Leaving Home For Good – Family Snapshot

The Grocery Cart #2

The Grocery Cart #2, originally uploaded by neocles.

My mother, Efrosini Serafimidis, will be 90 years old this month. For the last five years she has been living down the street from us in a little one bedroom apartment. We moved her up here to Albany from Fresno and the home in which she had lived for over 30 years. I was resistant to moving her at the time, but my cousins insisted it was necessary. It is not easy for a person in their 80’s to switch gears like that. She still complains bitterly everyday about this place, and I think she still is a little resentful towards me on that count. But she did okay for two or three years.

The last couple years have been increasingly challenging. She has had a hip replacement and big surgery on a broken elbow. Also, she has been pretty lonely during the days when we are at work, and the lack of interaction and stimulation has taken a toll on her.

The next move is now necessary. This month, Effie will be going to a board and care facility somewhere nearby. It is going to be hard to do, and the transition is going to be a struggle, I’m sure. But her hips are not holding her up very well, and she is suffering from some dementia. She has wandered off a couple times, but her incredible luck with coming across non-Greek-speaking people who are charmed by her old-country, head-scarved, four-foot-ten-inch figure has held up. Each time we got her back none the worse for the wear.

Of course, Sarah and I both work full time, and have a five-year-old to attend to. And living in the Bay Area has its own challenges. So, I would not say I have been an overly conscientious caregiver, but nonetheless, I see her and give her her meds almost every day, try to keep her reasonably safe and fed, bring her back and forth to my home, clean her apartment, pay her bills, take care of her legal and financial matters, manage the renting of the family home in Fresno, and so on.

Chief among the challenges of moving her to a care facility is going to be the dissolving of her apartment home and figuring out what to do with all the things in it. We got rid of a lot of stuff when we moved her to Albany. But a lot of stuff is still packed away in her apartment. I am very nostalgic about these things and have a tough time just trashing them even though they are otherwise pretty worthless.

In response to all this I am planning a photo series. Right now the idea is simple snapshot-like photos of, basically, every object in her apartment. Where possible, descriptions will accompany the photos. Eventually, the series will include photos of each and every object I still have from my parents. I may be an old man myself by the time I finish.

  • jen

    i am really looking forward to this upcoming series. it’s already off to a great start with the grocery cart and the beautiful photo shot of your father. there’s something about the two side-by-side that is poignant. it will probably be pretty amazing to record all these objects from her life (and yours) and i wholly support the effort. supposedly, you and I have a deep and abiding respect for ephemera — given that we each said the word simultaneously while you were talking to dave e. keep me posted!

  • jen

    i am really looking forward to this upcoming series. it’s already off to a great start with the grocery cart and the beautiful photo shot of your father. there’s something about the two side-by-side that is poignant. it will probably be pretty amazing to record all these objects from her life (and yours) and i wholly support the effort. supposedly, you and I have a deep and abiding respect for ephemera — given that we each said the word simultaneously while you were talking to dave e. keep me posted!

  • neocles

    Thanks so much for the encouraging words. I am having a bit of trouble figuring out how to shoot everything with good results under the time constraint of being out of the apartment in the next few days. I am definitely going to try. I will probably have to continue to shoot stuff here at home instead of at the apartment.

    Yes, we both have a deep appreciation for ephemera. I have always loved your work. To me it often expresses a sense of personal story, the slow accretion of meaningfulness, and a striving to prevent its inevitable loss into oblivion.

    Or something. 🙂

  • neocles

    Thanks so much for the encouraging words. I am having a bit of trouble figuring out how to shoot everything with good results under the time constraint of being out of the apartment in the next few days. I am definitely going to try. I will probably have to continue to shoot stuff here at home instead of at the apartment.

    Yes, we both have a deep appreciation for ephemera. I have always loved your work. To me it often expresses a sense of personal story, the slow accretion of meaningfulness, and a striving to prevent its inevitable loss into oblivion.

    Or something. 🙂

  • Todd Valeri

    The picture of your Mom’s grocery cart took me back to a time when our lives were much more reckless and carefree. I can still envision her walking to Continental market with that cart in tow, undeterred by the hot Fresno sun. I can only imagine the struggles she faced over the years in maintaining that independence. Knowing your character, I’m certain you helped make it manageable. You are both fortunate she has been so beautifully integrated in your life.

  • Todd Valeri

    The picture of your Mom’s grocery cart took me back to a time when our lives were much more reckless and carefree. I can still envision her walking to Continental market with that cart in tow, undeterred by the hot Fresno sun. I can only imagine the struggles she faced over the years in maintaining that independence. Knowing your character, I’m certain you helped make it manageable. You are both fortunate she has been so beautifully integrated in your life.