Seeking wise words

Jo, Age 71

Already I feel less alone reading the blog posts. Here is my story. I am almost retired as an autism consultant and former academic. I’m single with 3 grown children in 3 corners of the U.S. Seattle, Western CT and Miami. I was recently diagnosed with CLL, chronic lymphocytic leukemia and although it can be a chronic condition, I have some markers for poor survival. That being said, I’m active, hike the Appalachian Trail, play in a music group and do some work-related writing. I’m feeling pretty well and will probably need treatment within the next year.

I live alone in Metro D.C. My sister lived 5 miles away but has moved to Wisconsin. I have had several health crises and have had very little support from my friends. Most of them are older than I with health problems or are carers for their spouse so I can’t depend on them. I grew up in the NE in a huge Italian-American family with aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins. I have always felt “something isn’t right” without family. My grandchildren are in Seattle, across the country. While I like Seattle, I would be moving away from my other children, cousins, and everything I have ever known. To complicate issues, my family in Seattle isn’t happy there and are working on finding jobs elsewhere. Although I am very welcome there, and the medical care is good, I am apprehensive, given my health issues, to move and move again, following my grandchildren all over the map.

If I am going to sell my home in D.C.,I want another small house, garden, bird feeder, 2 laying hens, etc., and the time to settle and make new friends. Seattle is so expensive, that wouldn’t be an option. Condos are nearing 1/2 million.

My son in CT, who has no children, would like me to live near him; he and I have more of an emotional compatability than my other kids. Western CT is affordable, clean, lovely, but medical care would require a trip to mid-town Manhattan about once a month – a 2 1/2 hour trip on Metro North. He is suggesting that I buy a small home near him and spend several months a year in Seattle to be with the little ones. My son in Miami is a chef/restaurant owner and doesn’t have time for himself, let alone me so Miami is out.

I could also stay here in D.C., and while I have a good oncologist, acupuncturist, am in a mindfulness meditation group and know my way around since I’ve been here since 1988, I have had several hospitalizations and health crises and had to deal with them on my own. I think the kids look at me as Wonder Woman and while that’s a great thought, reality is my health is fragile at times and the kids have not stepped up. I realize they have their own lives and none of them is within reasonable travel distance; the drive to CT is a good 6 hours from here and its getting harder and harder for me to do. I am always, 90% of the time, the one making the effort to stay connected. I’m tired.

I have been in the process of sorting, purging, donating for over two years. I accumulated an embarrassing amount of stuff, including my mother’s things. She lived with me (and turns 95 next month) but is now with another sibling since my diagnosis.

I go around and around; Seattle, CT, D.C., sometimes depending on which of the two kids ticked me off; the Seattle contingent or the CT group. I know the life I want (small cottage, garden. maybe walkable community) with my family nearby). This is affordable in CT; not in Seattle. Seattle has the kids and part of the lifestyle but a built in “waiting for the other shoe to drop” since they want to move away. I am getting more accepting that I am going to have to make new friends so I’m not as stuck there. I would sincerely appreciate any wise words from my sisters on this blog

Thanks very much. Hope this wasn’t too long winded.

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10 Responses to Seeking wise words

  1. Dede Ranahan says:

    You have a lot on your plate. Take your time. If you like the home you have, why not make new friends where you are? At least until the answer as to what to do becomes more clear. Having said that, I’m not walking in your shoes. I tell my children when they’re facing difficult choices, “Listen to your own voice.” Good luck to you.

  2. Mary Lou says:

    It sounds like you’ve done an excellent job of weighing all your options and being realistic about your possibilities. So many of us are in similar situations. I’ve decided to stay put where I’ve been for a decade and have my life nicely settled. I live in a garden apartment with all maintenance taken care of by a great staff. My thoughts right now, similar to your’s, surround the ‘what ifs’. Between my children and friends I’ve had caring responses when I need assistance for those random medical situations. Reading your assessment I’d stay put until it’s clear you need to be closer to family. My choice would be the son in CT who you share a close emotional relationship with. Live each day fully and trust it will work out in the end.

  3. Blog Mavens says:

    Re: Seeking wise words.
    Seems like CT is your best bet, and fairly soon, before winter would be good. Hard to believe that you would have to go all the way into NYC for your care. Hartford is a big city with great medical care. One of my classmates live there and could recommend for you. We do lock ourselves in boxes of our own making, don’t we? Go the CT and immediately join groups while you feel able. Visit Seattle or wherever they land several times a year to connect with your grandchildren. Although I understand that you love your chickens, that may severely limit your housing options. If you could find a spiritual home when you move, there would be immediate support. Don’t hesitate and plan the move now. Maybe your sister would visit to help you. Let us all know how it goes. Best of luck.

