The very day I turned 66, 177 of you wished me well on a decision to take the advice I’d been giving others: To leave a house I loved as one loves something animate, not merely a construction of clapboard and stone, before the inevitable crisis that would make it too hard to live there and also too hard to leave under my own steam.
My darling house belongs to somebody else now, and a bit more than a month has passed since I bought an apartment that’s nice enough – better than I expected, really, given the price I could afford. With the new year here, the days at their shortest and a couple of snowfalls behind me, the time seems ripe to revisit this move.
Did I do the right thing? You betcha. At the right moment? Sure I did. There are pluses and minuses, upsides and downsides. But I’d still argue that anyone who waits much longer than I did to align her living circumstances to the inexorable march of time is kidding herself. “Anything is possible” and “you never know’’ apply to much of life. But I’ve yet to meet anyone, except on a movie screen (or in a state of denial), who doesn’t get older every day.
Absent a guarantee I’d have died in my sleep while still able to walk up and down the stairs, use a chain saw, shovel snow and drive a car – to name just a few of the realities of suburban homeownership – waiting even a few years longer would have been folly.
What has been taxing now, both physically and emotionally, would have become geometrically harder with each year and impossible, perhaps in an eye blink, with one stroke of bad luck.
So, a tally of the experience, still a work in progress, in predictable and unpredictable ways:
I wish I’d done a better job of culling my possessions, leaving half again as much behind. I’m still living amid towers of boxes (somewhat mitigated by my continued amusement at the moving company’s name – Shleppers).
I wish those boxes weren’t so heavy. (Ditto the furniture, which the movers carefully placed where I wanted it …until I changed my mind). Or that I were stronger. Or that the boxes didn’t have to be broken down, taped into bundles and “shlepped” (ah, ha!) to the basement, along with garbage bags stuffed with the tissue paper enveloping every box of tea bags or can of soup.
I wish I understood the array of recycling bins in the basement, new to New York City since my departure 25 years ago, and commendable for sure. Cans and bottles in clear bags? Paper in dark ones? (Does this kind of new information keep the brain sharp like learning Sanskrit or doing Sudoku puzzles? Because if it does, I can consider my uncomfortable ignorance to be an Alzheimer’s preventive.)
I am baffled, too, by MetroCards; swiping them on the train is a snap, but the bus … not so much. And those Muni Meters for parking – which way does the credit card go in? Can you park there without paying on a holiday?
This last actually required some investigation, and the woman answering my 311 call surely thought me an idiot. She kept repeating it was a parking meter holiday. I was embarrassed to ask if these newfangled things are parking meters. Since selling my car was No. 1 on the “Old Lady Moves” agenda, this was blessedly a short-lived confusion.
I wish the bathroom wasn’t so tiny. I wish the southern light flooding my bedroom instead brightened the living room or office during the shortest days of the year.
I wish I controlled the thermostat, so the apartment isn’t either way too hot or way too cold. I wish I could simply open the door to let the dog out rather than trade my pajamas for a parka at 9 o’clock in the morning to walk him.
The dog, Henry, has made his own adjustments, although he made them more nimbly than I. At 8 years old, he’d always done his business on grass, not pavement, and he looked at me with bafflement the first time I took him out in the city. After two days of sniffing, he’d picked his spots; maybe, 56-year-olds (in dog years) are more open to new experiences than 66-year-olds.
He figured out which doormen took unkindly to mess outside their buildings, even if it was instantly scooped up. He’s especially fond of urinating on a tree ringed with cabbage plants. I wish he wouldn’t, but thought it more important to teach him not to wet the mound of blankets around the corner, which turned out to be a sleeping homeless man. I considered waking him to apologize, but instead yanked the leash hard, growled “no” in my best alpha voice and fled the scene. It hasn’t happened again.
When the confusion of a move was ahead of me, I was jotting every worry on a Post-it, lest I forget. “At what point do I sell the car?” “Where’s the title?” “Dog groomer?” “Veterinarian?” Well, the car is sold, I found a vet and I have a lead on a groomer. Now, after assembling two new 150-watt lamps so heavy that the task was like bench pressing, a chiropractor is at the top of the list. But the appointment will have to wait until the remaining 68 boxes are unpacked.
Also, I need more Band-Aids for the damage caused by fumbled knives while opening those boxes. And another bottle of Traumeel, homeopathic magic for swelling and bruising when the hammer misses the picture-hook nail and hits my hand instead.
Clearly, moving – like every other part of aging – isn’t for sissies. But I have more closet space than I’ve ever had in my life, and golden oak cabinets in the kitchen and bedroom that reach to the ceiling. There are Bosch appliances that I’m way too cheap to have ever bought for myself. Central Park is four blocks to the west, the East River promenade equidistant to the east. Any kind of food is now delivered to my door, my friends are a stroll or subway ride away, movie theaters aren’t in malls, and the superintendent can’t do enough for me.
Then there’s the snow thing. When I woke to gauzy whiteness the other day, to the telltale sound of silence broken by the occasional grumble of plows, I forgot where I was in that hypnagogic moment after sleep. I dreaded the shovel, the rock salt, wet rag socks. Frozen fingertips. Slip-sliding even with four-wheel drive to the A. & P. if I was out of milk.
But no. I live here now. Somebody else shovels. I walk to the corner for milk.
Source: Jane Gross, The New Old Age Blog, The New York Times, January 2, 2014