Wissot: After many moves, I’m moving again, perhaps for the last time (column)
I counted them up. Between 1966, the year of my emancipation from my parents’ apartment, until 1992, 26 years apart, I moved 11 times. Divorces, job re-locations, the need for larger quarters, were the reasons for why I did. In the last 26 years, 1992-2018, I’ve moved once.
I think of the first 26 years of my adult life as one of change and upheaval; the last 26 as a period of solid stability, firm rootedness, domestic grounding. A comparison could be made between a boat constantly traveling from port to port and one that is anchored in a harbor for a long time. I like being anchored.
I tell you all this because I’m about to move again. This time the move for people of a certain age, we’re talking about older folk here, is euphemistically termed “ downsizing.” I resisted thinking of this move that way for a long time. My wife and I were “re-sizing,” I said to myself. Downsizing seemed so permanent to me. Like retirement. You don’t retire and then “unretire” (unless you’re a professional boxer). Re-sizing sounded far more palatable. Like changing jobs.
Plus, what comes after downsizing? Elder care? Assisted living? Nursing homes?
The truth is we are downsizing. In fact, given the amount of stuff we’ve accumulated together over the years the word doesn’t do justice to what is really happening. Purging is a more apt description. You can’t move from a house of some 4,500 square feet to a condo less than half that size without letting go of all the memories found in boxes of photos, letters, souvenirs, furnishings and the like, which our kids either don’t want or have room to keep. It was either trash it, donate it or ready it for the estate sale that we won’t be attending.
I resisted moving for a long time. My wife was anxious to let the purging begin several years ago. I was the holdout until very recently. I think I had become excessively comfortable with stability, the sense of satisfaction which comes with coming home to the familiar for a long period of time. I was trapped by that, “my home is my castle,” fantasy which many men have. I thought of the house as a pasture; a place where the horse in me could roam freely. The condo we are about to move into will seem like a corral in comparison.
I only allowed the real reason for my unwillingness to move to slowly creep into my consciousness. I wasn’t enamored as much with stability as I was in denying my own aging. As long as I could continue to perform the manly duties I had always performed around the house I really wasn’t growing older, right? I could still shovel snow, get up on 10-foot ladders to change outdoor lighting, shove garbage-laden trash cans down the driveway into the street for pickup, scamper up and down three levels of stairs. Wasn’t that proof that I was defying Father Time? Drinking from the elixir found in the Fountain of Youth? Becoming my own version of Jack LaLanne ( those of you younger than 40 please email me and I’ll explain who he was).
Once I admitted to myself that while I could still do those things it didn’t mean I wasn’t growing older, I gave up the fight. I even conceded that I really had tired of doing them and my resistance was a cover for macho bravado. My vanity had gotten in the way of the truth: We are all aging whether we like it or not and it doesn’t change because we are living in a house, or in an apartment, or a submarine or a treetop villa.
I’m looking forward to our impending move. I’m treating it like a new adventure. Similar to the feelings I had when I moved 11 times in a span of 26 years. I’ve loved the home we’ve lived in for 22 years. Those feelings will never change. But I’m ready to fall in love again with a new place in a different time of my life. I’m ready to enjoy the older person I’ve become.
Jay Wissot is a resident of Denver and Vail. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.