Two Men and a Truck…and a Car

It’s either late or early, and we are somewhere in the flat and dark midwest right before it started to rain. This thing had a hearty appetite for fuel.

Note: This was originally published in 2013, before most of you were following. A complex series of minor events brought me back to this post yesterday and I decided to edit and rerun it.

When I was growing up, family vacations were to two places and we drove to both. That’s where the similarity ends. My mother would load my brother, me and her parents into the car for a leisurely drive to a cabin on Lake Erie that began at what normal people would call early. My father would load my mother, me and my brother and our maternal grandmother in the car for an 8-hour ride to Virginia, at whatever time he happened to be done for the day. He said “driving at night helps you beat the traffic” but I think he just wanted to use of every hour of his vacation.

When I was six, we left for Virginia at 2:00 am, after he finished bowling in a tournament; he tossed me in the back of our station wagon with a pillow and packed the luggage around me. He would probably be arrested for traveling like that today, but I remember it as being a pretty sweet ride. Remembering this helps me to understand why my brother and I chose to move my mother to Iowa in a rental truck, towing her car behind us, and why we decided to leave right after packing-up her apartment – it’s in our genes.

Making things more complicated than they need to be is also in our genes; for this trip, the complication was a snow blower. I had one, my brother didn’t and I was planning on getting a new one. The math on airfares and truck rentals worked out so that renting the truck and trailer in CT and driving it and the snow blower to Pittsburgh didn’t cost much more money, it just added 10 hours to the road-trip. It also added two days to the time we would have the truck.

In the future, I should remember that “when you get to the point where adding difficult things to an already complex project seems like ‘no-big-deal’, you’ve passed the point where what you’re doing can be called a good idea.”

We never tried putting this move into the “good idea” bucket; this was always in the “something that has to be done” bucket. My mother had to be near one of her children and my brother was the better choice. These are the things you do with family and close friends while telling other people who do them that they are crazy.

While I can report that the move “went according to plan,” that’s because we had set the bar pretty low. We didn’t expect that our then 88-year-old mother would have packed her entire apartment, even with a lot of help. We didn’t think she would have thrown enough stuff away, even with a visit from my niece for that purpose. Every single thing in her apartment could invoke a memory, a story, and sometimes a tear.

No, the final cleaning, sorting and tossing was left to the cold calculating minds of the sons who had to schlep this stuff halfway across the country. We were also driven by geometry; that truck (not to mention her new apartment) only had so much room. We were aided by the decision to fly mom to Iowa early on the day of the move. With her gone, decisions about what to toss lost their emotional content. We were also aided by three wonderful helpers. These women were friends of my mother and knew her well enough to know what she could eventually “get over” not having and what had to be in that truck at the other end, even if it would be tossed out in Iowa.

One woman worked at a thrift shop, so she took anything that could be resold. We felt better telling ourselves “someone can use this,” not to mention how good we felt about throwing something away that a thrift shop wouldn’t want. Other euphemistic phrases included “she deserves a better chair than this” and “she shouldn’t have to arrange her new apartment around this” as well as our favorite: “this has been (behind the couch, in this closet, under the bed…) for so long that she probably doesn’t even remember owning it.”

We finished packing about 5:00 pm, and had the car loaded on the trailer by 6:00. My brother said that leaving at night would help us beat the traffic. He’s made the trip dozens of times, so he should know, but our rig wasn’t likely to be “beating” anything and I knew exactly why we were leaving. In addition to the genes passed down from our father, putting that last box in the truck and cinching her car to the trailer provided a huge energy boost; we were truly ready to roll and we just wanted to be in Iowa.


67 comments

  1. Dan, I just loved this post. I think in a way it speaks to all us who have been involved in moving parents and the poignant struggle they have of letting go of things – what to take and what not to take. You invoked the memory of my own Dad who also loved to leave at night for our vacations. I too remember how we kind of slept around all the luggage and the low moan of the car’s engine as we made our way down to the coast. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed this, Don. Special memories and simpler times. We survived. I think our mom only complained about one thing we “lost” in the move. I still enjoy road trips, although we’re buckled in the front.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel ya. Having made 13 major moves in 30 years, with two of them going out of country with a dozen suitcases in tow, inspires empathy in my soul for that trip of yours. I just have one question. When you got Mom’s stuff all unpacked, what was the one thing she asked about that you had decided she wouldn’t miss? 😉

    Liked by 3 people

    1. She was unhappy about the chair that didn’t make it. We promised to buy her a new one, if she could find a place to put it. She really couldn’t. The chair was worn and damaged. The Thrift Shop lady didn’t want it, but mom had said, multiple times before she left for the airport, “make sure you pack my chair.”

