Finding community

Susan, Age 73

In the mid 1990’s I blew the whistle on a couple of health care crooks whose companies I had managed. My then lawyer spouse wanted me to keep quiet and keep my job. In truth, the spouse never backed me up on anything. He was more concerned with himself. Always.

During the administrative law trial my life had been threatened, my car had been sabotaged after I left the court room and I had been followed. A death threat was written on my door. All of these things happened after I became the state’s key witness against these crooks.

After blowing the whistle on these crooks, it was time to look at my marriage. Time to end it. I could no longer live the corporate lifestyle. Both were incredibly empty.

My children finished college and relocated to follow their dreams. I relocated to follow mine.

I moved to the Smokies, bought land and designed a simple house. A friend in law enforcement who was ending his marriage wanted to come with me. He was a fine man. For the first time in my life I felt protected. We lived together for a few years when it became clear I needed to be on my own. We remain friends.

Living in the south, I told no one what I had been through. Honestly, I didn’t know how to talk about it. In my family of origin you kept a stiff upper lip and mustered on. Being independent, I felt I could move beyond all of this.

The small town I selected was the best experience. I lived there for seventeen years on the side of a mountain in the woods. Wildlife was just outside my door and I loved every minute of it. There was really no adjustment. I was so grateful to be there. I was involved in a lot of environmental causes. I felt needed.

Just about to enter my 70s, I knew it was time to live closer to family. Despite flying every 10-12 weeks since the divorce to see them, I was tired of airplanes, exhausted after each trip. My children were now parents and I wanted to be involved with my grandchildren. One lived in Maine. I liked the New England area and thought that might be a good place to live. My daughter’s marriage fortunately ended as it was not a healthy one from the start. Her daughter was two when I relocated to Maine. Both moved in with me when she divorced. Including the large dog.

It wasn’t easy having an entire household after so many years living solo. My house was small and sound carried everywhere. After five months she found her own townhouse and moved. They are doing really well. They’ve been there a year now. She has a nice boyfriend who seems very supportive.

My point in writing this is that I thoroughly enjoy reading what everyone has shared. I admire the deep honesty and willingness to share one’s pain. Throughout my time in the mountains, I always felt essentially alone. I know that is mostly a mindset. I was in more emotional pain than I could admit. Pain that I have no one to share my golden years. Having said that, I am grateful my life is as good as it is. But now it is time for me to fulfill that emptiness.

I moved to New England just before Covid. The first year or so I was sick, depressed and trying to find my comfort zone. I think we find it, then lose it, and find it or move along without it. Covid struck and I managed living without people (except for my family who moved in with me for five months) very well. Fortunately, I got vaccinated and never got the virus. Living in the mountains in a remote area taught me how to be incredibly resourceful and to live solo. But things were different now. I was different. Older.

We are coming out of Covid now I hope. My newly acquired asthma seems under control. At 73, I want a community here. A sense of place which I don’t have just yet. Mainers aren’t easy to know unlike the south. I’m on the outskirts of a city and have woods behind me. There are good services nearby and I can walk to many of them. My small house is wonderful. Easy to manage.

I know it takes time to adjust but the clock is ticking. I miss the mountains terribly, my community there. But we do take ourselves and our history where ever we live. I am grateful that I can finally talk about it.

The quest now is to find community, other than the one within.

This entry was posted in 70candles, Adaptations and accommodations as we age, Aging, Family matters, Loneliness, Looking ahead, Where to live and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Finding community

  1. Kathleen Keneipp says:

    Thank you for sharing. You sound like a strong, independent woman who obviously has been through a lot in your life. My husband and I have been married for 51 years and have one son who lives far away in another state. We have been informed that grandchildren are not an option. He has a busy job and travels a great deal. Living near him would be lonely. We are grateful when we do get to see him though. We have a large Victorian which we need to sell and downsize. We have church and friends so I guess that will be our lives, though I am the restless sort. Maybe do some short trips now that we both are retired. I miss my job. Have even thought of going back to work, maybe part time. I need to feel needed, and want to be helpful at the same time. In my mind, I am kind of a mess right now, ha. Hopefully all will work out.

  2. Joan Goodman says:

    i’m in my late 80’S now and mostly healthy except for knees and walking, which I do doctor for. One thing strikes me that people do not realize is: Be grateful for what you have….like being able to walk without pain, run, go grocery shopping, etc. I never appreciated my walking until it was mostly taken away.

    • Susan says:

      Joan, thank you for the reminder. We do get stuck in our heads, wishing things would be different than they are. Darn those myriad of expectations we all have.

      This will be the first Thanksgiving in twenty years that my children and I have been together. My son was in the Peace Corps and on another continent for a while. Then there was his marriage, relocation, living at a distance and the same with my daughter. And other families liked sharing them. That has changed with death and a divorce.

      Physical changes do force us to see what is still possible. I sure hear you on the knees (and a few more joint issues in my case).

      Could you share some of your life with us? Things you have enjoyed and what you enjoy now?

      Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Patricia Farber says:

    I loved it all, all you ladies are so strong. I need help in the social department too.

    • Susan says:

      Patricia, I have been thinking a lot about life satisfaction. Being the idealist, I always want things to improve. But I realized how much I have looked outside myself for most of my life. It has only been the last few years that my thoughts turn within.

