A year ago today I moved from my family home in Emerald Bay to an apartment at Meadow Lake. I hate moving and don’t do it very often if I can help it – all that sorting, packing, hauling, finding, unpacking, arranging, and rearranging of everything. But this move was necessary and timely, and I’m grateful beyond words that I paid attention when God kept opening a lot of doors one right after another last summer. Everything I needed was here, especially the cats. Emma did not want to get picked up and moved from the back of the corner kitchen cabinet, but we all made it safe and sound.
This has been a good place for me at the right time in my life. My home is spacious and comfortable – the largest apartment I’ve ever lived in – with a screened in porch for the cats and for me when I can manage it with the walker. I look out at grass, trees, a garden, and have blooming crepe myrtles outside my windows which make me happy.
I didn’t know when I moved here that I would be in a wheelchair within a matter of days, but this is exactly where I need to be. I have the tools I need to live independently – housekeeping, maintenance, lots of grab bars, wide doorways, roll in shower, and a medical alert system. Because I can no longer drive, I’m grateful that weekday transportation is available to doctors and grocery stores. We also get amazing meals once a day so I don’t have to cook much, though I have a full kitchen.
I’ve made friends here with residents and staff. Almost all the residents are much older than I am, but there are a few closer to me in age – and really, I don’t care. I’ve never been with a more friendly and welcoming group of people. In many ways it’s like living in a dorm and not apartments, because we all look out for each other. The hard part is the high turnover as neighbors die, move closer to children, or go to assisted living. There are nine apartments on my hall and six turned over in the last year, including mine.
I flew the rehab coop yesterday and finally, finally, made it home to my apartment and my cats. My brother and sister-in-law were totally amazing – I couldn’t have done this without them. Because not only was I coming home with all my accumulated stuff and needing to navigate wheelchair and walker, I also had to do it amidst the chaos of not knowing where anything was and with things still boxed up from a move many weeks ago. Moving is confusing at any time but this was crazier than usual.
All of my boxes are now unpacked and shelves are filled, though not necessarily where things will actually live. It takes time to figure that out but you need to see them to know where they should go. The next big thing still to do is sort out art and get things up on walls so it really looks like my house. I have many fewer walls here than the last house, so I think I’ll have some things left over, even though I gave away so much before I moved. Actually, I have way too much stuff period. But right now I have things leaning against walls where I think they’ll go so I can live with them for a bit before things actually go up.
The cats, of course, were a bit confused by all the activity. Emma spent a lot of time under the bed or peeking around chair legs. But she and Ellie are more socialized by having several different people take care of them over the last weeks, and they quickly started investigating it all. Last night was a two-cat night, with one on each side. They were almost as glad Mommy was home as Mommy was.
I haven’t done much walking today, but did spend a lot of time standing up from chair to walker as I learn to navigate my space using both. I’ve gone from chair to kitchen counter, too, which gives me access to many things like dishes, glasses, and the sink, but doesn’t feel very stable for any kind of bending. Note that feeding cats involves bending, so this is going to be creative.
My walker now has a basket and a separate tray/caddy thing (the two are used separately) to help me move things around from place to place, say, with food from fridge to counter and counter to table. And I’ve learned that although it’s more economical to buy food like yogurt in larger tubs, individual portions are easier to move around in a walker. Note to self for the next grocery run: buy individual yogurt servings.
Navigating the apartment is tricky because of the cats. Rehab walking didn’t include floor obstacles with floofy tails. Here I have cats who don’t move out of the way until the very last minute. I’m glad they’re not afraid of the chair or the walker, but wish they would just move already so I can get by. It’s hard enough trying to back up and turn around on the bedroom carpet or in the bathroom.
I didn’t sleep well last night because a bed rail we installed (and by “we” I mean my brother and sister-in-law) was a bit too high and I could feel the rods through the mattress. Actually, I felt them in rehab when we tried this, too, but I thought it was because of that bed. Apparently not. I ended up sleeping in the recliner with the cats alternating in the lap. Not great for sleeping, though. The bed rail is only there until I get the new adjustable mattress base which is due in two weeks. Tom made some adjustments this morning and I’m hoping it solves the problem. I could really use the sleep, especially if both cats decide to join me.
