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January 11, 2017 / Kathryn Spurgeon

5 Things to do first when disposing of an elderly’s home

How do I, as a caregiver, clean Aunt Blanche’s house after she has been moved to the nursing home? She lived in the same place since the 1960’s, and with no children, she designated me as executor. It took months to go through every closet, look under every bed, and discover every knick-knack in the attic.

Aunt Blanche must have had a semi-mild, some-what weird case of disposophobia, the fear of getting rid of stuff. I can’t judge, but I am glad she never discovered storage units because a packed, two bedroom house was quite enough.

One of the things we tossed after nursing home day was two trash bags full of Styrofoam Meals-on-Wheels food containers, all washed and neatly stacked, and hundreds of plastic bags hidden here and there just in case she needed them. She had every Christmas card ever given to her, her deceased mother’s birthday cards stuffed in a drawer, and a large assortment of 1970’s perfume.

Cleaning out a house that has been lived in for fifty some years is a bigger job that it looks like. It is always good to have someone else in the family help.

The first five actions to take when cleaning out an elderly’s home. Read more…

June 22, 2012 / Kathryn Spurgeon

Blanche: 1940’s Fashion Designer

Blanche’s fashions, dated years ago, have now come into vogue. Here’s a few of the more than 60 styles she hand drew.

March 20, 2012 / Kathryn Spurgeon

Blanche and New Vintage

Aunt Blanche would have been in center stage with the new modern vintage out there.  She never gave up her style and would still be dancing at 87 years old if she could, her pink socks and ribbon tying her wavy hair back. 

Here is a picture of her when young – definitely a swinger – dancing her way through the forties and fifties. A talented artist, after she died, we found dozens of designer clothes sketches she made. Vintage – she was there! This new vintage video I found reminds me of her!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=PqbmBM-z72s

October 17, 2011 / Kathryn Spurgeon

Blanche’s Watch Story

I started the daunting task of going through my late Aunt Blanche’s boxes of papers. With so much work to prepare for the estate sale, I stashed all the papers and pictures in three big plastic boxes. One was primarily my Great-grandmother’s things and the rest belonged to Blanche.

The day has come to sort through the lot of it. It may take some time. I could have thrown away the thousand Christmas cards, but each one must be opened to search for letters (or money!). No, letters may be better. They can hold secrets to the past lives, and I, for one, want to discover these secrets.

Blanche has an envelope stuck in with her papers. It’s sealed and says, “Blanche’s bad watch and battery story.” I’m curious. What kind of story can you get from a broken watch? Should I open it? Why not? I discover a silver and gold quartz watch inside along with handwritten note which says:

“This watch served me for at least 8 years on an $8.00 battery bought at a jewelry store. It went out in June or July of 2007. Frances bought a battery at Walmart and the battery worked about two weeks. Whenever it started and stopped about 3 times, we got it replaced for free, as it was guaranteed a new battery by a 60 day warranty. That battery did not last either, leading me to believe the watch is imperfect. B.T.”

Now who is so bored that an imperfect watch calls for a “story?” I may take after her, but I hope someone stops me before I start writing stories about watches. Wait. I’m doing the same thing. I’m writing about an imperfect watch.

Maybe I can salvage a lesson here. We are all imperfect. We may work well for many years, but without the right kind of battery or connection, we’ll never make it. We’ll be put into some old ladies envelope and stored away and forgotten. Ha.

 Maybe my next find will be a little more exciting!

July 2, 2011 / Kathryn Spurgeon

Blanche’s estate

We sold Aunt Blanche’s metal dinette table, the one she sat on in the tiny room off the kitchen. We sold her stashed bottles of French perfume, and the silverware she bought as an investment, a guarantee against never living in poverty again. Which she never did, by the way. She never lived in poverty again – after the Great Depression.

Then we sold her house. The one she worked years to pay for. Yep. The house that’s been in the family for more than forty years. Where my great-grandmother used to fry bacon and eggs and make buttermilk pop. We even sold the pans Grandma cooked in.

I drove down 23rd Street last week, within a few blocks of the house and thought about stopping by to see the old place, but I was afraid the new owners would have made changes, or I would cry remembering all the times I pulled out of the driveway and turned to wave at Aunt Blanche sitting at her window watching me leave. Silly, aren’t I?

It’s hard to say goodbye to the past. The attorney handling the estate made sure we acknowledged each heir, or is it heir apparent? Made sure we distributed funds the way Aunt Blanche wanted. Although a handwritten will made thirty years ago was scribbled all over, and inheritors and percentages changed  dozens of times. So glad she finally got an official person to make an official will or we’d still be interpreting her wishes.

  • I learned it’s better to put a beneficiary on all your cash accounts, then the funds don’t have to go through the estate. That means most of Blanche’s money went directly to her only living sibling. Glad of that.
  • I learned that everyone should have a will.
  • I learned that collecting stuff under your bed and in the attic doesn’t add value to your life.
  • I learned that when you get older, the job of cleaning out closets and drawers may be too much, so it’s easier to let it be. (or do it when you’re younger)
  • I learned that you really can not know a person from their outward behavior.
  • I learned that fears and responses that start young are hard to break the older you get.
  • I learned it’s better to have spent time caring than to look back with regret.
  • I learned that everyone, no matter how old, needs someone to care.

