Not so Grand in Arizona

After going through the trauma of having a hip replacement and after having spent several months in a rehabilitation hospital, Mom was moved into a room in the assisted living section of the Arizona Grand Senior Living facility with the help of Big T Movers. We decorated her room with furnishings, photographs, and other favorite items from her house and then emptied and sold the house. I have simplified bill paying and taken over the task of dealing with her finances. She is fragile and weak and needs a walker to get around. She needs help with bathing and making sure she takes her medications properly. She gets easily confused and can’t remember names or faces. Other than a few old friends and a lovely caregiver named Mary, very few people ever visit. She misses old friends, many of whom have died. She has a few books of devotionals, the paper form of the Banner, and things that my siblings and I have written and she reads them time and again. Mostly she reads her large print Bible and watches Jeopardy and Billy Graham on television. It has been a slow process, but she has begun to settle in. She made friends with Iris who is in the room down the hall and they sit together in the dining room for the three meals a day that are provided as part of her care package. Iris is suffering from early stage dementia, as well, and Mom loves to care for her and to tell her about Jesus and help her navigate the problems of broken relationships with family and friends. Emma, Mom’s sister in law, by her second marriage also moved into the facility but is ‘on a different street’ which is Mom talk for ‘a different floor’. Ena, an old friend from church, also moved in and is just a few doors down on her ‘same street’. Ena has taken to sharing a table with Iris and Mom and that has made Mom happy. Together they are figuring out how to best get Iris to become a Christian. They pray together and strategize about their evangelistic approach. Mom has figured out that on Thursdays the Dude Wranglers come and play and sing old cowboy songs and old hymns in the main lobby and Mom loves it. She proudly told me that she still could sing the high tenor part on one of the old hymns and that her voice didn’t even crack. She knows what days she gets baths and what day they show a matinee movie. The routine is working for her. It has been a wonderful thing to watch her adjust to a new way of living.

Then two days ago the news came. The Arizona Grand is closing its doors. After all theses years of leasing the facility, they have been given notice that the property is being taken back by the owner, Eastern Star, a subsidiary of the Masons, I believe, and that the buildings will be sold and likely demolished. It is prime real estate so I can imagine it is worth many millions of dollars. All 140 residents will need to be relocated and all 100 employees will be laid off on or before February 28, 2015. It was devastating news. Mom called to tell me. She tried to read the businesslike legalize that came in the official letter to me over the phone, but got too choked up to speak. “Where will we go?” she wept. “What will happen to all these people? How will the employees who take such good care of me feed their families?” I didn’t have the answers. I wept with her. She must not only move, but she has to do so in two months which is the minimum amount of time the law allows the folks causing this to happen.

Mom told me there was going to be a meeting at 1:00pm where their questions would be answered. There was no way for me to be able to get there in the time frame and I knew Mom would experience more fear than enlightenment from whatever was said. Ena’s son, an old friend of mine, happened to stop in to see his mom and he called to tell me he would attend the meeting and report back to me. When he called later he told me of all the folks who are being devastated by this news. The 96 year old couple who have lived in the facility for 18 years have no family or outside friends to help them. The attorney who handles their finances is unknown to them. The bills just get paid. Another lady asked if she could stay a little longer since she had been there so long. The answer was no. An old man had just moved from Hawaii two months ago because his doctor insisted he needed a warm, dry climate. Why would they take his deposit and have him move in only to have to move again? There was no answer. Up and down Mom’s street employees and residents alike were in tears. So many plaintive cries. Lots of how and why and what now questions. No real answers, just a bunch of random facts.

Roger told me that he sat with his mom, Ena, and my Mom for awhile hoping to comfort them both. He told me that his mom was crying and shaking and wondering what would be next. Roger told me that my Mom listened to her for a few minutes and then said, “Well, Ena, we have Jesus and we have all we need in him. He already knows where we are going and how he will take care of us. He has never failed us in all these years that he has given us and he won’t abandon us now in our time of need. We need to stop being fearful and pray for each other and pray for the people who don’t have the security in Christ that we have. We need to pray for Iris.” Roger said he just sat quietly, stunned by her faith. He told me of the comfort her words brought to him. Then he watched them begin to pray…

I started calling new assisted living facilities. Their phones were ringing off the hook with all these desperate people looking for new homes. Eventually I found something fairly near where she is now with very similar pricing structures. Friends in Phoenix looked at it and another friend put down a deposit that at least guarantees her the right of first refusal. Another friend took Mom to see it. Mom said she liked it a lot and that it made her feel comfortable. I continued to make phone calls anyway. “No rooms in the assisted living facility. We have no rooms available. We have had an avalanche of requests. This closing of the Arizona Grand is bringing us a ton of new people. We’ve got lots of folks on our waiting list.” The answers became almost monotonous. Finances are an issue, of course, Mom doesn’t have the money to live in luxury. Many places were priced way beyond her budget. When she found out how much money we were paying for her studio apartment at the Arizona Grand she was horrified and angrily told us it was way too expensive and that she wasn’t worth all that. She is wrong about that, but her money won’t last forever and should she live well into her nineties she will eventually run out of money and the state will need to take over care. I wish she had rich children, but we are not much help to her.

Last night Chantille called me from Olive Grove Assisted Living. She told me she needed a yes or no on the room for which my friend had made a deposit, since they had lots of folks with deposit checks in hand. So, sight unseen, I committed to moving my mother there. We will fax the paper work pack and forth. I’ll put a check in the mail. My brother and his family will travel from California in two weeks to make the physical move happen. God is making a way where there seems to be no way. As he most often does, he uses the love and grace of others. It can be scary to have to depend on God and on those he sends to help.

I imagined this week would be a quiet one. A new year holiday in the middle of tying up loose ends in my jobs and straightening up things around the house while getting ready for surgery on Tuesday. I cooked and froze some lasagnas and enchiladas and chicken pot pies and batches of chili so that we can pull things out of the freezer as I recover from the surgery. That should help make Kathy’s life a bit easier as I am flat on my back for three weeks post surgery. She works long days and has a stressful job and I love trying to make things easier for her. I haven’t had time to worry about the surgery, but in the middle of the night when I wake up with stabbing pain in my neck it is good to remember that God has been with me these past 62 years and that he is not about to let go of me now. It is good to remember people like Iris who don’t have the joy of his presence as they go through trying times. Think about the folks in your realm who are terrified and displaced and have no one to walk with them. Ask God how you might love them. Ask him if he will take their hearts as his own.

Helping others and praying for your friends will take your mind off your own troubles. That is good.

Oh, have a Happy New Year! I’m going to start mine off by having a guy who is wearing a mask slit my throat with a very sharp knife. And also by thanking God for his goodness to me and to my mother. May your new year be filled with his gift of trusting faith that can travel through whatever comes, good or bad. And that in it all, you will find that his presence is enough.



  1. So sorry, Rod! I’m sad and angry…but thank you for being there to help your Mom through it.

  2. Ron Wyman

    Thank you so very much for painting a word picture of your story with your mother. This letter shows how much you and your mother live a life, daily, with Christ Jesus as your last and only bastion of hope, and lifestyle. Your mother taught you will.

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