The other big project of the day was selling my car. I got a quote from CarMax that was $4,000 over the BlueBook value, and it was too good to refuse. But since I wouldn’t be actually going with the car, my brother drew up a limited Power of Attorney for the sale which we had notarized by a kind friend late on Friday. The sale itself went very smoothly. It’s the first time in my adult life that I’ve been without a car so it feels a bit weird, but it’s a logical move and will save me pots of money.
So many people helped me get here but I especially want to thank Carolyn, Jane, and Lana. They took care of my cats for weeks on end, opened boxes and put things away so I could move around easily in the wheelchair when I got home, returned equipment to Suddenlink, brought me clothes and other stuff while in rehab, checked and brought me mail, got my car battery replaced and took the car for repairs. I couldn’t possibly have gotten through the last 10 weeks without these three and all the other wonderful friends who visited, called, wrote, and prayed for me. I cannot ever thank you all enough for your love and care. But I will pay it forward, with love and appreciation.
The neurosurgeon told me this week that I needed spine surgery (specifically a lumbar laminectomy) to be scheduled in 3-4 weeks. But I was going to MOVE in 3-4 weeks. You can’t have surgery and move at the same time, especially with cats. How can things move that quickly? Moving takes time. But God is winking.
A week ago today I decided to sell my house and move to Meadow Lake. Two weeks from today I will actually do it, which is crazy. Things are racing along at a speed I could never have planned or expected, and this morning I set the date for the local movers to come and pack (August 4) followed by moving day the next day. My house will be listed after I’m gone.
People seem surprised at how quickly I’ve gone through items and pulled them out to give away or sell, but the truth is, I’ve been looking around at my stuff for a while as other friends have moved away, because moving is when you make those big decisions about little things. I’d look around a room, and mentally think, “Keep, keep, toss, keep, sell, toss” and just move on. Now that it’s time to really do that weeding, it’s actually quite liberating and freeing to let it go because there isn’t room. I don’t hate a thing and would probably keep it if I stayed … but in letting go, I have permission to put something else into that place in my life. Big things like furniture and small things like that 3rd set of plastic measuring cups. Who needs that many? Not me.
Last weekend I had a “house cooling” event, posting pics of bookshelves full of mostly decorative give away things and a kitchen table covered with pans, trays, crockpot, cookie jars, etc., that I wouldn’t need. It was a first pass through, but there was still a LOT of stuff. People stopped by and picked up more than they thought they would because, let’s face it, I have nice things in great condition. Some also wanted to see the house which was fine.
But then the God-winking continued. One person came for a few things and bought the couch, and then asked about the chair that coordinates with it. I hadn’t necessarily planned on getting rid of the chair but, sure. Another came for a few garage items and took pics of the dining room table and chairs for his daughter to consider. A friend offered me packing paper and boxes, and ended up offering to buy my guest room king size bed that I had just decided the night before I wouldn’t be taking with me. A brief conversation with someone in the office ended up promising her the bistro patio set. A text message asked if I was selling my washer, dryer, and fridge, and if they could buy them as a set. The Veterans are picking up in my area and will take all the furniture I don’t sell or give away. The moving company, which usually doesn’t accept checks, will accept one direct from Meadow Lake, which is covering up to $3,000 of moving costs.
I mean, really?
When things fall into place this quickly, this effortlessly, it’s not coincidence. God is winking and I’m paying attention.
Three years ago this week I made the decision to retire from Yale and move to Texas to live with and care for my dad. I don’t regret the decision but my life is so totally different; sometimes I feel disconnected, because there is no one here who has any connection to the professional life I led for so many years. Married people, people with children, usually have at least someone who has shared those experiences with them. I don’t even have my cat anymore.
I worked on college campuses for almost 40 years and there is an energy there that keeps things hopping. I started working in general university libraries right after getting my M.L.S. and moved to law school libraries three years later, never looking back. My career was in Technical Services, which started out as cataloging and evolved into management of all of the specialties under the Tech Services banner: acquisitions, serials, binding, cataloging, electronic resources, integrated library systems. I worked long hours at challenging work – You want a book from Singapore that was published today? And you want it when? Okay, let me see what I can do. I lived in Virginia, in Maine, in Boston, and Connecticut, sometimes moving without knowing anyone else in the state. Moving was hard but I did it – and by myself.
