Step 6 of my journey

I’m writing this October 30, 2017

Start plan to transition into independent living with services in a small new construction semi-detached housing development near me

Well, I got through not only another summer, but most of fall as well.  I am making plans to transition into independent living with services available in a small new construction semi-detached housing development near me. It’s just west of town, in an area that is accessible and growing rapidly. So, t’s time to focus on continuing to downsize and part with my little life tokens, trinkets and treasures. 

I continue to purge, and I’m working with my little personal “financial team” to continue cashing in CD’s as they mature, and rolling the funds into more lucrative things. My attorney is working with a real estate broker in Arizona, and the condo officially goes on the market in a few weeks—just waiting for an eager snowbird to snatch it up!

I’m also having a final meeting with the estate planner and my attorney to finalize the sale of the Arizona condo, and have made plans to have Mike fly out there with me to complete the sale when it’s time. Technically, everything could be done by mail, but I really want to go there one last time, sort through the few personal things we have there, and sell it—furnishings and all, since everything is in almost new condition.

The air is crisp tonight, with the hint of the smell of a bonfire nearby. The oak leaves have shed the trees, and we spent three full weekends bagging and mulching them for the compost pile. I move more slowly all the time, and lawn care is hard, even with help. The grandkids and the neighbor’s kids all seem to have an appreciation for cash, along with iTunes  (online music and games) and Fandango (movie theaters in our area) gift cards—which I’ve learned to keep on had for special projects! 

After the guys from Parallel spent 5 hours cleaning out the gutters as part of their monthly “honey do list”, they helped me arrange to have new low-maintenance gutters installed. You see, I ran across a Consumer Reports article about “8 fall chores you shouldn’t ignore”. 

Well, in addition to raking, checking the roof, closing off the hoses and finding a chimney sweep through the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), replacing the gutters was added to my fall list. The guys had forewarned me that “low maintenance” doesn’t equate to “no maintenance”, and helped me decide on using a product that I found through the online Family Handyman magazine about the best gutter guards for your home. 

They recommended a product called Leafree, and it was actually one of the more affordable options including installation, and works not only to keep leaves out, and is designed to prevent ice dam buildup too.  They’re planning on installing the gutter/eaves spout system before the snow flies in the upcoming weeks.

While there are a few complexities of the timing in getting new gutters installed, and the selling the condo, timeshare in Angel Fire, New Mexico is another story! Given that there are only around 1,000 year round residents, the whole village seems to know we’re getting rid of the time share, and perhaps the nearby land and Red Bandana Gold Mine on Mount Baldy. Again, it’s just one more place I’d like to revisit…one last time. I think it would be grand to have a family trip with all the kids and grandkids. They could explore the old mine, and see Taos Pueblo and go to Red River and see the quaint little shops. 

 The old mining processing area (30’ wide copper vat in foreground) at the Red Bandana Mine on Old Baldy mountain near Elizabethtown, NM. The mine shut down in 1942. Photo courtesy Ellen Miller-Goins, Sangre de Cristo Chronicle.

The old mining processing area (30’ wide copper vat in foreground) at the Red Bandana Mine on Old Baldy mountain near Elizabethtown, NM. The mine shut down in 1942. Photo courtesy Ellen Miller-Goins, Sangre de Cristo Chronicle.

 Here’s an old shot from the base of the mountain. Remember how we had to go to court since our share of the mountain was landlocked by the cattle farmer? I told the grandkids how we used to take 4-wheelers up the creek bed, pitch a tent, put our beer in the water to chill, and then listen to the coyotes howl at night as we gazed at the stars. Ahh, the memories!

Here’s an old shot from the base of the mountain. Remember how we had to go to court since our share of the mountain was landlocked by the cattle farmer? I told the grandkids how we used to take 4-wheelers up the creek bed, pitch a tent, put our beer in the water to chill, and then listen to the coyotes howl at night as we gazed at the stars. Ahh, the memories!

Oh how I remember driving through Abiquiu, NM in the summer of 1984 to see Georgia O’Keeffe’s home and studio. We had stopped to tour it, rest and grab some sodas, and, wonder of all wonders, she was sitting on a little bench, waiting for her assistant right outside! She was nearly blind from macular degeneration—just like I have now—but hers was more severe, and she was to the point of only having peripheral vision. 

I fell in love with her painting of the Abstraction White Rose from 1927. I knew we couldn’t afford even a signed numbered print, but the following month you surprised me an archival reproduction for my birthday! Tucked in the back of the frame on a museum business card, you’d had lovingly written, “Elsie, you are my rose,” and had gotten her to sign “Georgia O’Kee…” before she had run out of space. It still hangs above the antique roll top desk, and I never tire of gazing at it…As my vision dwindles, I think of how she must’ve felt as an artist, no longer able to do what she loved.

