Life Changes

Life changes. However, I didn’t experience much change for about 10 years. As I’ve written in previous posts, I came to Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2012 to help my parents. That was a year of many changes, but then things settled down. I took a part-time job that I stayed with my entire time here. My dad died, but my mom needed a little assistance, so I remained with her in her house. I settled into habits. I went to the same grocery store, gas station, and restaurants month after month, year after year.

Then everything changed. My mom’s health deteriorated quickly, and she needed more help. There were some hospitalizations, a stay in rehab, then caregivers coming into the house. Finally, in June, she died at home. She was honored with a wonderful funeral and interred at Ft. Custer National Cemetery alongside my dad.

Changes have continued for the last six months. My sister and I spent quite a bit of time going through photographs, letters, books, and slides. As I wrote earlier (at https://wordpress.com/post/bobritzema.wordpress.com/2458), my focus switched from daily ups and downs to an appreciation of her life as a whole. I could better see both her and my dad as more than just parents and grandparents, the roles I had seen them in the most. In the albums I went through, there were pictures of each of my parents as children (in each case, they are the youngest child):

There were pictures of mom with her two sisters:

There were photos of her and dad as high school sweethearts:

Life must have looked really good to them then! There were also lots of slides of their trips abroad—to Spain, England, Germany, and Switzerland. I saw those countries through their eyes. Pouring over all that memorabilia freed me to see their lives as a whole and to appreciate them as complex, multifaceted people. Going through their lives this way contributed as well to my sense of change. First they were young and vibrant, then middle aged and settled, then old and infirm, then gone, seemingly in just a few moments. Time flies, and now I recognize its speed is supersonic.

We sold mom’s house. Since I had been staying there with her, I had to find another place to live. I own a house in St. Louis, but no longer have family there, so moving there is not an option. I decided I needed time to think through what to do. Since September, I’ve been in a studio apartment in Heritage Hill, a neighborhood of large Victorian houses near downtown Grand Rapids. It’s been enjoyable to live among these old houses, built by the elite back in the late 19th century. These streets, too, remind me of change. All the original owners of these houses are gone, as are many of the thousands who have moved in and out of them through the years, like sand flowing through a sieve. Behind some houses are buildings that once housed horses and carriages. Now the streets are filled with cars. As the people and animals that once were here have vanished, so too will I be gone, probably not too many years from now. I’m reminded of verses from Psalm 103:

As for mortals, their days are like grass; 
they flourish like a flower of the field; 
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, 
and its place knows it no more.  

I will not be living where I am for long. Mindful of now being in my 70’s, I’ve decided it would be wise to relocate somewhere near either of my children. I have two sons; one seems likely to stay put where he is at, but the other is in transition himself. I’ll be moving to Milwaukee, near the more settled son, after the first of the year. Life will be changing again. In some ways I’m looking forward to what awaits me. Change has been my tutor this year, and I have attended to its lessons. I’m hoping that it will give me some time off school before long, though!


[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Ps 103:15–16). (1989). Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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About Bob Ritzema

I am a fourth-generation American of Dutch ancestry and am trained as a clinical psychologist. In 2012, I retired from Methodist University in North Carolina to return to . Michigan to help family. I maintain a part-time therapy practice in Grand Rapids. I currently worship at Monroe Community Church in Grand Rapids. I can be reached at bobritzema@hotmail.com.
This entry was posted in caregiving, Psyche and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Life Changes

  1. petereverts says:

    I hope all goes well in your new transition and that some routines can begin again. Merry Christmas, Bob, and have a wonderful beginning in Milwaukee!

  2. dw says:

    Hi Bob, it’s good to hear from you again – thank you for the update on your plans and also for sharing your path of remembrance and grief. It models for me a way I can take when the time comes.

    I wish you the best in the coming year and look forward to hearing how your transition goes.

    Grace and peace to you…

    dw

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