My organizations allowed me time to be active in my profession, going to national and specialty conference such as the Innovative Users Group for users of the system I worked with for almost 30 years. Of course, that meant working late and on weekends to get my regular work accomplished, but it was a good trade off for keeping my brain stretched and making wonderful contacts across the country and around the world. I spent five years on the IUG Steering Committee, including being education chair for a national conference, followed immediately by three years on the Executive Board of the American Association of Law Libraries. And three years later, I was education chair for the AALL conference, too. Exhilarating, challenging, hard, creative, fun.
I loved working out the bibliographic puzzles that went with my job. Figuring out what happened to serial publications that stopped coming or morphed into other titles without warning. Finding books requested by colleagues and faculty that came with incomplete or wrong titles. Resolving systems problems. Dreaming up new ways to explain old things to staff.
Ah, staff. I hated supervising. That was the only really hard thing about my job to me. I want to work in a collegial relationship with people who act like adults and pull their weight. Supervising people, and especially those in a tough union shop, made that difficult at times. And it was exhausting. I do not miss that one bit, though I do miss some of the people. Okay, not many of them, but some.
I thoughtfully planned my departure from Yale, working to transition tasks and responsibilites to new people and writing endless documentation to explain how to do it. One week after I retired from Yale, I got in the car with the cat and my sister-in-law and drove to Texas. There was no time to process or grieve because new things were coming. I almost never hear from the people I worked with and it’s as though who I was and what I did there doesn’t matter to anyone except me. I’m forgotten and left behind. Which is appropriate; I don’t want them mourning me, either, but people I thought were friends apparently were just passing in the hallways instead. And that’s hard.
So I have a new life now. Instead of being an experienced, senior person, I’m a youngster in a retirement community. I work part-time as a church secretary, making bulletins, writing documentation, maintaining the website. I sing in the choir, play Mah Jongg, and have friends. I’m also primary caregiver for my 90 year old father, who is increasingly fragile and forgetful. Never having had children, I have one now in many ways, and it’s difficult. It’s hard to know how to take time away when I have to be at the church at 8:00 a.m. six days a week, plus care for my dad. I don’t regret being here but I haven’t adjusted.
I miss my friends and am grateful to Facebook, with all its problems, for helping me stay in touch with people who knew me in my other life. I miss my cat, who died last May. I need a hug.
Four months ago today I arrived in Texas after a 1,658 mile drive from Connecticut. My sister-in-law flew up to share the drive and Tessie was good as gold on the trip. We stayed in pet-friendly hotels but didn’t make reservations except for the first day, since that gave us more flexibility depending on road and traffic conditions.
Our route took us through the Poconos and down through Scranton, PA and continuing down through the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, just a short drive from my former home in Charlottesville. We skimmed through Tennessee and cut across Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana into Texas, completing the drive in 3.5 days. My furniture arrived within 24 hours, much to my shock and delight.
The past months have been nesting time. Figuring out where things go and what things we don’t need. My pre-move cleanout made the move cheaper than estimated and also meant fewer items to find homes for in my new house. We ended up taking quite a lot of kitchen things and books to Goodwill, including my dad’s 40-year-old stereo system that took up way too many shelves in the bookcases. I replaced it with a new Bose system with CD-player. We’re loving our Amazon Echo in the kitchen and listen to NPR and music over meals.
Dad and I joined the local community church and I’m singing in the choir, which is like breathing for me. I’ve also been taking Mah Jongg lessons and am starting to play regularly. It’s a strange game but an important social activity here so I’m meeting lots of people. And the parties! I’ve been to more parties in the last 3 months than in the past 10 years!
It’s been a big adjustment to go from living solo (plus Tessie) to sharing a house, meals, errands, etc. with my dad. We’re figuring things out as we go and the space is large enough that we’re not falling over each other, especially now that we have a second TV in the den. He watches Fox News in one room and I watch anything else in the other!