Sunday, April 22, 2012

A new chapter begins

Last Friday, J. went to settlement on his parents' home. Actually, he didn't go -- he signed all the papers ahead of time, and then busied himself with all the small tasks required to completely empty a house: loading the car with anything left to be brought home, hauling away the last-minute trash, locking the property securely. Then he headed back to New Jersey.  Taking care of the house has been a big burden that I'm glad he's done with (as well as that 10-hour round-trip drive to central New York State).  And yet ...

Now we've both been through the process of disposing of the family home, with all the attendant sorrow.  His family home was special to me, too. The house itself was an average 1950s-era "raised ranch" (I never knew that term until we listed the house for sale), but the location was magic. His mom and dad built the house in 1959, on a hillside outside their small college town.  In the 1970s, they also bought the wooded uphill lot next door, for a total of about 4 acres or a little less.  Having grown up on a suburban quarter-acre, I luxuriated in visits to my in-laws' home.  The privacy was amazing; the quiet was intense.  At night, I could see a million stars. I never suspected there were that many.

Life happened, however, as it tends to do.  My in-laws aged, and as they developed health troubles, the steep gravel drive and the heavy winter snow became a barrier rather than an asset. Privacy seemed a little threatening when emergency vehicles couldn't reach the house for entire months of the year. They began to spend their winters down in town, in a (dismal: my opinion) basement apartment. Summers back in their home were still glorious -- but there was always another winter coming.

Winter is coming for all of us, at least metaphorically.  Our current home has 5 separate levels (it's called a "colonial split-level," which I think does not really exist except in real estate-speak), and I know from the ache in my hip that we won't always be able to live here. A 5-level house is no good for older people.  When we moved here in 1998, I claimed the only way I was leaving would be in a pine box, feet-first.  Now, I'm not so sure.  Now I'm looking around at what we have accumulated, and imagining my children having to clean it all out.  This is not a task we'd like to leave for them, having been through it twice.

Figuring out the future is tough. Where will we go, how will we live? What shape will life take? I hope I will be as contented with my lot then as I am now.

I guess contentment is one more decision to make in advance.    

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