“We were coming back from visiting family in southern California, when I said to my husband, ‘It will be good to get home’ and realized I meant PVE,” I said. My friend turned to me and said thoughtfully, “I guess that means it’s for keeps.”
Making the decision to leave a home and community where one has invested many happy years is a huge commitment. When the Mayflower van pulls out of the driveway, there’s more than furniture inside. So much psychological baggage is packed in the van there’s barely room for the grandfather clock.
There is much regret involved in leaving familiar surroundings. There is the house itself, standing proudly among its neighboring colonials or split levels, where we have watched our children grow, marry, and bring our grandchildren back to visit. Each room has a satisfying feeling of comfort and intimacy. There is the lawn and garden where each season of the year brings color and beauty to our lives. There is the church where we have worshipped in fellowship, mourned the loss of a friend or neighbor, rejoiced at weddings, baptisms and holidays, and found solace and reassurance when times were uncertain.
There is the neighborhood club where we have found a second home on the golf course, at the swimming pool and in the game room. Meeting friends there for brunch or dinner was a ritual enjoyed by all, and although we may have grumbled at assessments for improved greens or better lighting in the ladies’ room, we tolerated these minor inconveniences because we were at home there and we appreciated our pleasant surroundings.
There are all the ancillary conveniences; our favorite markets for fresh produce, the bakery that advertises its products through the seductive aromas that waft our way, the sales associates who call us when something they deem appropriate for our wardrobe arrives, the mechanic who knows our cars and all their eccentricities, the lawn service personnel who may not speak our language, but who acknowledge us with broad smiles and a cheerful wave, even on the hottest days.
We are making the decision to leave this microcosm of comfort and strike out on an adventure that is a lifestyle change of enormous magnitude. Will we find congenial and compatible friends? Will our home offer privacy and be the quiet retreat we desire?
It’s a “hard sell” for marketing departments in retirement communities. Not only must they emphasize the positive qualities of the facility they represent; they must also persuade the client that all the amenities they are leaving behind are a natural progression in retirement living. It surprises me that so many of us decide to take the quantum leap, put our houses on the market, downsize our possessions and actually make the move to a retirement community. No matter how much the virtues are extolled, it is still a trade-off.
Reality tells us that our bodies are failing, our memories impaired, and our feelings of safety in society becoming doubtful. Yet we continue to function satisfactorily, if precariously. When the decision is finally made, and we find ourselves arranging furniture and other possessions in a new and unfamiliar venue, there is the very real possibility that we will doubt the wisdom of our decision. But we persevere, meet new acquaintances in the dining room, the swimming pool, the apartment corridors, and the bocce court, and each experience is invariably a reassurance that we are doing what is best; we are aging gracefully, and we are pleased with our adventurous action.
I knew I was home when I dragged out the silver to use at a small dinner party, when I rescued the Crock Pot and joined the slow-cooking trend popular on TV cooking shows, and when I planted azaleas in the ground outside our unit. Small decisions but made with the confidence that the Big Decision had been a correct one.