Like I've blogged about before, my wife and I -- both 65 years old -- are having trouble figuring out what we want to do when we grow up.
More precisely, where we want to live.
Do we keep on living in our beautiful, large, non-easy care, early 1970's house on ten acres in rural south Salem, or do we join the downsizing crowd and move to a smaller home in the city?
Recently we invited a realtor to join us in our this or that, here or there perplexed ponderings. Rich Ford of Windermere Real Estate was recommended to us by some neighbor friends. We already can do the same: recommend him.
Rich is knowledgeable, friendly, experienced, and low-key. We haven't felt pressured to do anything, though in part this might be because we have no firm idea what we want to do.
Laurel and I scheduled an appointment with Rich to talk about our newest notion: finding a moderately priced house in Salem we could purchase now, rent for a while, then move into when our current rural lifestyle screams no mas! to us.
Interestingly, Rich said he had several other clients about our age who were considering the same thing. I told him, "Well, that makes me feel somewhat better. If this idea is crazy, at least we've got some company in our insanity."
Since, we've window-shopped a bunch of listings in south Salem, our preferred part of town, that Rich has been sending to us. Yesterday we actually toured three houses. Standing on the street afterwards, talking about the experience, Rich ably summarized our dilemma.
"You have two sets of screening criteria. You want a house that could be rented now, and you also want a house you'd be happy living in later. Those are different things."
For sure. My wife and I agreed with him.
We're happy where we are now. We love our house. We enjoy living in a natural setting with trails, a community lake, wildlife, a nearly year-round creek, no other houses within sight and just a few within earshot.
Ever since we began thinking seriously about looking for another house, albeit just a backup to our current one, I've been paying more attention to what I like about our present living situation. In short, a lot.
I tend to take where we live for granted and focus on the problems with maintaining our property and having to drive 20 minutes to downtown Salem. But looking at some houses in town that needed quite a bit of work made Laurel and me realize how much we're attracted to a certain sort of residence:
The one we're in now.
Our problem is that we want to keep everything we like about our current house while eliminating the fewer things we don't like. Such as handling a very large high-maintenance yard, making sure two wells run properly, keeping poison oak and blackberries from infesting our acreage like they used to.
Yet the good comes with the bad. And in the city, the bad comes with the good.
We don't like lots of asphalt, dog walks on a leash, street noise, annoying neighbors close by. Philosophically we favor walkable/bikable/energy efficient urban living. Emotionally we are attached to our rural lifestyle.
So we've become like a lot of barely-65 baby boomers. Generally healthy, fit, and mobile, we're starting to look ahead to a time when we may be (or will be) less able to live in the house and setting we enjoy now.
The quandary is: when to make the move? Or at least, when to seriously consider a move?
More and more, we say things to each other like Maybe we should just stay where we are until we die. Intuitively, this is what rings true to me, though "until we die" might be overly dramatic and unrealistic. How about "until we really, REALLY feel we want to move"?
The present is known. The future isn't. We know what we like and don't like about our current living situation. We can thankfully embrace the likes and do something to change the don't likes.
Last night I was lying on our living room carpet, idly patting the dog, when I looked at our vaulted ceiliing in a different way than I usually do -- because of the house for sale visits we'd gone on with our realtor that day.
Besides the ceiling fan whirring around, I was struck by how much I enjoy our almost entirely wood clad home -- walls and ceilings. Hardly any painted or wallpaper surfaces. Back in the 1970's this lavish use of wood was a lot more cost-effective than it is now.
When people walk into our house, they often go "Oh my gosh! This is so cool!" But after living here for 24 years, we've become used to the coolness, the marvelous use of various kinds of wood, the natural setting right outside our large windows.
The house we're looking for, the house that suits us right now, it's the one we already have. We've spent almost a quarter century fixing it up the way we like, removing outdated decor, remodeling the kitchen and bathrooms.
Yes, it makes sense to plan for an ever-older future.
Laurel and I want to keep on looking into other living possibilities. But thinking about moving to a different home has made us look upon our current one with new eyes, appreciating what we have now more vibrantly (I almost said "mindfully," but this is a trendy term that's being overused).
Everybody is different.
I resonate with people I talk with who are super-pleased with moving from a large house in the country to a smaller home in the city. I can understand the pleasure of being a few minutes from downtown, in a walkable/bikable area, with neighborly neighbors strolling by and saying "Hi."
I resonate with them, then think "I want to die hauling branches to a burn pile, walking the dog on a stormy windy night through the woods and around the lake, or using my Stihl backpack blower to whoosh copious fallen autumn oak leaves into the brush with a geezerish cry of "Hasta la vista, you bastards!"
I hate those leaves. I love those leaves. I hate dealing with them every year. I love dealing with them every year. But the hate is outweighed by the love. As with our house and property in general. Sometime life may tear it out of our hating and loving hands.
We just are coming to feel that life itself will find a way to clearly tell us when it is time to move. Until then, why not enjoy what we have until it obviously isn't enjoyable anymore?
Someone spoke to me recently about her 85 year old father, who is still living with her mother on a farm in Nebraska. They have leased out most of the land, but continue to maintain some of it.
She said that when she phoned, her mother said, "Your dad is up on the windmill, trying to fix it." When she was able to speak with her father, he got an earful: "Dad, you can't do that any more. One day you're going to kill yourself."
I thought, he wouldn't mind that. Dying on a windmill, on a beloved farm you've lived on for most of your life. Not a bad way to go. Not bad at all.