The Story Keeps Changing: Aging and Staying in Charge of Your Life

mymove

When I started writing, my new memoir, I had no idea where the story was going. Even now, I don’t really know how my life will unfold. I’ll let you know each Friday when I post blogs to update you on the process of writing my memoir. At some point in your life you too will need to de-clutter, maybe sell a house and move to a smaller place. You might move, as we did, to be nearer your offspring. You can learn a lot from my struggles.

Originally, I planned to move to Kingston with the same man I married 55 years ago. Moving in your later years is exhausting, to say the least. Together, we went through downsizing, giving away our stuff, and hiring an expert to prepare the house for sale. Anything that made the house appear smaller or darker went to storage. After numerous weekend trips to Kingston, three hours away from Toronto, my husband and I bought a small, charming bungalow in our new city. I fully intended to continue life in that little house. Alas, it became clear that, if I were to stay in charge of my life, I needed to leave and live on my own, an unusual move for a woman who’s nearly 80.

Here’s a taste of what’s to come in my new memoir:

There was something troubling me, keeping me from enjoying my luxurious train trip. I don’t usually travel first class. I should have been happy. I had the whole two seats, with nobody beside me. A drop down table in front and adjustable footrests made this feel more like business class on an airplane than a train. The woman conductor – or was she a hostess– interrupted my thoughts. She wanted my ticket. There was no clicking of a paper punch as in days of old. Instead, she scanned the pattern on the printout I’d made at home. Like modern women everywhere, I’d bought my ticket online, choosing my time and class of travel.

The purpose of my trip? I was about to spend a few days with my four-year-old granddaughter while her artist mother prepared 40 canvases for an art show. Why was I tense? I still hadn’t told Harvey, my husband of 55 years, that I intended to move to Kingston – with or without him. (At this point, I wasn’t yet able to acknowledge to myself that I wanted to leave him.)

Maybe you think I’m hard-hearted. Please put yourself in my place. I don’t know how many years I have left as an able-bodied woman with enough energy and memory to function competently. I want to spend whatever years remain, near my son Frank, his wonderful wife Julie and their little daughter Abi. I don’t want to miss more of my granddaughter’s early years and I really miss my son and daughter-in-law. The way I see it, I’m the only one able to guarantee that the rest of my old age is peaceful and fulfilling. I intend to live as fully as my aging body and mind allow. Who knows how much time I have left. If Harvey comes with me, that’s fine. If he doesn’t, I’ll probably be the country’s only seventy-eight year old to separate from a marriage that predates most people’s births. I’m in good health and thanks to yoga and a personal trainer, I’m fit, have only a few aches and pains and might have twenty years left. My mother lived to almost ninety-four.

Don’t get me wrong about my husband. He has many fine qualities. He’s given a lot to the world. In fact, he retired just before we moved to Kingston. Living with a newly retired husband is hard enough for many women. I was accustomed to six or seven hours a day to myself while he saw patients. Now we were overwhelmed with too much of everything in this small, sleek bungalow. There was no privacy. Our relationship deteriorated rapidly. I was losing control over my own life. It was time to do something drastic – move to my own apartment.

2 comments

  1. Eric Timm says:

    hi Mary,

    I am impressed/inspired by your decision to strike out on your own. I think that’s brilliant at any age.

    Spent my morning browsing your blog page, reading various columns… very encouraging somehow… learning that there is real help out there. I’m a trauma victim too.

    have a nice weekend

    Eric Timm
    Montreal

  2. Good to hear from you, Timm. We’ll never not have been abused, but we end up with a resilience and an awareness of both the beauty and the ugliness in life. Becoming an advocate for today’s children and reaching out to others who carry the shame and fear of childhood trauma – all that helps us heal.

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