There are more of us now than there used to be. We are the survivors of the Greatest Generation. We are the babies of the Great Depression, the adults who flourished when we all liked Ike.
We are in our 80s and 90s now, and we have a problem. Where do we go from here? We have never been this old before, and never knew that we would be this lucky, to still be here. It has mostly been one foot in front of the other, one day at a time.
The good news for us is that we got this far. The not so good news is that it is getting harder and harder to do it on our own. Our children, if they are still in Buffalo, check in on us. But there are so many of us, and so many who have children out of state, that it is becoming the norm to downsize and/or move into “the home.”
My mother thought that being sent to “the home” was Dickensian – it was “the poorhouse.” This is a tough image to put out of your mind. In my family, we were babies during the Depression. We were in school during the hardships of World War II. I grew up knowing that times can be hard, so you must be responsible. So, we are choosing to be responsible.
Check the real estate ads. There are a million patio homes, one of our options. Or, we can choose a multilevel planned community of independent living with access to additional care. Can you afford it? Do you need it? Will insurance cover it? These are not easy decisions when you would rather just stay put.
Ultimately, you make a choice, pray a lot, cross your fingers, close your eyes and hope it goes away – until it doesn’t, and then you move. Moving is not for sissies. Moving is not for sissies who aren’t as young as they used to be. Moving is not for the cautious who never met a piece of string that they couldn’t save and put to use again.
The children help, and they are wonderful. They sort, label and donate. They straighten you out, even though you didn’t know you needed straightening. They are amazing and full of energy.
And then the most harrowing move of your life is over, and there you are, moved away from a home you loved, a life you loved. You are squeezed into a space filled with your things in unfamiliar places, and you are surrounded by strangers, and you have this sinking feeling you had when you were in first grade and you didn’t know anybody, and you wished your mother could come and take you back home and you both could just forget about it.
But I have good news. As the days go by, the place you thought could never be your home changes. The strangers become friends, the kind you don’t have to explain things to, because they have the same past.
The unfamiliar hallways lead to classes and activities that renew your interests again. It is not like any camp or dorm experience you had before, but it’s really not bad. In fact, it turns out to be good, and safe, and a place to make new best friends. You are not alone, you won’t be lonely unless you choose to be.
Thank you to those who so kindly help us with our final steps. Life is still good. The children were right. We are better off, and safer, but we are a bit slower. And just so you know, it wasn’t easy, but we are, finally, grateful.
Now if only I could find that strainer.