A tectonic shift occurred this past Friday afternoon. My little world of dearly held onto habits and routines crumbled in fast-moving developments that brought great excitement, but also rather severe trepidation and anxiety. Right out of the blue, a thunderbolt with no time to stall and prepare myself.
I found a new place to live. Yesterday, a Monday, and today, I finished touring the apartment community that came to my attention totally unexpectedly after a friend of my brother heard about it and contacted my sister. I had only looked at three places up until then, and I greeted this latest suggestion with indifference, but also with grudging acknowledgment that it sounded very promising indeed.
When I drove over to check out the place and get a tour this past Friday, I had a strange feeling that my brief search might be over. During that second visit and tour Monday, meeting some residents, and walking around the shaded, tree-filled perimeter abutting a marsh and higher ground with huge Live Oak trees, I felt a surge of interest and even urgency. There were only two units left with the floor plan and rent I could manage. Also, I really didn’t have unlimited time to find a new apartment home, something I was dreading. I had pretty much ruled out buying anything since I wanted to leave behind all the problems and expenses of home ownership once and for all.
After my mother passed away in January 2020, right before the pandemic, there was no longer any need for me to continue living in the beautiful house downtown in which I took care of her for 10 years. I moved here in 2010 when she could no longer live on her own. At that time she was 88. I emphatically knew what I had to do after some of the last few evenings as I prepared to head back to my place around 10 or 11 at night. I had usually spent the early evenings there after getting off work, extending to late in the evenings keeping her company and seeing that everything was OK. But toward the end of 2009, I knew things weren’t OK. “Please don’t go,” Mom would cry out as she prepared to get in bed at 11, and I was about to go out the door to my car. It was agonizing, and ended with my moving in full-time. I would have done anything for Mom, but it was very hard leaving the place I called “my” home of 15 years, which I immediately missed very much.
So, until a year and a half ago I had every reason to stay here in her house which is now owned by myself and my two siblings. It’s an enormous expense with astronomical property taxes and insurance premiums. Maintenance and upkeep are also very burdensome. I have a large, and now overgrown, garden that I have neither the desire nor the stamina to maintain. It’s starting to look like a jungle again, yet it’s still so beautiful. I will terribly miss sitting on the porch in my rocking chair looking out over that garden, as I’ve done on countless occasions, often at 2 or 3 in the morning since I’m such a night owl. Simply put, I cannot afford to live here, and I can’t expect my brother and sister to subsidize me living beyond my means. My sister wants to sell the house as soon as possible, and I must admit she’s right. We need to do it.
As I write this, having completed the last of the online paperwork and requirements for the apartment only this morning, I am sitting in mom’s elegant dining room, filled with antique furniture and chairs and gorgeous framed botanical prints on the wall. I feel a deep sense of surreality. A haze of sadness and regret settled over me for moments at a time. Then it lifts. But every room of this house where’s Mom’s spirit and presence can be found seems different suddenly, and I won’t have much more time to be here and feel that presence. Everything seems changed now as I walk from room to room. Each has numerous precious reminders of my dear mother, who loved her children and this house so much.
There is no immediate urgency to move, as I have two months of free rent, but all I can think about now is what belongings of Mom I will take with me and all the many logistics of moving. I already know which furniture I want for my living room and bedroom, and I am happy to be able to keep some really old and beautiful pieces in the family, including a magnificent 1840s era hutch and chest of drawers.
Unbelievable. I am leaving in perhaps a matter of months the family home, the “homeplace” filled with so many memories, and so much joy and happiness from family get-togethers, but also much pain and mental anguish along Mom’s journey far down the road of dementia. But all I can say is, I am thankful to God that I could accompany her on that journey to the end of the road.
Now I feel that I’ll be starting anew at age 70. Isn’t life strange and beautiful?