This all came up fairly quickly and I’m still in the “OMG — what am I doing” stage.”
A few years ago I wrote an article about people who had retired and either moved away from Central New York or had moved here and, for most of them, the reason was to be near family.
I never expected to be in that group.
I moved to Syracuse from a small town named Port Jervis in New Jersey and have loved living here all my adult life.
But circumstances change and I woke up one morning this May and found myself all alone in a wonderful house with too many memories.
Having friends going through life-changing issues this past year made me realize I should probably move while I was in good enough shape, mentally and physically, to decide for myself where I wanted to be. Like those I wrote about, I am moving to be near family, one of my daughters (and son-in-law).
I had a long scheduled trip to Italy with one daughter and two grandchildren for June and that could not be changed.
Telling myself I work best against deadlines, in the space of three weeks I got the house ready to go on the market. My son and daughter-in-law brought everything upstairs and made huge piles in the living room, leaving me with no choice but to make decisions.
And so the marathon started.
I made a hundred trips to donate things I would have no room for, filled up the garage with those items that I could not yet bear to make decisions about, and I’m sure my family went to sleep with my voice in their heads saying, “how can you not want to take this?”
Once I decided to sell the house, and within such a tight timeframe, why did I wake up every day feeling like I was wasting precious packing days doing nothing? In retrospect, it really wasn’t nothing. I was thinking, adjusting, and trying to get my head around the situation without a partner to discuss it with. I couldn’t bother my kids with every single decision; it was a process I had to go through alone.
And it was painful.
Would it have been worse to have been forced to do it in a timeframe not of my own choosing because of illness? Absolutely. And that is my message to you. Even if you have no plans to move in the near future, this is the best time to start looking at everything you own with a critical eye. Is anyone really ever going to wear your wedding dress that is now some shade of yellow?
Though I both gave and threw away a lot, there were still many things I couldn’t throw away but know the kids will. Pictures of my mother’s cousins who didn’t migrate when her family did and were killed in the Holocaust. Pieces of my parents and my in-laws good china. My father’s Port Jervis Country Club golf hat (I was thrilled my daughter took that) and articles about the two holes-in-one he made and the news stories about the two-year supply of Wheaties he got for them. As I was going through pictures, boxes and boxes of pictures, I wondered if we were weird that we had naked baby on the bassinet pictures dating back three generations. Did other families do that? Would we get arrested for that now?
Then the easier items. I felt I couldn’t throw out everything in the pantry and freezer but tried to use things up. I finally discovered what some of those spices were good for and also what they weren’t. What worked? Chicken and practically any spices, even cinnamon and smoky paprika. Chocolate syrup, expiration date of 2012, but really good when mixed with butter, heated in the microwave and combined with walnuts. I ate that twice a day. What didn’t work? My attempt at Middle Eastern–Asian fusion; Aleppo pepper and Furikake on scrambled eggs, does not work.
My daugher, who moved last year, said you can never have too much bubble wrap. I bought too much bubble wrap. For those of you who remember Gypsy Rose Lee, I am planning to go to nursing homes that might be looking for entertainment and do a version of her routine to use up all the bubble wrap I have left. I just haven’t figured out how I’d fit myself in the car, once wrapped, to drive there. If you hear popping sounds in your neighborhood, it might be me passing through.
One last key story. Preparing to empty my safe deposit box, I could not find the key and the bank couldn’t get a locksmith to break into the box before I was leaving. I laid awake for two nights thinking where it could be as I’m always so careful with it. I suddenly realized it must be in a pocketbook I had sent in a box to my daughter with other things to keep for me. Sure enough she found it and sent it overnight mail.
55 Plus is nice enough to continue to let me write, so this is not goodbye. See you next issue.