheduled sale to say she would not be able to conduct my parents’ estate sale after all, leaving us in the lurch.

(If you’ve had a negative — or positive — experience with estate sellers in this area, please contact me to share your story. I’m hoping this was an aberration.)

There’s more to tell about how my parents are transitioning to their new community, about broken promises from the management, about my parents’ (somewhat unreasonable) expectations, and the like.  

But it’s probably time for me to move on to other topics. Still, don’t be too surprised if you read more from me about all this in a future column.

The low-down on Social Security

Are you concerned about what will become of Social Security and Medicare? Would you like to hear from, and speak with, Senator Ben Cardin and Dr. Charles Blahous, one of the public trustees of Social Security and Medicare, about the future of these programs?

Maybe it’s time you got some free health screenings and a flu shot? How about an opportunity to gather information from and ask questions of government agencies, nonprofits and area businesses that address the needs of people 50 and over?

For all of these reasons and more, mark your calendars for the Beacon’s upcoming 50+Expos, taking place from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 30 at Ballston Common Mall in Arlington, Va., and Sunday, Nov. 6 at White Flint Mall in N. Bethesda, Md.

These free events attract thousands every year. Please come join us. In addition to the above, you’ll enjoy live entertainment from the Traveling Heart Band, door prizes and giveaways.

Companies interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at the Expos may call Alan at (410) 248-9101.