      I’ve moved many times, cross-country twice. I’m staying put.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. To me there are two stories here – family vacations and downsizing. The family vacations reminded me of all the station wagons we owned and, yes, sleeping in the back between the suitcases. Thank you for the smile. Downsizing is something everyone does at some point or has it done for them. I’m not saying I have it down to a science, but I will say I work on it. Since we made the cross country move, it is much easier to not overbuy and to donate whatever we don’t use. When I buy a new piece of clothing, I look for something I don’t wear to get rid of. Happy Monday, Dan, and this was a great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Judy. The sensible advice at the time was to stay overnight in a hotel before heading out, or at least to stop and stay in a hotel once it really got dark. The fact that we ignored both ideas reminded me of our dad. When he went on vacation, he just wanted to be there. Besides, it was raining, and it would be a long walk in the rain to the hotel from where we’d have to have parked that rig.

      You sound like you have downsizing or preventative-rightsizing down pretty well. I’m afraid I got mom’s genes on that one.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. After nearly 25 years as a military family, with six kids, my parents were pretty dang good about possession triage.

    Their first move as civilians (from Mass. to Florida) was determined, first by whether it would fit in the car.

    If not they made determination on whether it was too heavy to ship. Pretty much everything was “yes.”

    They got rid of a lot. Recently learned that a lot of it, still resides in my sister’s basement in Connecticut.

    Our house in Florida (still 3 kids at home) wasn’t that large, and had no basement, and garage was converted to a den…so not a lot of storage space .

    I always thought it was a pretty lean inventory because the house was pretty orderly.

    Until a few years later when my widowed (and rather unsentimental) father remarried and sold the house. He decided who was getting what.

    And in one of the few times he ever called me he said, “I rented you a truck next Tuesday to come get the rest of this stuff.” Then added, “If nobody wants it, it’s going to the dump.”

    A healthy load got moved to my place and I realized the inventory wasn’t as lean as thought. They were just had preternaturally good organizational skills.

    My home is evidence that trait skips a generation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a funny story, Scott. My mom moved from a 3-bedroom house to a 2-bedroom apartment and then to a 1-bedroom apartment in Pittsburgh. Then we moved her to a smaller apartment in Iowa. Then we had to sort through all the stuff she left behind. I’m not sure how some of it survived all those years, but we were shredding electric bills from 1975. I seem to have my mom’s genes regarding downsizing.

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      1. Is this heaven?

        My parents did two cross-country moves (with the 3 oldest kids) in a rather short amount of time, I think that’s where they hit their stride.

        Not long after being transferred to a Navy base in San Diego area (where they rented a house) my father was again transferred.

        This time to a USMC unit in New Bedford, Mass where they lived on base. I’m pretty sure a lot of downsizing happened during that move.

        My father found out later, that the transfer was a “trade.” Apparently, the base was under orders to find left-handed pitchers with a good bat.

        Perhaps he was “the sailor to be named later.”

        BTW: he was a “leave at midnight” kind of traveler, too.

        My brother started elementary school in New Bedford (in 1958) and that half the boys in his class were, of course, named Ted. Shocking I know.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hopefully Heaven won’t be easily confused with Iowa. My parents stayed pretty close to home. We moved once while I was growing up, in search of a better school system for us two boys. Relocating a family 3,000 miles to get a pitcher seems crazy, but I get it. I can only imagine the road trip from San Diego to New Bedford – it’s amazing they still had three kids once they arrived in MA.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Your brother’s idea to drive at night brought back memories!! My father’s vacation was the month of October and we’d normally come down here to FL. We’d be out of the house by 3 am so we’d get through Manhattan and out of the state before rush hour!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I understand that logic. Faith and I have an early window and a late window for our trips to Pittsburgh. We either try to beat the Hudson bridge traffic or wait until it subsides. Then it’s on to Scranton, where I-81 is waiting with either rush hour traffic or a construction delay. Some roads always seem to be under construction.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Having relocated from Maine to Alaska via a side trip to Virginia, I have definitely been down this road before. Mine was with two children, however.

