May 19, 2021 – At a Crossroads

As my mother often says (or used to say before dementia entered the picture), “I don’t know up from sic ’em.” Seriously. I don’t know whether I’m coming or going these days. It isn’t just me, however. My husband seems to be suffering from the same affliction. We had a long heart-to-heart this evening about what makes us both happy. We thought moving to this new community was the answer but after being here for nearly seven years, happiness has eluded us. It shows up periodically but only on the rarest occasion and we’re beginning to wonder if a move is in order. This community has so much to offer but it seems to be lacking in the two major categories we find critical to living a fulfilling life, friends and family. The job market is also less-than-desirable as the town is quite small (approx. 35,000 population) and most of the job opportunities center around working in retail or at a restaurant. I checked both of those boxes when I was young and full of energy, but if I had to choose between working in either of those two career fields or jumping off a bridge, I’d probably jump off a bridge.

So now what? We are currently residing in a beautiful home that we’ve spent years restoring. It’s nearly done but there are still plenty of items left on the ‘to do’ list to keep us busy through the summer. Only one space/room still looks as it did when we purchased the home, otherwise, the home (and every single room inside of it) has been completely transformed. The same goes for outside. In addition to replacing all of the exterior siding that had seen better days, we’ve painted the house, added gutters, replaced all of the old doors and windows with new ones, had a new roof installed, put in all new landscaping, and installed a new back deck and fencing. No, I’m not done yet but I think you get the picture. We’ve done a lot of work and I have to tell you, we’re both exhausted! Yes, exhausted and unfulfilled. Because as we look at all of the beautiful work we’ve done to bring this home out of the 1960s and into the 2020s, it feels empty somehow. The things that make life worth living, friends and family, are missing from the picture.

Don’t get me wrong, I have family nearby (sort of), but of the 6 siblings that reside 2 1/2-3 hours from here, I’m really only close to one. There is also my daughter to consider, as well as my mom. It’s hard to fathom leaving them behind, but I have a strong suspicion that my daughter might follow (should we leave). She’s already shared that she likely won’t stay where she’s presently living because the whole area’s become a bit of a sh*t show. As far as my mom, as much as I love her, I don’t know whether sticking around or leaving will make much of a difference (to her). Her dementia is moving at such a rapid pace that half the time when we’re mid-conversation (on the phone), she’ll interrupt to ask, “Who is this I’m speaking with?” She is residing at an assisted living center but it likely won’t be long before she moves into memory care. Today, she called my brother at work to ask what she’s supposed to do with the pills in her pill dispenser. The irony is, I called her yesterday to remind her to take her pills, to which she responded, “I always take my pills. I’ve never forgotten to take my pills. Did your brother put you up to this?” Sigh.

Even though it seems a bit selfish, I’ve been thinking about what I want from what I have left of my life. My kidney is supposed to last 15-20 years. If it lasts 15, I’ll make it to 67. If it lasts 20, I’ll make it to 72. Either way, when you consider how time flies, I don’t have much time left. Twenty years can go by in a split-second. When I think about my children and how they are currently 26, 30, and 33 (respectively), I have to wonder, “Where did the time go?” Every now and then, as I’m rifling through the freezer, I’ll come across something that expired in 2015 or 2016. “How is that even possible?” I’ll ask myself incredulously. How did the cod (that I bought back in the fall of 2014), that I had every intention of coating in beer batter, frying, and pairing with some nice salty fries, manage to elude me for 5+ years? By the time I finally did discover it (hiding beneath a bag of expired frozen peas), the last thing I wanted to do was use it in a meal. It was so freezer-burnt that it was unidentifiable. If it didn’t say ‘cod’ on the bag, I wouldn’t have had a clue as to what it was.

