A Perfect House

Thank you to everyone for the heartfelt messages.  Having an international community of support is priceless.  My heart goes out to those of you who have experienced or are experiencing similar situations.  I learned a lot from this move, not the least of which is to follow my own advice to live in the moment.

When our South Carolina house went under contract, we left for Michigan on a sweltering July day with the objective of buying another house.  Since Martin doesn’t drive anymore, the nearly 800 miles behind the wheel was left to me.  Many asked why we didn’t fly.  Martin doesn’t fly anymore either.  Airports are noisy.  Jets are cramped.  Even with the no check-in line, getting through security is a challenge for me alone.  For someone who must be spoken to slowly, succinctly without a surrounding cacophony just getting to the plane is a major stress.  I split the drive into two days with a stopover in Lexington, Kentucky at our favorite Man O’War Boulevard hotel.  Still, it was exhausting, for both of us.  It is what it is.

The closing on our SC house was scheduled for August 28 so time was of the essence.  On the advice of Martin’s neurologist I was working to take Martin from one house to the other with scarcely any stops in between.  Getting him settled into a new environment with as few adjustments as possible was imperative for his well-being and mine.

With the idea of downsizing both in house and land, we arrived with a handful of properties to view.  Houses in Michigan are most often built on basements, many with finished walk-out basements.  I knew there would be stairs.  With that in mind, I pursued only ranch styles to keep it to one set.  After all, I wanted a house where we could age in place.  We had a lot of advantages in our quest, from human help to technological help — the internet, smart phones and GPS; our Realtor, Faith, appropriately named for this adventure, is my daughter, Rachel’s, niece by marriage.  I felt confident there was a house for us among the ones identified.

However, none of the houses “spoke” to us.  Martin was especially discouraged.  After two days of intent looking, I found myself sitting on the sofa in Rachel’s sunroom at 4 a.m.  Our search was taking us further and further from her address.  There wasn’t a point of moving to Michigan if we were an hour away from help.  

During this introspection, an epiphany – instead of buying for the present, I was buying for a future I didn’t even know if we would have.  I had an idea where Martin’s disease would take us, but how many years away was that?  In 2018 his neurologist told us it was moving at a glacial pace.  It could be ten or even twenty years.  We are still in good physical health.  Martin bicycles 80 to a 100 miles a week at 21 miles per hour!  He can certainly climb stairs.  I needed to consider two story houses, two sets of stairs for the moment we were in, not the future yet to come. 

Later that morning as Faith drove us to look at more properties, I mentioned my thoughts to her.  We were minutes from Rachel’s house when she pointed to the right and said, “If you’re considering two stories, there’s a beautiful house behind all those trees.”   After pulling up the listing on my phone, scrolling through photos and showing Martin, I told Faith we wanted to see the house.

It isn’t a style I would have thought about purchasing.  This wasn’t downsizing; it’s nearly 3,700 square feet.  Definitely not the smaller piece of land I searched for, it sits on fifteen acres with a small pond and a slice of frontage along a small lake.  

As I stood in the huge kitchen that day, I caught a glimpse of Martin disappearing down one of the many paths through the woods.  I quickly asked Faith to go after him so I could look around some more.  I watched as her 6’2” frame vanished down the path after Martin.  With her spring green dress and long flowing blond curls, I felt like I was watching Alice chasing the White Rabbit.  I hoped we weren’t about to go down the rabbit hole.  Upon their return I put my doubts aside.  Martin was all smiles.  “Better, better, better” his way of saying this is the one.

There were other two stories, but this is the one.  This is the house for this moment in our lives.  We will grow old.  We will have health issues.  We will die.  All the advice, including mine, about having a house for aging in place deprives us of living in the present, the here and now, the joy of the moment.

This is the house with the family sized kitchen for cooking and gathering, dedicated spaces for the art studio, indoors bicycling when the snow flies, a writing room for me, the house in a private setting with deer, turkey, squirrels and chipmunks, the house with room for bird feeding stations, the house about a mile from a good riding route for Martin, the house with beautiful gardens to tend in good weather and add winter interest, the house with the dining room big enough for our family to enjoy Sunday dinners and the house close enough for help to arrive in minutes.  This is the perfect house for this moment.

