This month I will celebrate my seventieth birthday. I used to think seventy was old.
Parts of me ache when the weather changes, or when I move the wrong way. Some parts hurt all the time. When I was young I would have found this intolerable. Now it’s life. Growing older is a challenge in many ways, but I’m glad I’m still here to gripe about my aches and pains.
A topic my single female friends and I discuss a lot is our living situations. Most of us have more house than we need now, and certainly more than we want to keep up. Our houses once were full of people, but now they’ve all moved on.
I’ve thought about taking in roomers, but I like my solitude. I like my privacy. I like knowing I’m not getting on anyone else’s nerves, and vice versa. It’s easier to relax and be yourself in a house without roommates, except for the dog and the cat. They are un-critical.
For some widows it’s the first time in our lives we’ve been able to make decisions based on what we want to do without taking care of everyone else first.
So, what now?
We think about downsizing, selling our big family places and going somewhere smaller and easier. Unfortunately, with house prices and property taxes going the way they have here on Vashon and Maury Islands, there is nowhere to downsize. There are no affordable cute little bungalows an older person might live in, places with no stairs and low property taxes, not many Granny pods.
I’ve checked out Pugetopolis home prices. Tacoma has many houses in the downsize range for under $350k. Port Orchard houses are going up in price, but there are a lot of houses in the $250K to $450K range. In Bremerton, an adorable little Craftsman can be found for $233,000.
Houses on Vashon or in Seattle are nuts expensive. You knew that. I saw an adorable little Craftsman in Seattle for $859,000.
There is low income housing on the island, but you must qualify and get in line, and we can’t all fit in the space currently available.
Our adult children might want us to live near them as we get older. Maybe they haven’t read the statistics that show that older people die faster when they are moved out of their homes. Or maybe they have, and they’re trying to put us out of their misery. Hard to say. I think they mean well. They worry about us.
When you’ve lived on the island for forty-five years, or your whole life, and your community, your friends, your church, and your history are here, considering moving off the island is a big leap. Some people yell, “Wahoo! I’ll never wait for a ferry again!” and leave without a backward glance, but for some of us, it’s not that easy.
I spent the last four and a half years re-building my life as a single person after my husband’s death. That has been hard. It’s hard to think about selling the home place. I spent my adult life here. Married here, raised the kids here. Wrote my songs here.
Sometimes I think, why don’t I get an RV and drive around the country like I always dreamed I would? It would be fun to do it with a buddy, of course. My cousin Nancy was the perfect travel buddy. Unfortunately, she died in 2014. That is one of the drawbacks of getting older – the older you get, the more the mortality picks up speed, and the less surprised you are to hear someone else is gone, though it still hits you in the heart.
At seventy I look back and feel blessed to have lived in the years I’ve been given. I was young during the sixties, when the music was better than it’s ever been since. Got to sing like I wanted to do from the age of eight, heard stories by the simple expedient of listening, got to be a songwriter, was fortunate enough to love and to be loved. Lived the tremendous education of raising children. Had more unexpected experiences than I could imagine were possible for one person in one lifetime.
Now, here I am, turning seventy, and cannabis is legal, just in time for my arthritis. I sure didn’t see that coming.
Life hasn’t been all skittles and dumplings. As Rick used to say, some days you bite the rat, some days the rat bites you.
I have some time left. Don’t know how much, which makes me aware that the time I have is precious. I plan to write essays and sing songs and laugh a lot with my friends. Maybe buy that RV. We’ll see. I used to think seventy was old, but here I am, making plans.