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.