Should an Empty-Nester Down-Grade?-Better with Age #8

Posted by Jessica Hegg on

You know, I used to think of myself as just about the least sentimental guy in the world. It's not that I'm hard-hearted, mind you, but I've always taken a pragmatic view about the necessary, big changes that happen in life.  I felt proud when my kids graduated from high school, for instance, but I didn't get all weepy about it.  (My wife did!)  I kind of expected it to happen, to be honest, and so I guess I didn't feel overly emotional after the ceremonies.

And I love the pictures that my wife has taken of our kids and our grandkids over the years, but I 'm just not as moved as everybody else is when the photo album gets dragged out.  I've always been more interested in what my kids are doing now; whenever anyone asks me what my favorite "age" was for my kids, I always say the same thing: Right now.

And while I loved my time in college, I've never felt terribly interested in going back and walking through my old footsteps.  And I don't get misty-eyed when songs from my past come on the radio, even ones that I loved when I was younger.  I guess I'm just one of those odd ducks who doesn't get too knocked out by nostalgia and sentimentality.

Until, of course, this past week,  when my wife started seriously discussing the possibility of selling our home and moving into a smaller place.   Fort when she did that I started crying like a baby.

I was almost as startled as my wife.  I always thought that when the time came for us to make a change, I'd be ready for it.  No big deal, I thought.  We had talked about it, casually, a few times before, but it always felt like it was something down the road, something we wouldn't have to face for years.

But now it seemed that we had indeed reached that area known as "down the road."   My wife told me, very candidly, very forcefully, that the house was simply too much for us; not only was it hard to keep up, it was also hard to get around in.  Our house was modest when we bought it, but we kept adding on to it as our family grew, and consequently, it's pretty big and spread-out.  And now everybody has moved out.  There are rooms we haven't gone into in months, except to clean.  And it's tough to admit, but neither of us gets up and down the stairs as easy as we used to.  It's simply time to downsize, my wife concluded.

It was embarrassing, how just talking about selling caused tears to bubble up from me.  But our house was a lot more to me than just the place where our kids grew up.  It was Family Headquarters for almost 4 decades. It was the Holiday Home, the gathering place, the sanctuary, the library, the launching pad, the recovery zone, Summer Vacation Central, Party City--it was everything.  It's where the greatest and most joyous events of my life have occurred.  And I couldn't imagine letting it go.

My wife sensed how saddened I was, so she didn't press the issue.  "Nothing is decided," she said, which I know really meant, "I've already decided for both of us but I'm willing to give you some time to get used to the idea."  And then she recommended that we take a look at some new condominiums built downtown, in a resurgent part of the city.  "Just to see what's out there," she said.  "We don't have to do anything immediately, but let's take a look."

Grudgingly I went with her, determined to scowl the whole time, but after about an hour, my eyes were opened.  The condos were gorgeous, spacious, and very close to a walking trail in the city.  The downtown itself looked revitalized, there were new restaurants and shops and people bustling everywhere.  The condos seemed popular with all ages, but I did notice quite a lot of people who looked like me and my wife. (Perhaps other down-sizers?)  I didn't want to admit it, but I could begin to visualize living in that area.  Everywhere we looked was bright and sunny, and the condos featured huge windows that let in plenty of sunshine.  I couldn't help but compare that to our beloved homestead, which always seemed to have a late-afternoon brownness, not matter how clean and uncluttered.

I haven't committed to anything, of course, and I'm still not fully convinced, but it's hard to argue with my wife's logic.  The new condo would be mere minutes from the places we need to keep close to--the rehab center (for my knee), my neurologist, my wife's physician and allergist.  And there's a beautiful kind of symmetry in moving downtown--when we first got married, we had a little apartment not far from where the condos are located now.  Moving back would brogan everything full circle. Again, we haven't set anything in stone, but I can imagine a time in the near future when my wife will let me know what it is that I've decided to do.  She's very thoughtful that way.

Until Next Week,

Christoff's Dad

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