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What Have I Learned Since Moving My Parents Cross-Country?

One of my biggest goals in 2018 was to move my parents from Chicago to Seattle. That goal was completed in September 2018. Only it isn’t complete; it is completely ongoing.

My parents moved to Seattle in September 2018, and stayed in my house for six weeks before moving into their own place. They are now on their own in an apartment while we work on design and building an addition onto our house for them. We recently saw the first design plans; my parents will get a gorgeous mother-in-law unit built onto the back of our house, with their own kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and outdoor space, and we get to expand our master bedroom and bath. It’s beautiful, and I am so excited to see it to completion.

While we love dreaming and creating the future addition, the reality is there’s been a major adjustment for my parents to living in a new city, and a major adjustment for me and Chris to having them here. They lived in Chicago for more than 40 years. When they left Chicago, they left harsh winters, closed the distance to me and my sister, and a life that was often spent indoors. They also left behind familiarity, from doctors to knowing how to get to the store, neighbors who watched out for them, and their favorite trips to downtown Chicago to watch the Chicago Symphony.

On New Year’s Eve, Chris and I went to dinner at my parents’ place. Their apartment has become a lovely home base for them to explore a new life. They have made huge strides since they arrived in Seattle. They walk outside pretty much every day, go to the library, have figured out the stores, and are planning to start some classes at the nearby senior center.

And yet, deep down, I was worried. The worry was so deep, I didn’t realize how much I worried. I was scared I had pushed too hard, that it was too much physically and emotionally to move across the country in their late 70s, that their marriage would struggle with all the change. Of all the things we tried to predict and work on, the most unexpected challenge has been learning to navigate a new city with unfamiliar, windy roads.

On New Year’s Eve, we reflected on 2018. I asked my parents and Chris a series of questions I picked up years ago that help me sum up the year, with all of us chiming in. When I asked my parents when they were most afraid last year, I was surprised to hear it was when they sold their house, which they ended up selling in a week. They weren’t scared as much of the move; it was the finances and selling their home that caused the most stress.

The biggest surprise? Navigating Seattle.

When I asked them when they were happiest, my mom answered: “Right now.”

Didn’t they miss their regular New Year’s Eve get together with neighbors of 40 years? Not really. My mom said she would rather be with her family, and now she was, having dinner with her youngest daughter and her husband.

It was one of my sweetest moments in this particular goal. I have never wavered that we could pull it off; I didn’t know if moving would make them happy. I was anxious the move wasn’t worth it for them, that the downsizing, selling their home, moving across the country, was just too much to ask at their age.

It wasn’t.

We have a lot of twists and turns ahead, from having our home disrupted for several months for the addition, to helping them figure out the route to Costco or going to doctor’s visits to make sure everything is being taken care of. I have learned I need to keep trusting myself. I have learned I can develop a new relationship with my parents that is as much friend as it is daughter. At 41, I have learned what it is like to be close to my parents again.

For all of that, I am grateful. I am grateful that Chris and I have the resources to support them. I love that we can pick them up for dinner, or have them over to spend time with our kids. I love that Coco gets spoiled by Grandma. They are all the reasons I wanted them close.

One of my biggest goals was to move my parents from Chicago to Seattle. And like many major goals, it is one that is ongoing.

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