    Things went according to plan until we got to the Canadian border and they wanted to open the truck and unload the entire thing! We finally got them to agree to us writing an inventory and then they sealed the truck. It might have been faster to unload and reload the truck.

    Oh, yeah, and that time we got the U-haul stuck in the mud on the AlCan highway. Thank goodness for heavy equipment operators!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a great post, Dan. My dad was the same, only his mantra was ‘we’ll make good time’ if we left at whatever ungodly hour he and my mother decided upon. Every summer we drove from Jersey to Miami Beach. We left so early we never ate breakfast (‘we’ll grab something on the road’). I can remember riding in the back seat of the car, and feeling so nauseous from no food, but darn! We were making good time! The box of Kleenex on the dash–now there’s a great memory!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. If you can get on the road before rush hour, that can cut an hour or more off the trip.

    I’ve been in restrooms where the plumbing is about like you show here. In those cases, I use the sink or the drain in the floor.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is why you work on your aim, John ;-)

      Fortunately, for our trips to Pittsburgh, we don’t mind leaving early. To avoid rush hour on the way home, we actually have to leave late. If we beat the Pittsburgh traffic, we will hit traffic from the Hudson crossing all the way through CT.

      Like

  9. We used to go on vacations in my parent’s station wagon, our bed was in the back so I assume the luggage was on the back seat.
    I will have to face the parent dilemma at some point, not looking forward to it. So far, he is managing alright in his home since my oldest son lives with him, I and my brother look after his needs like transportation and doctor appointments, etc. When he can’t do all that anymore, is when something will have to change.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We reached the point when she really couldn’t drive herself (despite the fact that she tried). She had outlived everyone in her generation, and many in my generation. She had to move near one of us, and that meant Iowa. It’s a hard decision. Fortunately, my brother made it for her.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Dan – happy memories of our trips to Cornwall (W) or the Lake District (NW) from near Heathrow – both miles … particularly in the 1950s … but I’ve always travelled early every since: with stories to tell. If you can miss the traffic the journeys are distinctly shorter now. Clearing houses … I’m seriously downsizing now – so my family (with no children to help me) won’t have quite so much to do … they weren’t happy with the amount of books I brought back from South Africa!! Still rather a lot around!! … good memories: thank you – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those stories are always good for a smile, Hilary. I am starting to weed out some books I will never use and aren’t worth donating. Mostly outdated technical material. It’s still hard, everything has memories tacked along side. Good for you for making a start.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. My dad was an account, so he planned how far we were going each day, where we’d stay, etc. and all before online help. We left early in the morning which I still do and love. But moving, as I well know, is very different. When we moved the first time, a year after we got married, a friend with a van helped, as we didn’t have much. When we moved 28 years later, we moved after 28 years , four huge bedrooms, an attic, a basement, and four people. But we had to move in a week and two weekends, so it was give away, throw away, or pack. Now that we’re moving again, I’ve been trying to go through things, which is much more difficult. But enough about that. Good story and I’m glad your mom only missed the one awful chair! 😉

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Janet. We’ve been in this place about 28 years, with no plans to move. We have to start tossing, just to save our daughter the trouble. It’s hard, but it has to be done. Gone are the days that a few friends, a van and a couple of cold beers at the other end are all you need.

      I planned a couple of long road trips like your dad, one well before the Internet was there to help. Both my wife and daughter can relate to the “but today is the day we see the…” despite the fact that they would have rather just slept in.

      Like

      1. It’s ironic that my stories about decluttering and getting ready to moved have inspired at least three friends to start doing the same thing now before they get to retirement and move or just to have less stuff. I’m glad to be of service, but oh, if all these things could just be miraculously packed and moved and put into whatever house we end up renting, it would be marvelous. (Yes, it could happen, at least in part if I were willing to fork out for the moving company to do all the packing, but that is never going to happen.)

