What I was about to do seemed as terrifying as if I were going to walk across a tight rope, suspended 100 feet into the air, with no safety net below, while wearing stilettos.
It was only a month since my husband of 64 years had passed away. I was still reeling with grief and uncertainty when the opportunity came for me to buy our daughter, Gena’s, home.
Even before my husband’s illness, I thought it wise to buy a home on the street where our two daughters lived so we could access their help, if needed. A suitable home never came on the market and I abandoned the idea until Gena and her husband moved to another home on the same block and their home was for sale.
Few people have escaped hearing the oft repeated phrase, “Never move or make any major decisions until a year after losing a loved one.”
I had been bombarded with this advice by well-meaning friends, but the chance to live close to our family was too tempting. Without much thought, I readily began the process of selling the home in which my husband and I had happily lived for 12 years. I plunged ahead. The home was listed and had to be kept in a “buyer must have” mode, on a daily basis. I began, while still in partial shock and deep grief, to pack a few things.
To add to the chaos, our basement was flooded, resulting in weeks of disaster clean-up: tearing out closets, baseboards and walls—a total overhaul of the recently finished room. I staggered when I saw the bill of over $6,000. Of course, the insurance agent said, the damage was not covered.
But, I had to forge ahead. My new home was 100 years old and lovely, but needed a bit of paint and “must have” items for such as: a manageable size bath tub, grab bars, railings on all stairs, new garage door with opener, bright lights, new kitchen floor and on and on.
In addition to these changes, the home I sold, at a considerable loss, had 10 rooms and a double garage. The new place had 14, but eight basement rooms had to be rented to help pay for the six rooms I occupied upstairs. The space demanded downsizing. I had to sell, give, leave, and cram what was left into smaller storage areas.
In addition to the chaos of moving, there was a multitude of thank you notes to write, insurance forms to complete, medical bills to pay—the list never ended. How anyone copes with so many “have-tos” after such a debilitating experience as losing a loved one, I’ll never know. It still seems unreal, and I have yet to fully address my husband’s long and lingering illness and death.
Adjusting to being alone was a constant challenge, but was especially difficult on weekends and really intense between 9:00 o’clock and midnight—too late to call someone. It was just me and my little dog.
I managed it (though, poorly) by occupying myself with puzzles, sending emails, writing letters, or reading. Self talk was essential as I scolded myself for my inadequacies, started counting my many blessings, and reminded myself of how many other women had experienced the same things and survived.
I offered myself special food, purchased a lovely plant, read a new book, saw an occasional movie—whatever would offer some degree of comfort. I tried to be patient and kind to myself and others.
But, back to THE MOVE—it was emotionally, physically, and financially draining and I often worked until 1:00 a.m. to attain the peace that comes with feeling settled.
Three months later, the house has my touches (for better or for worse) and I am beginning to feel it is my home.
To remain connected with my husband, before I moved, I had a small, flowering cherry tree planted. I see it from my bedroom window. It is a memorial to him. I look at it, daily, and say “hello”.
I’ve learned we can’t always rely on well-meaning advice from others, but we must follow our heart’s desire and be brave enough to go where it takes us.
Joan Haskins 2012