There are times in your life when you know you are coming to a crossroads – a place of choices where the old way must be left behind and you must choose a new path. Such a time is nearing in my life as my husband approaches retirement within the next year or so.
If we had never left either of our hometowns, the choices would be far different than they are. If we had never transferred from location to location, the choices also might be different. As it is, however, we find ourselves living where we do not wish to spend the rest of our lives. And that brings us to multiple decisions about what we want, where to go, how to find the place, the house, the community, the life we are inevitably moving towards.
It’s not like we want to move back to either of our home towns – St. Paul is darned cold in the winter and darned hot and humid in the summers. Chicago isn’t much better – just windier. Cold and snow are not something we relish as we age! And we really don’t want to go back to any of the other cities/towns we’ve lived in recognizing that you can never really find what you once may have had in that time and place in the past. Places, things, and people all change. No, we recognize we need to forge a totally new pathway for ourselves, and we are feeling a bit lost in the process.
As an inveterate researcher, I’ve read some books on the process of transitions, on the so-called “best retirement places,” and on how to fill your retirement time with everything from part time employment to volunteerism to resort-style living to traveling the world to going back to school and more. All of that information is somewhat useful, but really hasn’t pointed us in any particular direction.
Our daughter wants us to retire in her university town – she has tenure there and plans to spend the rest of her life in “happy valley.” Do we want to thrust ourselves on one of our children that way? Oh, not now, of course, but certainly in the future we will need more help and she and her husband will be the only “family” in the area. Is that a good idea? I honestly don’t know. Our son lives in a northern, very rural state and we cannot picture ourselves there either… Besides, his children are growing up so fast they’ll soon all be going their own ways in many new directions.
What do we want for ourselves throughout the rest of our lives? What are our hobbies? our preferences, our needs, our joys, our pleasures? Good libraries are a must since we’re both researchers, albeit in very different fields. A college town sounds inviting – especially if we could use their libraries, attend cultural events, and audit classes for free! We both share a love of genealogical research but that doesn’t mean we want to settle near a National Archives Research Center or in either of our hometowns just to make research easier. The Internet already does that! We enjoy music/concerts/symphonies but that doesn’t mean we need to live in a major city. We enjoy nature/walks/plants/animals but that doesn’t mean we need to make our home in the woods or mountains somewhere.
So where does that leave us? With a strange list of requirements with regard to our future home – a “wish list” of sorts including, but not limited to:
A ranch house with everything on one floor
A guest room
A den large enough for two – or two spare rooms so we each have an office
No steps from the garage or front door into the house
Universal design features – including higher toilet seats, wider doorways, etc.
A basement – if we’re living in an area where tornadoes occur – preferably a walk-out one with lots of light so I could have an art studio there
An open floor plan with lots of windows/light – a sunroom would be delightful!
Eco-friendly, energy efficient design & appliances
No loft or cathedral ceilings to make it drafty or hard to heat or cool
A beautiful view of nature – woods, water, mountains, or some such
A warm, friendly community
Public transportation would be nice…
Something we can afford… and what I’ve researched so far hasn’t managed this very real requirement.
Are we asking for too much?
Where on earth will we find it?
How on earth will we find it?
When will we find it?
All we can do now is research and trust that what we really need will eventually appear – although we may not recognize it until years later…