There’s so much more I learned over the past 10 years taking care of Aunt Blanche. She taught me about loving through the difficult days. The primary inheritance I received from her was learning acceptance of people and their ways. Plus these three big boxes of old pictures and letters stashed in my closest!

I guess I’ll always miss Aunt Blanche.

May 20, 2011 / Kathryn Spurgeon

The Nursing Home Drama

She clutched at the plaid blanket on her lap; her thin, well-worn hands hiding beneath its warmth. The folds fell around her like a long, heavy dress dragging on to the cold linoleum floor. Gray strands of wool fuzz matched the color of her straggly hair. Her glazed eyes fixed on the ancient father clock resting on the mantel in front of her.

My heart ticks like that clock– never stopping– day in– day out.

“Hello.”  She heard from a distance.  “It’s me. Your nurse, Thelma.  It’s time to eat dinner.

Dinner? I just woke up.  It can’t be time for dinner.

The nurse pushed a spoon into her mouth. The mashed food tasted like rotten eggs or week-old spinach soufflé. She rolled her tongue around the mouthful and glanced over at the tray. The bowl contained a nondescript baby food substance she finally recognized.

Ugh!  Don’t you know? I hate green peas.  Always have.

The words stayed buried in her mind and more of the ugly green stuff was forced into her mouth. She tried to spit it out, but the glob slipped from her mouth down her chin, drooling onto the napkin tied around her neck. A tear rolled down her cheek and she pulled the wool blanket closer to herself.

How long have I been sitting in this rocking chair, staring at the clock? Days? Months? Years?

At least I have my blanket. Mama said wool is the warmest.

“Time to get ready for bed!”  Someone yelled in a loud, demanding voice.  She looked around.  I must have dozed again.  She saw the pale gown in front of her and looked up. A nurse sighed and breathed close enough to be touched, but she didn’t recognize her, especially the small beady eyes. Where am I? Who are you?

Then she heard the ticking of the clock and remembered. Yes, my heart still beats. The nurse pulled at the wool blanket to take it away from her. She stubbornly pulled back. It’s my blanket. Mama gave it to me when we moved to Colorado. She cared. Mama cared.

“Now miss, you must let me have the blanket. It’s a filthy, dirty thing anyhow.”

Why? Why is she taking my blanket?

The nurse yanked harder and the elder pulled back.  No! She wrapped her legs around the edge, but the nurse slowly disentangled her. It’s the last thing I have! Her frail body could not hold on to her last bit of decency. The blanket slipped out of her reach. Her warmth was gone, her body exposed to this stranger who didn’t care. My blanket!

 And the clock stopped ticking.

By kathryn spurgeon

May 4, 2011 / Kathryn Spurgeon

Prepared by a Difficult Aunt Blanche

God used Aunt Blanche to prepare me to care for my dad. After all, by taking care of Blanche, I learned to deal with cranky people who revel in cuss words, stubbornness, and nasty attitudes. She taught me to ignore slights and idiocycrincies and to quickly change the subject when tempers threaten to jump overboard. Those lessons are essential with my father.

I must say, Dad, at 81 years old, has had it rough. His complaints about bad docs almost proved sound – once I took him to my family doctor. Bless my doc, he listened to Dad’s list of health issues, took a thyroid test and gave him a prescription. He also sent him to a podiatrist for the sore on the bottom of his foot, which didn’t look good, especially since he’s a diabetic. Sorry, Mis, I know you don’t like references to feet.  🙂  And no one seems to like the idea of taking Dad to a podiatrist for a foot massage.

We spent over an hour at the special shoe store trying to find something with ankle support, arch support, wide toes for his hammer toes, and won’t irritate his sores. Good luck. Dad’s down on orthotists at the moment. Says his wounds are their fault.

After doctoring Dad’s wound, the foot doc said she’d contact a home health agency for wound care. Took us four phone calls and a week later they showed up. Good thing it wasn’t life-threatening. Needless to say, Dad’s down on home health care at the moment. I was hoping it’d work out – for future needs. We’ll see.

Then we went to a rheumatologist for the arthritus and swelling in his hands and feet. Dad didn’t like the doc because he said Dad has osteoarthritus in almost every joint, and nothing can be down about  it except pain control. He also said Dad has osteoporis which Dad said was impossible since he drinks a glass of milk every morning. Why would he need more calcium? They took a blood test to check on gout and Vitamin D etc. Of course, the doc was a foreigner, so that didn’t help Dad’s opinion. PS. I liked the docs.

So you see, learning to deal with difficult people may help as you get older. You never know who might need your help, and it’s better to be prepared. Let go of the irritation, be patient, and learn to love one another – in spite of their weaknesses. And please learn this soon. I might be the next one needing help.