  4. When I read your letter my first thought was that the Internet, statistics and electronics had somehow ‘created’ you. There are just a little bit too many similarities in our stories. Suffice It to say that I live in D.C. and understand your situation.

    I like the suggestion that your Connecticut son has put forth. It gives you, in my opinion, the opportunity to have a bit of everything that you want and chances are the Seattle portion of your family will move closer. The trip to NYC from Western CT is a bit cumbersome but my bet is that other options will become available – and there is Yale as well (probably just as far). I have four grown children and one lives in Tacoma but is moving to Seattle (he’s the chef!). The others are closer geographically but when you raise your children to be adults, they tend to have their own lives and they do tend to look at their moms – certain kinds of moms who have been independent especially – as wonder women. It has mixed blessings. But what I am realizing is that you need to make plans for yourself, to satisfy your needs, that things that make you the happiest – the garden, the chicken. That is your life today and above all, it should be happy. And it seems as if you are lucky enough to have the means to do it.

    The other option would be to stay in D.C. and perhaps look to widening your group of friends. Our children are not us – my mom was my first priority until she died two years ago at the age of 95 (in CT). She did not live with me because she would not leave CT – my dad is buried there (I know, but it’s true). But I was there one week of each month just to be with her. She was totally independent. Her mom (my little Italian grandmother) was HER first priority until she died. I am not nor will be my daughter’s (nor any of my sons’) first priority and that is okay. It just means that MY priorities have to be different.

    Although laced with stress and emotion, look on this chapter as a potentially exciting time. And feel free to respond to this email – perhaps I can be of help here in town.

    Rosemarie Clune

  5. Blog Mavens says:

    Hi, Jo.

    It seems like you are mostly geared toward Western CT. That means accepting some difficult realities and some unknowns.
    It also sounds like the most viable option to have the home and lifestyle you describe wanting.
    You sound logical and practical. Maybe get quiet with yourself to let your wise inner person speak to advise you.
    I think you really have wise words inside already and maybe just needed to hear that from outside.


  6. Jo,
    Go to CT. Your son is wanting you there (the best reason) and the idea of just visiting Seattle is excellent. I live in Tacoma, WA, about 35 miles south of Seattle. You are right about housing cost there and it continues to rise. All the surrounding areas are feeling it as well.
    So, go to CT while you are still fairly well and able. I wouldn’t wait until your health is more of a crisis. You will find new friends and supporters there, your greatest one being your son.
    Best to you,

  7. Blog Mavens says:

    Just a thought about roots. And this comes from my experience as a former Director of Independent and Assisted Living Communities, and from life experiences with friends. It is a complex issue, all reflecting the importance of the bonds of relationships we have developed through the years. For you, Jo, the roots that you have developed in D.C. seem not to be supporting you at times when you need it because of your friends’ own needs/responsibilities. It must leave you feeling alone. What you do have is the familiarity of ‘home’ and your active lifestyle there.

    I have known many couples who have left their long-established homes to move closer to their children. In some cases, leaving the roots of long-time relationships that have been left behind is costly on a social and emotional level. The older person is in a new environment and is faced with the challenge of these losses and of the effort to form new relationships in a new place. We all know that we need relationships beyond just our immediate family.

    Another element is that if and when you do need more treatment and more support, from whom will that come, and at what geographical distance?

    I certainly don’t have an answer, but perhaps these thoughts can assist in your coming to some peace with whatever decision you do make.

    My best wishes for you in your further discernment about all this.

    Imelda Maurer

  8. Diana says:

    Jo, you have a family who loves you. And it sounds as though you made a good life for yourself. Surely none of that was done without compromise. So now you have to decide which compromises you can live with.

    We make choices our entire lives, but now that we’re older, we understand how limited and limiting those choices are. Determine what it is in your own best interest and act on it.

    You are Wonder Woman to your family; now it’s time to let them know that Wonder Woman needs a sidekick.

  9. mary hirsch says:

    I read your plight three times – as carefully as I could – as well as the kind suggestions from our caring sisters. Of all, I would seriously consider Imelda’s suggestion: she’s a professional in this field. As for my humble suggestion… I would say, “Jo, re-read your own #4 paragraph; it is there that I hear your gut speaking.” I would encourage you to further seek advice and guidance from professional folks who deal with these issues – OBJECTIVELY and PRACTICALLY – on a DAILY basis. Please keep us posted; we all care and want the best for you.

  10. Patricia says:

    Go to Ct now. Garden, hens, all that you love will have a better energy for your life. Trust me Grandchildren are good but seeing them will not be enough, they grow up and away. You can always get more hens. I love the life you want…Go after it now you still have one child there.
    Do it now and don’t look back. I will talk to the Angels about you.
    Be Happy,

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