        My brother always said that we saw a lot of things, but not for very long. It wasn’t that bad, but it was sometimes like that. :-)

        Liked by 1 person

  12. What a great post Dan. Something for everyone to relate to. My memories are day trips from NY to CT to Squantz Pond and Sherwood Island to swim. But, we left at an ungodly hour in the morning to beat the traffic and get a good parking space. Dad cooked breakfast for us on one of the outdoor grills that were provided when we arrived, which was still an ungodly hour!! Lol.

    And the highlight was when you needed to use “the facilities”, you had to trek up what seemed like a mountain only to be greeted with honest-to-God outhouses. Old, dilapidated, smelly outhouses!! You were really in trouble if you didn’t remember to carry your own toilet tissue with you. OMG! The humiliation!! 🤗 Can you imagine what it was like to be a young girl, then a teenager, shy and awkward, trekking up to those outhouses with a towel draped over the toilet tissue in a fruitless effort to hide the roll! Everybody knew because they did the same thing! Except for the boys, who played football with their rolls!!! Oh! Dan, what memories you have awakened.

    I’m laughing out loud at this now, but not so then.
    🐾Ginger 🐾

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh my goodness, Ginger. Now you have me laughing. I was easier to be a boy, that’s for sure. It’s funny, I remember my dad starting everything way too early, and yet, as an adult, that’s exactly what I prefer. He used to say we were wasting the day. I guess it sunk in somewhere along the line. Leaving early to get a good parking spot was every holiday picnic, baseball game and football game ever.

      I wasn’t familiar with Sherwood Island, I had tolook it up. I’m not a big beach person.

      Like

  13. I loved this post! The things we did and could do when were young now seem amazing. I remember a similar adventure. I was in the car and hubby was driving the gigantic moving truck. Who knew that trucks were not allowed on the Baltimore Washington Parkway, or any parkway for that matter? That was not a fun adventure, especially at night. And then the headlights failed. That’ll wake you up at night! It’s the purging that’s so hard to do, even if I haven’t seen or used it in decades- like my children’s artwork from first grade. I know, I know… Thanks, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed this, Jennie. I remember driving a big uhaul truck to Queens (first home after college) and discovering that trucks weren’t allowed on the parkway I had been given directions to use.

      Purging is (will be) hard.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Awww…you two are good sons for moving your mom out to Iowa. I think there were a lot of things we did when we were kids that we would be arrested for today, just like you sleeping in the back of the station wagon. I can remember my older sister picking up me and about 8 of my friends from the movie theater and driving us home. She had a 1958 VW bug. It was snowing. The sun roof was open and some of us were hanging out. Crazy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Looking back on that trip, it cc’d was actually a lot of fun. A lot of work, to be sure, but also fun. We survived those antics, but were were probably the last generation to get away with them.

      Like

  15. Must be a guy thing – every time we took a family trip, my dad insisted on leaving at 3 am “to avoid traffic.” My mom had a heck of a time getting us up and into the car – back then one brother would lie down on the back seat and the other would lie down in the window well above the back seat. They said it was quite comfy. Good thing my dad never had to brake too hard.

    As for moving Mom – you were wise to put her on a plane before the final packing up, and you were very lucky she had friends to guide you on what to keep and what to toss. I think when it’s my time for the final move, someone should do my packing for me – too many memories attached to too many things.

    Great post, Dan

    Liked by 1 person

  16. What a great post, Dan. I can so identify with all of it. You had me mentally come up with multiple options with the closed urinals…. We did road trips going west to either Colorado or California every year….four kids in the back of a station wagon long before seat belts….great fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I cringe just thinking about moving. I’m sure it’s closer than I think. We are getting too old to keep up a house and a yard as big as a football field. But, as long as we can, we will. With all this house renovation we’re still doing (it will be a year March 27) I feel like moving. I think I’d like to move. But, I really don’t want to. I guess I like challenges too much. Your mother was really brave, not to mention tough to make such a move at her age. It’s great having family that sticks together and is ready and willing to chip in and help. Great story of love and courage.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The hardest part for her, Sandi was leaving her church. She had been a member for 75 years. Even though she moved around the area, she continued going to services at the same church. You reach a point where you just can’t do certain things. Too many of those things piled up for her, and she had to move. My brother is an amazing care-giver. She was on her own, in her own apartment, but he supported her with whenever she needed help. We’re hoping having a small house on a small lot will allow us to stay here longer. Our neighbor is 94. I clear the snow from his sidewalk and driveway, but he takes care of most other needs.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I can understand how hard it must have been leaving her church of 75 years. WOW! That’s like leaving home. I’m glad your brother was able to give your mom the care she needed and to help her feel loved and secure. Nursing homes are a far cry from caring for people like that. I hope I never have to go to one. You just never know and I’m glad I don’t have a crystal ball to find out. I’ll just take it as it comes.

