Ten Digits

[Update 6.14.2015: Phone number remains. So grateful to Cassie for all the work she did to make it happen.]

I’m losing a phone number. A phone number that’s been “mine” almost since birth. When my parents bought the house they lived in until they died, this was the phone number they were given. I grew up with it. The first friend I ever had called me on that phone number. My first crush called me on that phone number. The first job I ever got included that phone number on the application. When I went away to college, it stayed a constant. When I bought my first, and second house, it was still a constant.

My mother was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2008. After some very tense years during which she elected to use her right to refuse treatment and put herself in some very dangerous situations as a result of the disease and that decision, she was arrested. She was declared incapacitated and ultimately placed in the Alzheimer’s ward of a local nursing home. The state appointed me as her guardian and conservator.

As conservator, the responsibility for their house, and that phone number, became mine. I thought protecting the house would be the difficult task. Alzheimer’s care isn’t cheap. She paid $72,000 per year in room and board costs alone. Plus the medications, plus the doctor’s bills, plus the legal fees. It adds up quickly. It was never far from my mind that I’d probably have to sell the house I grew up in to continue to afford her care, and I made peace with that. But not the phone number. I’d keep that. I’d port it to a new address and it would remain that rock-steady constant.

Except it’s not. I fought long and hard and was able to keep the house. After her death it was deeded to me. Despite everything I did to keep that phone number, though, it might not remain.

I do that thing where you choose one word for each year and use it to inspire you throughout the year. This year, I chose “rooted”. After the last decade, the one thing I want more than anything else is to belong somewhere. To feel as though the rug isn’t going to be pulled out from under me yet again. That I won’t have to start over for the umpteenth time. That I don’t have to “grab the last knot in the rope and just hang on.” I want to be rooted.

And yes, I DO understand how privileged I am to even be having this conversation. My parents raised me in the same house from the age of two to the day I left for college. And now, I own the house I grew up in. And you’re thinking “How much more “rooted” can you get?” How many people can say they own the house they grew up in? I hear you.

It’s those ten digits, though, that make me feel connected. Those ten digits make me feel rooted. I grieve for those ten digits more than I ever grieved around the idea of losing the house.

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