April 9, 2011 / Kathryn Spurgeon

Blanche’s 1940’s Fashions

Blanche Trimble, a fashion designer, sketched almost 60 original fashion designs – recently discovered – from flare skirts, small belted waists, contrasting top-stitching, to double-breasted, sophisticated suits.
           She personally showed off her style and could have produced a delightful fashion show of her own, prancing around  – classy, free, and full of life. She mimicked movie stars, read the latest magazines, and kept up with world events.  I would like to see her drawings made up for someone to wear (see the few sketches I’ve posted) but who am I to say? These are a few pictures of her in the 1940’s all fancied up.

The "Bling Fling" dress

 

"Look at Me" dress

"Over the Top"

"For the Mere Fun of It"

"Look Out World, Here I Come"

"This Ones On Me"

Blanche on right in "Outdo my Sister" outfit

March 27, 2011 / Kathryn Spurgeon

Estate Sale at Blanche’s House

I counted 60 bottles of perfume/cologne.

Estates sales are funny things. I learned more about people than about Aunt Blanche. 

Dozens of vintage dresses sold the first hour; young ladies, and women buying for their retro stores. Several arguments ensued. Of course, I priced them as garage sale toss-aways, too. But definitely, retro is in. Aunt Blanche had excellent taste in clothing, even besides her sketches of dashing designer clothes. I discovered several distinguished coats, one brown with a mink collar had matching high-healed mink shoe-clips! Who would have thought?

Some things I priced too high and some too low. I priced the cups and saucers, Chadson Chinaware, made in occupied Japan, too high or else the right buyer never came along. The old Zenith Record Player works but needs new belts to go around smoothly enough to play a Jack Benny. . . and the rose-colored hobnail vase, beautiful as it is, remains. And as for too low, besides the heavy-duty antique lock, I’ll probably never know how much I lost. But that’s okay.

People surprised me. A woman came up holding a box of Kleenex. “How much is this?”

Me. “It was in the bathroom to use. It isn’t for sale.”

Woman. Angrily. “Well, you shouldn’t set stuff out if you’re not going to sell it!”

An elderly man asked if the bedroom doorknobs were for sale. The glass ones. What did he expect, me to just unscrew the knobs and hand them to him, especially after he said he already had a builder-buyer that would pay 200% more than he offered?

Two homosexual men bought all ten of Grandma Mabel’s wigs.

Hand-made aprons, 1963 Life magazines headlined with JFK, and Cleopatra jewelry sold easily. Sentimental hair nets, ballroom gloves, and the 17 jewel Swiss watch did not.

Good things happened. My awesome family stuck with me the whole way. I got to meet many nice neighbors. Old friends came by. I gave a nephew from Colorado an Indiana Jones-looking magnifying glass. Shared truth with an Hispanic man studying Blanche’s psychology books. A young couple from California spent time admiring Blanche’s paintings. And the last buyer of the day was a young man looking to furnish his new apartment with dishes. So glad we could to help him out.

Guess it wasn’t all that bad. A success, all-in-all. Here’s a few photos.

Knick knack - patty wacks.

 

 

Matching mink shoe-clips.

 

Mink collared 1950’s coat.
 
March 25, 2011 / Kathryn Spurgeon

Almost Burned Blanche’s House Down

I pushed open the front door and smelled stinky smoke. Like an electrical-type burning. I walked around the corner to the hall and saw a throw rug with a big gaping black hole in the middle. About 3 by 2 feet. That’s when I realized I had caused it myself.

I didn’t intend to go by Blanche’s house today, because we had finished setting up for the estate sale the day before. But I decided to go by and check on everything. Good thing I did. 

I had put a throw rug over the floor furnace to keep people from tripping over it. The weather was nice all week and I forgot to check to see if the furnace was turned off. Duh. I turned off the heater, dragged the smoldering rug out the front door and vacuumed up the mess. No permanent damage. No fire. I breathed a sigh of relief.

It smelled so bad, I opened up the doors and tried to open as many windows as possible – which was only a few. Most had not been opened in decades – or more.

Someone knocked on the open front door. “Are you having your estate sale today?”

“No,” I said, “It starts tomorrow, just like the paper says.”

“Well, can I come look at your furniture?”

Me, stupidly, “Sure.”

The second knock was a couple, and the guy said, “My wife just wants to look at costume jewelry.” I, stupidly again, let them walk in. She look at the jewelry and he wandered off to a different room. Then I took her to the bedroom to look at perfume and when I walked back he was standing over the jewelry, suspiciously. I said something like, “You have to go.” He said, revealingly, “Oh, you want me to stay together with my wife.”

Okay, this bad feeling got worse.  I told them I had to leave and she paid for her jewelry and perfume. I locked the door behind them – smell or no smell. That’s when I saw a gold chain was missing. Seedy-looking couple, come to think of it. Okay, that wasn’t nice, but what kind of people would steal my deceased aunt’s things?

I dread this estate sale. What will it be like when five hundred people show up at seven in the morning? Dear God, help me be patient.

Mostly though, I thank God for leading me to Blanche’s house today – when I never intended to go. I even missed a doctor’s appointment (checkup). He spared the house, in spite of my thoughtlessness.