        Liked by 2 people

  18. Oh boy did this post bring back memories of moving and driving at night and scary moments behind trucks in trouble. But primarily, the trauma of moving elderly parents. I spent a week helping my mother downsize for a move and when her friends came over to help, she insisted on serving them drinks and snacks and making them sit down to chat with her. If I tried to focus on packing, she’d yell at me for ruining her party! When we moved my husband’s mother, she told neighbors she was being kidnapped.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. This brings back memories for me too. We used to camp and backpack into the high country almost every weekend when I was growing up so my Dad would load the Jeep…it must have been one of the first here. No frills, and very loud and rough…he’d load all the camping, food, and stuff on the roof, then make a huge bed of sleeping bags and pillows in the back by putting the back seat down. About 3 a.m. I’d be lightly awakened by my Dad carrying me, my brother, and sisters out to the car to sleep while he drove with my mom dozing beside him to the trailhead. He always wanted an early start up the trail to get to his chosen spot to set up camp.

    One time he hauled a plastic garbage can on his back with all the other stuff he carried b/c we were staying in the high country a week and Mom insisted that we have baths. The creek wasn’t good enough. So, she’d heat water to just the right temperature, Dad dunked us in the garbage can one by one then Mom scrubbed us clean then Dad took us out quickly heading for the tent where we dried, got our jammies on and hopped into our sleeping bags. That trip and the time they rented a mule to carry most of our stuff up the trail were EPIC! We always left in the middle of the night too.

    Downsizing…I just went through that, and every time I go to a knick-knack store or housewares department I keep repeating, ” You’re downsizing, Deborah, you’re downsizing!” There’s still stuff I need or should purge.

    I”m glad you made it to your destination with the snowplow without incident! I am sorry about Sundance.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Deborah. It sounds like you got a good taste of being a pioneer woman from those trips. They must have been fun.

      We aren’t actively downsizing but we’re avoiding collecting more stuff.

      That move was fun. Mom made out OK and enjoyed 4 good years in Iowa. When we went through her stuff for the last time, it was hard to believe how much we had missed.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. What? You’re going to leave the story there? Why do I get the feeling there is more that hasn’t been said?

    I had a very different childhood and have moved rarely so these kinds of stories represent a bit of lore to me. The thought of starting a long distance trip late in the day sounds like a very bad idea to me. There is no part of driving tired and arriving tired that appeals to me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There are a few tidbits, Joanne but you know how I like to be brief (cough, cough). We left Pittsburgh around 5:00 pm and arrived in Iowa around 10:00 am. We started getting tired around 1:00 am, but when the sun started coming up at 4:00, we got our second wind.

      Like

  21. Always buy the most comprehensive insurance you can afford and read your actual policy in full. (She says to everyone and pretty much no one listens.)
    Anyway, I am also “Let’s go at night” because in the morning I find it hard to make it to the bathroom, let alone Florida. But also, because sunburn in the car — I have to wear a sarong in the car !!!, and yes, traffic is substantially sparer, and when you get there, you get an adrenaline rush and boy do you sleep well that night.
    My in-laws moved to be nearer Granny in what everyone assumes are her last years, but she’s 90 and her bodily health is quite good… They moved into a home smaller than ours, and have the rest of their belongings in storage in a space the same size. I cannot believe the things they keep, haul, store, ignore. I’ve downsized, it’s hard, but for some people, it’s really, really hard.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! Sunburn in the car? that sounds awful. We were getting pretty tired after passing through your neck of the woods. Then, around 4:00 am, as soon as the sun stated to add light to the sky, it was like a huge burst of energy hit us. We were up, and we were rolling. We’ve considered storage now and then, but we figre, if we can live with it being in storage, we can live without it.

      Like

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