Sally Ann Shurmur: As We All Grow Older, Change Is Hard

Columnist Sally Ann Shurmur writes, "This was the first time since 1994 that I did not stay at Mom and Dad’s house in Wisconsin. I have never not stayed at their house in 50 years of visits to Detroit, Boston, L.A. and Phoenix prior to their move to Green Bay in 1994."

Sally Ann Shurmur

June 06, 20244 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

We’re home from our jaunt to Wisconsin, and homes and more specifically, houses, have been on my mind.

This was the first time since 1994 — 30 years — that I did not stay at Mom and Dad’s house in Wisconsin. And honestly, I have never not stayed at their house in 50 years of visits to the suburbs of Detroit, Boston, Los Angeles and Phoenix prior to their move to Green Bay in 1994.

I loved certain things about most of the houses and definitely have my favorites.

Last year, their dream home on the lake was temporarily vacant after Mom’s move to assisted living, so we slept there.

But to be honest, it wasn’t the same without her baking a pie at the kitchen island when we arrived or fussing over whether we needed a cold drink.

This year, we stayed in a hotel in a grocery store parking lot, conveniently located between her assisted living and my sister and brother-in-law, Susie and John’s house.

There was some strange banging coming from the vent in the bathroom that sounded like a baseball thrown against the wall. But it was affordable and convenient.

In a formal agreement long arranged, Susie and John moved in to Mom’s house in November, and they are fervently trying to organize the 70 years of stuff my parents accumulated during their marriage with the 27 years of their own stuff. It is a gigantic task.

It would be easy to get hung up on the stuff, because everything there means something and all three of us kids want most of it.

The unfinished basement still held antiques from both of our grandparents before the new additions from Susie. So basically they are living in a museum of treasure.

My sister said over and over that they don’t want to make any changes to the house to honor Mom and Dad, so the changes thus far are very subtle.

Her Kitchen-Aid stand mixer is on the kitchen counter, and it’s the first thing I noticed.

Our Mom never owned one, said she never needed one.

Susie admits that as empty nesters, with grown kids in Colorado, North Dakota and Iowa, they usually eat canned soup for dinner. But she is a great baker, so the enormous kitchen with the view of the lake from the floor-to-ceiling windows is perfect for her.

She has been sorting out small spaces at a time, and this trip we brought home photos of my kids that I had sent to Mom and Dad, envelopes of old columns of mine, and two huge bags of books.

Fans of the jab will be happy to know that I also now possess my immunization record, beginning with DTP in October 1956 and ending with a booster for the same in March 1966.

The folding index card also indicates chicken pox in March of 1962 and hard measles in March of 1963.

One of the biggest treasures from this outing is the smallest, a square blue plastic block, the kind infants snap together.

It’s attached to a note from my Mom to her mom, my Nana. Apparently I thought my beloved Bapa needed this block in his birthday package, because in my words it was “colorish and kinda cute.”

Nana dated it Jan. 10, 1961, which was his 53rd birthday. I was five.

It would be so easy for Susie and John to rent an industrial dumpster and just start filling it up. At some point. it may come to that. And truthfully, if they did, I generally wouldn’t know what I was missing.

But in the meantime, I will treasure every handwritten note and plastic block, and not think about what will become of them when my kids are left with the task of cleaning out.

Sally Ann Shurmur can be reached at:

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Sally Ann Shurmur