I spent most of my life steeped in country living. I grew our own food, kept bees and earned a bit of money writing for newspapers and magazines…mostly about country life and gardening.
For over 20 years my husband Darcy drove 45 minutes on bad roads from our farm to his store, and then back again. He did this just so we could raise our children in the same community I grew up in, close to my family. He never once complained.
Over the last decade things changed as they are wont to do. Our kids grew up and left home and moved several hundred miles away. My father was diagnosed with congestive heart failure which led to vascular dementia. In 2007 my mother made the decision to leave their farm and the home they had lived in for over 50 years and move into town. In the early spring of 2016 she was diagnosed with a combination of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
My father now lives in long-term care. He can no longer walk or talk but most days you can still get a smile out of him. Some days he just sits there and looks awful. In June of 2016 my mother moved into assisted living – a building situated a couple hundred feet from the facility that houses my father. It is possible for them to wave at each other from the windows of their buildings. They don’t actually do that, but they could. It isn’t how any of us imagined them living out their golden years, but what can you do.
In 2014 Darcy finally started to get tired of the drive. I was stressed out over my parents, still adjusting to the empty nest and a bit more undone than I realized. Our country home needed more and more maintenance. I tried to do as much as I could on my own, but there was a growing list of projects I needed Darcy to take care of. Things got a tad tense. Our little log house and the sixty acres it sat on had become a part of who I was. I loved it there. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.
We decided to move. You’ve been commuting long enough, I said. It would be an adventure, I said. I would adjust, I said. A change might be just what I need, I said. I was so eager to help lighten Darcy’s load, to pay him back for all the sacrifices he had made so we could live the life we had.
The housing market was insane. A new home on a tiny lot in town was going for almost twice what our country home would bring. If we really stretched our budget we could just barely afford a fixer upper. We were fixer uppered out. Along came a chance to buy a brand new corner unit apartment on the top floor. An apartment.
That would be different I said.
Darcy loved the idea of zero maintenance. I liked the idea of having money left over after selling our house.
So we moved.
From our home in the country into an apartment.
Four minutes from work, maintenance free and with views of rooftops. Darcy was delighted. He loved his new life. As for me, I missed the country so much I could barely breathe. I felt like a bird tossed in a box. I was so used to wide open spaces, birdsong and coyote calls; to stepping outside into acres of forest and the sound of wind in the trees. I was used to walking through fields humming with insects, caring for animals and growing flowers and vegetables. I was ill prepared for the sterile world of apartment life.
For over 20 years I had written a weekly humor column for half a dozen newspapers and articles for gardening magazines. Over the course of the move I stopped writing for both. A couple of months later the main gardening magazine I wrote for went bankrupt. It was as if everything I identified myself with was being stripped away. Mother, daughter, beekeeper, writer, grower of enormous gardens…all of it was either diminished, radically changed or gone altogether. I couldn’t go back but it felt like I couldn’t go forward neither. I didn’t know where I fit anymore. I was like a plant that had been yanked up by its roots and was now tapping at the concrete with nothing to sink itself into. I grew increasingly depressed and then deeply ashamed of being depressed.
Darcy and I moved into our apartment with a vague five to ten year-ish plan that would take us to retirement and then on to another move. I don’t know where life will take us next, but right now this blog is my next step. A blog about growing older and finding meaning in this big beautiful mess we call life. It’s about leaving the good life but finding a good slice. Because there’s always a good slice in there somewhere.