      As others have kindly shared, they also moved to be closer to family. While I do enjoy that, I also know I must find more satisfaction within. The world and people will always be where they are. And, I think it is important to reach out. But there is that fine line that at some point, hopefully, where we pull ourselves closer. I suppose that is where I am.

      My children and their families will be here for Thanksgiving. This is the first time in twenty years. My daughter-in-law’s mom passed last year so they can travel now. We are making some of her (the mother who passed) favorite dishes for Thanksgiving.

      I really enjoyed having another mother with whom to share the grands.

  4. Cathy says:

    Your email got me to thinking – I lost my husband last year, right before COVID. We were very close – it’s like our lives were woven together, a tapestry. No kids, I have no siblings, parents are gone, naturally. My dog is my life saver. Anyway – here I am – not much connection to my community where I’ve lived for over 40 years. It’s a small town and I live outside the village in a rural setting. So, one thing I’ve thought of, that I haven’t done yet because of COVID (lots of anti-vaxers/anti-maskers here) is to go to town board meetings. They hold them once a month. Find out what’s going on, what the issues are. Lots of times you encounter the 3C’s at these meetings, but maybe meet some like minded people, and find some things I can get involved in. Good luck to you. I admire your bravery!

    • Susan says:

      Cathy, I hope you enjoy that. Maybe you can go on a committee. Often those relationships lead outside of the board meetings – lunch, dinner, maybe a walk or hike together.

      Please let us know how that goes for you.

  5. Evelyn says:

    It’s not easy to be brave!!! But you did the right thing, and I hope that brings you comfort.
    Have you tried book clubs? I find they are good community builders. Also, you mentioned services – is there a faith community where you would feel comfortable? Last suggestion – volunteer work in a school, a hospital, or, if you are so inclined, for a political cause. GOOD LUCK!!!

    • Susan says:

      Evelyn, I have done some Zoom groups but they don’t segue to actually meeting people. Volunteering was/is impossible during a pandemic. I am on several waiting lists – maybe spring people will vaccinate, mask up and we can get beyond this virus. I’ve been a lifelong volunteer so not volunteering now is challenging.

      Thanks for your response.

  6. Sheila Reid says:

    Hello Susan,
    I’m 80 now and have lost my husband and two close friends in the last six months. So I know about starting over again. I spent the last two years of my husband’s illness writing a book called Art & Creaky Bones. I mention it because it encourages people to begin a creative activity, which I think is one of the best ways to make new friends. It is harder when you’re older and loneness is so difficult. Creative things are really satisfying in old age and it seems that we even have a special talent for innovation. I hope this is helpful to you and I send you all my best wishes from France, where I live. (PS if you want to see the book, it’s at amazon) All the best, Sheila Reid

    • Susan says:

      Sheila, creativity has helped immensely. I do watercolors but have had a painting block for some time. It seems I paint when I need something for a wall. (laughing) Right now I am making animal pins for my granddaughters. I am learning to embroider and really enjoy that.

      I’ve always been a hiker but arthritis is making that challenging so I walk often.

      Writing is such a catharsis and I am glad that has helped you. I am sorry about the loss of your husband. Are you originally from France?

      P.S. I will look up your book. Thanks.

  7. Susan says:

    There is of course, more to this story. The FBI was involved, several patients and an employee died, all mysteriously. The physician committed documented Medicare and Medicaid fraud alone to the tune of $500,000 in the mid 90s. The two psychologists covered up sexual abuse of minor clients. When 60 Minutes invited me on I was hesitant. I insisted on being interviewed only in silhouette. The attorney general for the state where I was living asked Mike Wallace, the interviewer/host for 60 Minutes at the time to hold off.

    I am glad I did not do the interview. The celebrity part would not fit as I do not want to be known publicly. The reason I ever considered it was to encourage others to speak up when they see illegal behavior.

    The interesting thing about all of this was when I first met with one of the Deputy Attorney General. She asked why I came forth.

    “Because it is wrong.”

  8. Jane Hallowell says:

    Your email touched my heart, and I so relate to what you wrote. Doesn’t it feel good to tell it like it is? Six years ago, I moved from MA to Texas to be near grandkids. And I so long for New England and being close to the ocean. I took it for granted when it was close by. I first moved to the Texas countryside a year ahead of when my son moved here, and the culture was very difficult for me. A year ago, my partner threw me out (which was a good thing, believe it or not), and I moved much closer to where my son ended up moving to. I’ve gotten to know the grandkids, which has been absolutely wonderful. But here I am at age 72, starting all over yet again trying to make friends and wanting to find that sense of community. It does take time, doesn’t it?

    • Susan says:

      Jane, this has been a rough year for people living in Texas. My heart goes out to you. And, a big culture shock.

      Mine wasn’t hard moving to NC at all. The anthropologist in me was waiting for all that variety. Moving to Maine as you know just before Covid was hard. Mainers take a long time to get to know people. It must be the cold weather. They don’t seem to be in a rush in that regard. They are with their driving. 🙂

      It is wonderful getting to know the grandkids for sure. I was lucky to spend so much time with my youngest grand who is now in school. It was a challenging adjustment, worse than when my own daughter (who was my youngest went to school).

      When I lived in western NC, I went to a few Newcomer’s Club meetings. On one I got up to use the restroom. When I returned I learned I had been voted their next President. It was fun.

      Are you in a small town now?

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