Friday, March 28, 2014

Liminal Living vs The Impossible Dream

[A. Casolani, 16th century]
We are househunting.

Will our new place be a relatively new condo with no exterior maintenance, plenty of storage, an open floor plan, lots of bathrooms, and no stairs?

Will it be a city rowhouse that is older than we are, has arches and built-in cabinets and red oak plank floors, and is walking distance from a university, bookstores, and libraries?

Whatever we dream of, will our retirement income be sufficient for both the house and, say, groceries?

And will we still be able to live in it when we're crippled, incontinent, and demented?

I've been asking myself that last question with every house I inspect, which is probably why I've been getting more and more depressed. Medieval folk kept cheerfulness at bay by contemplating skulls. An afternoon of looking at potential retirement homes, I've found, also works.

Last week I blogged about our liminal lodging - the apartment we've rented for a few months to tide us over until we find our, um, final resting place. (Snap out of it, LaVonne!) This morning I had one of those blindingly obvious insights that you sensible people have understood all along: Life itself is liminal.

As I mentioned last week, it's good to put a threshold between one phase of life and another. Living in our  rented apartment is allowing us to do that. But I'm deluding myself if I think our next house is going to be permanent - just as suitable to our life in 30 years, when we're 95 and 96, as it is to our life today. I'm glad I figured that out, because I'm not all that excited by houses that would presumably appeal to nonagenarians.

In my search for the permanently perfect place, I've been driving my realtor to distraction ("I keep getting mixed messages from you," she says, and then five minutes later she says, "But you have such specific requirements"). Bless her, she persists in spite of me. She's even cheerful, or at least pleasantly resigned.

However, she did tell me about a friend of hers who made himself miserable for years because he wanted so badly to give up smoking and thereby live forever, and he simply couldn't do it. At age 42, having stopped to help a stranded motorist, he was struck and killed by a drunk driver.


Richard Duerksen said...

If you choose a mobile home, the bathrooms will each be too small - the showers especially thin and short. If you choose a house with room for the garden you dream of harvesting, you'll quickly learn that it's cheaper to buy veggies at Whole Foods. If you move near your kids, they'll get transferred to New Zealand.

As one of our retiring friends told us, "We've given up on the 'if's' and have moved into a retirement community where someone mows the lawn and pays the utilities, and where the whole community watches the house when we go on a long motorcycle trip."

They say we should skip the house purchase and buy a Harley!

LaVonne Neff said...

Oh, Dick, that's perfect! Though we'd be more inclined to skip the Harley and get a one-year European train pass (does such a thing exist?).