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28 comments on “A Perfect House

  1. Thank you Kathy. You are so right. With our sensible head on we want to future proof because we want to minimise the upheaval for our loved ones. We forget to live in the moment and how they are coping with change. Let alone what state of mind a few months or years may bring. I did the same. I moved to be nearer family and although the house has challenges being near a support network has helped my emotional well-being and in return I am able to support my husband more as I get some support that he too enjoys. We don’t know what the future brings but I feel I am in the right part of the country should I be left on my own and that has helped me so much. So as my doctor said to my husband quality of life is more important than quantity and we are both adjusting that little bit better especially as I am now able to share the challenge these awful diseases bring. I am finding your blog so helpful. This is not the retirement I planned but it is bearable because I am opening up more. I wish you well in your happy place and hope you make many happy memories. Regards Barbara

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  2. I may start calling you “Hope”, for that’s what this piece is giving me. Ive been wallowing in dispair as we too try to downsize in another area near children. The thought alone of looking for that final home, final resting place, has been so stressful and also depressing. Like you our search area seems to be widening further from those we are trying to be near.
    Your article gives me hope. It’s not just about our final years, but about today. We are in our late 60s so no, we aren’t as energetic as we were 40 years ago when we bought our present home. Our minds are both sharp and our health is manageable. I don’t want this move to be sad. I want more. I want to change our search filters to suit our present lives. Thank you, thank you for sharing your story. You’ve touched my heart in so many ways. 💕

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  3. Thank you for that nice reminder. I’ve spent too much time in the past (mainly because of friends coming in for 50th college reunions.) And I too worry about our future health. We keep thinking we will see where our son is going to land. But for the moment we will stay here and work in the garden and be happy that we can. Best wishes for Happiness in your new home.

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  4. Hi Kathy, we too moved to retire in Michigan. For us it was to get closer to family and we also ended up with a much larger home and property than we originally wanted. However, we love the new home and proximity to family. My heart goes out to you and your struggles. Some dementia runs in my family and it scares me. My husband is diabetic and doing well but certainly something we have to keep on top of!

    Blessings to you!
    Connie

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  5. I appreciate what you’ve written here. Been following your past few posts. Good luck with the next few months of transition as you settle into your new “normal”. I retired on August 1 of this year and I’m launching my blog at http://www.EncourageMeNews.com. It’s still in it’s very infant stages, but you gotta start somewhere, and I’m very excited to be writing as my encore career. 🙂 Blessings to you and your family.

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  6. I am so happy for you, Kathy. The new house sounds wonderful. I know you will enjoy the 15 acres. I lived on property similar to that for 23 years and loved every day with nature all around me. Let the future take care of itself. As one of my late father’s favorite Bible verses says, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Meaning, let tomorrow take care of itself – today is enough for me!

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  7. What a heart warming story of letting your hearts lead the way. We’re still in the house that “spoke” to us…….for over 30 years now. We’ve made many updates over the years and it’s still home. As you are both still physically able, certainly you are right to pick a happy place over just a practical place. Bless you for your love and care of Martin and wishing you your own fulfillment.

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  8. Hello from Cape Town, thank you for letting me into your personal space, you are wonderful and precious and a great writer, your words feed and inspire me to live in the now. Sending you hugs fill with Strength for today and tomorrow. Love from Lizzie 💪💖💪

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  9. My heart went out to you after your last post. So glad you found your new home.
    I do admire your courage and persistence. Thank you for being a good role model on aging.

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  10. This blog and the previous one are so poignant. So glad you found a haven of peace for you and Martin no matter what comes next or when. Best regards

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  11. Kathy, Another friend said she knew the moment she went into her (new) house that it was hers. Sounds like you had a similar first experience.
    I called the house we bought 2 years ago a “10-year house” because we can still do stairs and still want the storage for all hubby’s toys. It’s not the age-in-place home. Not yet. That (hopefully) will come someday, but not yet. Today’s house is for living today. And your home sounds lovely for living your life today.

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  12. Congratulations. May you have many years of happiness and comfort in this house. I love how you thought this through and how you came to a new plan. Thank you again for your openness and willingness to share your journey with us.

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  13. Your new house sounds perfect! And you’re right to buy a house for now. You already made a big move so that you would be closer to your daughter, so that you’ll have help when you need it – whenever that is. We, too, moved – to a condo in which we “downsized” by exactly 100 sq feet! Perfect for now, we’ll deal with someday when it arrives.

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  14. Thank you for sharing your experiences! That house sounds amazing! So glad you rethought your needs. A good lesson for all of us. Saying a prayer for you both.

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  15. The house sounds like a great choice. You’ve got a lot of living to do so glad you went with this one. Hoping the routines get established quickly and trouble-free.

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  16. Kathy,
    So glad to hear you have found a place to settle. And it sounds like a wonderful place.
    I love your words, “This is the house for this moment in our lives”. You are so right about not knowing our future. Best of luck to you and Martin.

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