I am nowhere.
I am now here.
It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?
I feel as if I’ve been on a journey down Alice’s rabbit hole the past month (maybe longer). But as of today, I believe I’ve finally found the light of day.
Where Has Sharon Been The Past Month?
March 1 Mike and I “got the call” from River Landing at Sandy Ridge (a continuing care community located three hours east of Asheville in Colfax, NC). After being on the wait list for 2.5 years, we were being offered a pet-friendly 3 bedroom, two bath apartment with a patio and small garden space. Unfortunately, the apartment would not be clear for us to appraise prior to the upcoming Road Scholar Trip in New Orleans already on our calendar.
As we celebrated my March 11 birthday with friends in Atlanta before departing for NOLA, the potential relocation process we had set in motion two years before was with us, just as concretely as the rest of our luggage. Upon returning from NOLA we would go out to see the apartment. The date of this life-altering decision was set for Tuesday, March 22.
Being on a Road Scholar Tour, where the minimum age for participation is 55, gave us a taste of the pros and cons of the “one-generatonal” experience, i.e. hanging out with the senior crowd. All in all, the tour was fabulous and the old folks with their canes, hearing aides, and cell phone issues turned out to be more worldly and energetic than I am and quite inspirational. Even better, we got to spend some quality time with our Granddaughter, Lily, a sophomore at Tulane.
Still, with every bite of Shrimp Etoufee or Bread Pudding, I kept going back and forth in my mind about whether I really wanted to move to “the old folks home” having only just turned 69.
“I’m too young.”
“Not really; better five years too early than five minutes too late.”
Back and forth. Yes, no, how to decide?
The last night in NOLA the proverbial stuff hit the fan. Mike’s back seized up and laid him low and I was invaded by a vicious upper respiratory infection that would hold onto my chest and stomach for weeks to come. The emotional pressure of the River Landing offer fell like a tone of bricks over our compromised bodies. We knew that if we liked the apartment, we’d have only four months in which to downsize 16 years of clutter, prepare the house for showing, sell, and move in to our new abode. So, in addition to a lack of appetite caused by the post-nasal drip, I was spending sleepless nights in our guest room obsessing about all the adjustments that were necessary on both ends of the transition, the tight time and financial constraints, and my inadequacy to perform physically just when Mike needed an able-bodied partner the most. We mustered on putting on happy faces, though soto voce I cursed the Sales Rep from River Landing for turning my peaceful bereavement year (following the death of my mom) upside down. I kept trying to convince myself downsizing and moving was the right thing to do; now just didn’t feel like the right time.
We had to postpone the apartment review visit twice (March 23 and 30) because I was too ill to travel. However, driven by pure adrenalin and with tears in my eyes (literally), during those two weeks I dissembled my art studio and transformed it into a bedroom for prospective buyers, stripped down and rearranged the den, office, living room, dining room, and kitchen to reveal the spacious coziness of our post-and-beam home.
We pored over photo albums and books and memorabilia of a lifetime to choose the limited representation that could be stored in a much-reduced space. We sent some old-time pix to friends and family and Mike hauled the rest in bags to the curb for recycling and in cartons to American Shredding’s “free residential first Friday” event, April 1. The ceramic stove top cracked and Mike had a fender-bender at the bottom of the driveway requiring installation of not one, but two new garage doors. Mike sat in the evenings with a portable stim machine throwing sparks into his aching back and nothing seemed to be helping me fight the demon: not a round of antibiotics, steam, cough syrup, mindless hours dozing on and off in front of countless episodes of HGTV; not even chicken soup (well, wonton soup – as close as Mike could get.). The universe seemed to have it in for us. We mustered on, determined to make the dream come true: relocation to a secure, convenient future home in a well-managed non-profit active senior care community. We interviewed realtors and learned the potential market value of our home.
On the advice of close friends and because I still suffered from a lack of breath, last Monday, April 4, I went back to the doctor for labs and a chest X-ray. Before getting the test results, the much delayed trip to River Landing was upon us. We had to accept or reject the unit being offered – there was no flexibility left for more time. March 6-7 we stayed over at River Landing, walked through the apartment, measured walls and windows and doors, selected carpeting, tile, and lighting. We had breakfast and lunch in the casual dining bistro, and dinner in the formal dining room. We were paired up with other couples, some who were long-time residents and others more recent arrivals. Everyone empathized with the angst of trying to simultaneously sell and move in and the difficulty of accepting that it’s your time to move into senior living. They were all very pleasant, but were they “my people”? Would we find lasting relationships there or just have neighbors down the long hallways. With positive intentions to chase the dream, we said, “Yes, we’ll take it,” and came home to read the fine print before signing the contract. Home to a not quite ready to show house for sale. Home to a house with many of our possessions and clothing, etc. in cartons. Home to a blueberry bush in bloom and the arrival April 8 of the first hummingbird at the deck feeder. Excited to be ending the uncertainty and moving. Not excited to be leaving. Take a Melatonin. Go to sleep.
Saturday morning, April 9, 5 a.m. Mike has an epiphany, which he shares with me later. He’s read the fine print in the contract and realized that the cost of entry fees, monthly fees, and potential additional fees for later life higher levels of care make this move less than attractive. He’s been satisfying himself with River Landing because it has a golf course, but didn’t really like the location of and views from the apartment offered to us. He thinks we should keep our home and portfolio in tact, age in community, and spend money as needed for additional assistance with home maintenance and support services. Am I OK with that?
I realize that although I’m disappointed to have gone to all the trouble to clear out and primp up our home, and the sudden end to forward momentum, I’m elated to not have to leave our affordable, spacious home surrounded by fabulous friends and parklike grounds. I’m happy to not be moving at this time and I’m happy not to be giving up my almost-family local friends. Additionally, given the political tone in North Carolina at this time, it feels safer to stay in the liberal Asheville area blessed by the temperate mountain climate. I’m happy to have come home.
Forever? Naw. Things change. We’re going to continue to look for a maintenance free home on one level, easily adaptable for future physical needs and we’re going to continue pursuing the possibility of creating a pocket neighborhood of senior-friendly homes with like-minded people in our area. But now that the arbitrary four month deadline to relocate has been lifted, Mike’s back problems have eased and my cold is dramatically improved. I’m looking forward to setting up my watercolors in my newly-renovated good old art studio just upstairs.