Our next door neighbor’s house sold today. She lived in that house for almost 40 years. Now in her 80s, without any kids or family, she needed the money to pay for her care. For almost a year she had 24/7 caregivers in her home as her health deteriorated. She was still smart as a whip but unable to tend to her daily needs. She told me that the caregivers became too expensive. She could pay for them for another year or so but then what? She needed the money from the home sale to last her a lifetime – literally the rest of her life.
So many emotions from that conversation. Sadness and a sense of loss. She began to cry when she told me. She didn’t want to leave. It was her home and she wanted to stay in it. It made me think about the passage of time. She was in her early 40s when she moved in, and one year became two became four became eight…How many steps between our lives now and then?
It made me think about family. She jokingly said she was waiting for a rich granddaughter to emerge from the shadows. Aren’t we all? I think about the legacy of descendants – the good, the bad. I wonder what her relationships were like, who she loved, what she thought about children. I thought of our own parents – getting closer to that age. They still have a decade or two but soon this will be their fate. And then what do we do? How do we do what we need to do with the distance between us?
I think about the neighborhood as it was 40 years ago. We have neighbors who have lived here for half a century (or close to it) and they were the young parents (or singletons) with little ones (or not) who got to know one another, helped each other out, socialized, gossiped. And then time passes and new people move in, and neighborhoods are continuously decorated with the tapestry of these lives – one on top of the other, on top of the other. Life is a wheel, my grandmother used to say.
It feels like the end of an era. We spoke with our neighbor when we came to view the house years ago, before putting in an offer. She said it was a nice neighborhood, a quiet one. When we first moved in and I was pregnant, about to burst, she helped me prune some rose bushes and move them into a planter. That planter still stands at the edge of our driveway, roses blooming each season. She noticed one of our trees dying and alerted us to it before it could fall and cause damage. She would always tell us that our children sounded happy, that she loved to hear their joy while they played. We purchased basic essentials for her during the pandemic. I walked over Thanksgiving dinner. I answered her call and went to check on her when her health problems began in earnest – when she started to have trouble with her balance. She came to the door naked from the waist down because she had wet herself. It felt like the beginning of the end.
I’m going to miss her. I don’t know who the new neighbors will be – whether they will be a family, an elderly person, a developer who will raze the home and put up something modern, white and all angles. Change makes me nervous, but change is also the way of the world. One day, we will move. Maybe it will be in a few years, or maybe we’ll be in our 80s as well. Life is a wheel and it never stops turning.