 Image courtesy Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, NM

Image courtesy Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, NM

I know I’m going on a memory tangent, but I also think of all the artwork in our basement that is wrapped in acid-free paper. The lovely southwestern-style pastel numbered prints from William Buffett, and how beautiful they looked in the sunroom in the Arizona condo. I especially love Buffett’s works on paper, namely the lithographGraciosa, even though it wasn’t one of his better-known works. Just the other day, I untapped the wrapping and showed it to Cathy. 

She was surprised when I said that Buffett was known as a southern California painter, but also respected for his depictions of African American New Orleans jazz musicians—she made an assumptive side comment about how liberal you and I were, and that it must be the reason for us having a multicultural collection. You know me—I reminded her that her “assumption” could readily be considered a stereotype, to which she immediately apologized, realizing the error in her thought process.

It’s just so darn hard to part with some of these things, and yet the kids don’t have the same interests we did. I also hate to part with the traditional Terry Redlin artwork that hung over the sofa for so many years—remember the one with the scene with the hunter on the ridge with his dog? It was called Best Friends, and that was my favorite! Cathy couldn’t believe it when I said it was last appraised at $8,300. It was the one that we eventually moved to the cabin until it migrated back here to the basement.

That being said, this upcoming Christmas will be my season of “regifting”. I am determined to only pass things along to others, and not buy new! I will create little notes with my memories of each item, and hope that they story stays with the treasures for years to come.  Who knows? Maybe one day they will show up on a show like Antiques Roadshow or Mike, Frank and Danielle from American Pickers with the Antique Archaelogy store on the History Channel.

I’m writing this January 3, 2018

I held a lovely tea for all my friends, along with both of our girls, our daughters-in-law, and even Mike and Jim’s two little girls (ah, the joy of granddaughters!)  There were 27 of us in all, so it was good that Cathy and Barb helped me with the prep! I got out the Spode Christmas china, and made lots of snacks and finger foods. Of course, I remembered to make your favorites, like Russian Tea CakesGrandma Mary’s Povitica, and even a homemade version of Wild Rice Soup with the original recipe from when Mystic Lake Casino was originally known as Little Six Casino and consisted of an oversized teepee out in the country near Candy Cove on Prior Lake! (Remember sailing there in the late ‘80s when it was still a quasi-rural area with older homes? You should see it now! Multi-million dollar homes and massive boats abound!) Right now, I’d much rather reminisce about the last few decades to the last few weeks, than think about what I’m facing now.

Just before the holidays, I wasn’t feeling well. At first, I attributed it to shopping and exhaustion. Then, the day after Christmas, I was getting out of the tub, and the PCA from Visiting Angels in Shoreviewasked me about a lump she’d felt in my armpit. It was maybe the size of a marble or less, but it worried me. I went in to the clinic the next day. Today, I got the call that it is a slow-growing cancer, and that I will need treatment. It’s hard to say, so I am forcing myself to say it out loud before telling the family. I HAVE CANCER. All of the sudden, I feel so alone, even though I’ve walked the path with a couple friends. I can’t seem to stop crying. 

I already know what the kids will say…”Oh Mom, sell the house. Look into a small independent living situation. Upgrade the level of home services. Pack up your things and simplify your life. Don’t worry—we will take you on vacation and distract you from your medical issues. Let’s get the cabin transferred over to our names—sooner, rather than later. Do you have a living will or advance directive? A “do not intubate” (DNI) and “do not resuscitate” (DNR)on file? Have you talked to the attorney? Yourfinancial advisor? Is your Will up to date? Get a cat for company…” That, and all sorts of other whirlwind questions and comments that will do nothing more than overwhelm me, and think about death, rather than life.

 Infographic courtesy Everplans.com

Infographic courtesy Everplans.com

I simply need to get all of this in order in the next few weeks, before I can let on to our adult children what I’m going through.  I’ve earned the right to keep this a temporary secret—they will be mad briefly when they find out, but for now, it simply has to be.

Tears are wetting the keyboard as I type right now. Ugh! Sometimes reality slaps me in the face. Why, oh why, aren’t you here with me in body, as well as in spirit? This is eerie—I just felt a wispy draft come from underneath the foyer door, and head towards my feet! 

Oh dear George, I swear I just felt your presence over my shoulder! Yes, I promise to dry the tears, make a cup of tea, and list out the calls I must make tomorrow. Call area homebuilders. Call the local Community Development Corporation and get on a senior housing waiting list, just in case I ever go through your pension and savings to the point where I need rental assistance. Call the oncologist and set up a cancer care team. 

Triumph over trauma, it shall be—that is my new mantra. Which also makes me think—call a travel agent so I can go on vacation when the treatments are over! Bye for now…

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AuthorBrett Foss