What’s tough to come to grips with is that no matter where I live, I’ll probably never be truly ‘happy’ or ‘fulfilled’. I could live in Disneyland, ‘The happiest place on earth’, and still feel depressed and/or unfulfilled. Honestly, I probably would feel worse because the entire thing is fake. I wouldn’t mind spending a few days there but it’s not reality and I’m pretty sure Mickey and Minnie, along with all of the people dressed up to look like Disney characters, would quickly get on my last nerve. And, oh my gosh, to be surrounded day and night by all of that fattening food and candy?! I would blow up like a balloon!! Ack! On Mother’s Day, I succumbed to a piece of chocolate mousse cake. I hadn’t had any chocolate or sweets since March but I thought I could ‘handle’ a little treat. It was beyond delectable and I savored every bite. The thing is, I now have ‘chocolate on the brain’. I walked through the candy aisle at Walgreen’s the other day and came ‘this close’ to buying a bag of York Mints. Lord, I miss York Mints, those heavenly discs of chocolatey-minty deliciousness!!

What is the answer? Well, I think our trip (scheduled for 10 days from now) might help us reach a decision. We are going back to visit my husband’s family and our youngest son, as well as some old friends. If it turns out anything like what we experienced last year, we’ll have a lovely time, say our goodbyes, and then happily return to our home (several states away) and unassuming lives afterward. Or maybe not. Aside from my one true-blue friend that lives about 30 minutes away, and my family that lives a few hours away, there is nothing holding me here. I was laid off from my job 14 months ago and have no interest in returning. I worked as a receptionist and it was fun while it lasted, but my heart isn’t there any longer. My husband has nothing holding him here. He hasn’t made a single friend and even though he has a job, he could take it or leave it. He was career military and retired after 28 years. Since moving here, he’s held a total of (hang on a minute while I tally them up) 7 jobs.

He has worked at Coca-Cola two different times (as a technician), the United States Post Office (as a postal clerk), at a Heating and Air Conditioning company (as the service department supervisor), and at a community college (as a lab assistant and an instructor). He even started up his own handyman business but felt dispassionate about it and closed up shop after four months. He goes through jobs like he goes through hobbies. I know he has ‘staying power’ because he did devote over 25 years to the military, but he has been unable to find anything in the area that has adequately stimulated him. Not to boast, but this guy can do anything. No, I should boast. I’ve never met anyone who can take a motorcycle apart (down to the frame) and put it back together again. He can rewire a house, redo all of the plumbing, install floors, replace the furnace, and change a fireplace from wood burning to gas. He can also make a beautiful cedar gate from scratch, rebuild a boat, fabricate metal sculptures, cut his own hair, design and build clocks, draw incredible oil paintings, and cook mouthwatering gourmet meals.

What can’t he do? I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed him scrub out a shower. That’s not saying he cannot do it, that’s just saying I have yet to see him do it. Whether relocating to another area will help him find a job that he’s actually excited about, is hard to say. In his defense, I know it’s not easy to transition from being career military to a civilian. During his career in the military, he started out at the very bottom and worked his way to the top. It was like scaling Mount Everest. As a civilian, it’s like starting all over again. He’s back at base camp and wondering whether he’s still got the physical energy and fortitude to make it all the way to the summit. When he was 18, he had it. Now that he’s in his mid-fifties, not so much. Speaking of physical energy and fortitude, if we plan to move, we’re going to need plenty of it. Over the years, we’ve accumulated a lot of crap! What is that all about??!! Is someone smuggling it in while I have my back turned? Surely, I cannot be responsible for all this junk that keeps winding up in our drawers and cabinets and closets!!

Ugh. Eight paragraphs in and I’m still no closer to an answer. I guess we’ll see how the next few weeks go. Something significant has to happen in order to motivate me to start packing. If we’re meant to relocate, the stars will need to align; otherwise, I cannot see it happening. Anyway, wish me luck. If we reach a decision, one way or the other, I’ll let you know. Of course, that’s unless someone (in the meantime) gives me an ultimatum to take a job at Wendy’s or Ross. If that happens, you likely won’t hear from me again. If you are confused as to why, reread the last sentence in paragraph one.

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