Do you know the commercial where a young mother is holding a cell phone and walking out of a house?She asks her mother about the house that had been on the market.It might even be the house next door. (PLEASE do not ask me what the commercial is selling.I can’t remember what I had for breakfast and besides whether it is a realtor or a phone company or dog food, it it irrelevant to my point!).Her mom tells her the house sold.The daughter says: “I know” and walks out of the house, up to her mom, kisses her, and lets her know that she was the buyer!
Well, that has become my favorite commercial ever since my cousin’s daughter moved into an apartment in the same condo building as my cousin.Why did her daughter do that?So that when her oldest gets dropped off from school, he can go directly to his grandparents and she can continue to work carefree for the rest of the day.
Am I the only mom who is wishing and hoping that will happen to her?I go to open houses in our neighborhood and pray.
I remember how hard it was to be a single mom, raise a daughter, and work two jobs.
Every time I call my daughter, I ask her if there is anything we can do to help.And every time, she tells me she is fine.That is how I know she is not yet mature.When you are truly mature, you can’t believe that anyone else is actually OFFERING help and you don’t hesitate – the definitive “yes” just pops out and you feel such relief and gratitude.
I have this theory that you take the average life span and you divide it in half.The first half you are just growing up and the second half you are an adult. Prehistoric man lived maybe thirty years. So, they became became adults when they were in their teens. Since we are living on average into our 80s, we can’t expect our “adult children” to be really mature until they are middle aged!!!!!I don’t know you feel about it, but my theory explains an awful lot of ridiculous behavior!
I think about my tiny house. When I was in my forties, I could still dream of winning money and having my house moved to the Hamptons and plopped down where it truly belongs. But those were dreams and when you are sixty you don’t have any dreams. Even my house might go the way of the wrecking ball. The perennial garden that I had planted with my own bare hands will get excavated as this small cottage will be taken down and a new two family investment home will go up in its stead. I am not particularly sad when I realize this. I am not shocked. It would make sense financially.
I just can’t wrap my head around how quickly the time went by.
Remember that baseball movie Field of Dreams and the really sentimental “deep”one liner:“If you build it, they will come?”I am telling you: IF YOU BUILT IT, THEY WILL SELL IT!!!!!
The thing that got me started thinking about my “stuff” was a conversation I had with a complete stranger while we were standing on line at the Marriott in Birmingham, AL.I was there visiting my step children.Out of the blue, the woman in front of me on the line for breakfast omelets started telling me that she was in Birmingham to clean out her mother’s estate.She could not believe how much stuff she had to go through.She said she wished that her mother had given her a manual full of stories because she could not fathom the reason behind the items.What did they mean to her mother?To her they were just junk.She could not make heads or tails out of the clutter and she did not have the time to go through all of it.She had to get back to Texas to work.
When we got home, I looked around my tiny beach cottage home.I saw all the paintings that no one will be able to store even if they wanted to.I saw my furniture through the eyes of my daughter and step children.I have Ethan Allen traditional pieces alongside garage sale chic.Every item has a story.But who had time to tell the story and who had time to listen?
And besides, the adult kids all want West Elm.They aren’t interest in our stuff.
Now, I will not lie.I am vain. But surely, you have figured that out, because it takes a certain amount of vanity to blog.
I used to imagine that what we had tried but had not accomplished in our life, would get accomplished in our death.I imagined our children – my one and my husband’s three – would come back to our house after “the funerals” and would stay and go through our stuff and talk and connect and find out who we really were by going through our stuff.I imagined “the girls” fingering my jewelry and dividing it up.I imagined them choosing which paintings and photographs they would take back with them and keep.I imagined “the boys” going through my husband’s sports collectibles and equipment and dividing them up.I imagined them sharing the photographs and swapping stories.
We are Jewish and we sit shiva for seven days.Surely that would allow enough time for all this bonding that never took place during our living years, to take place.
Then I remembered that my step children are not Jewish.They live far away.They have their own children and their own lives and they work.
So the question is:Do we do the children a favor and start getting rid of the excesses and NOT replace the stuff that we sell or give away or throw away?Or do we burden them by making them go through decades of our lives?
ADULT CHILDREN has to be an oxymoron. And it is confusing…very confusing.
A young colleague of mine once joked that her mother would still be breastfeeding her if she could.
You want your children to be independent but you also want them to want to live nearby.You want your children to be strong but you want to help them.You want your children to be self reliant but you don’t want them to be too proud to ask for support.
It is tricky.You love to shower them with things you never had and with support you never got.But you don’t want to smother them.You don’t want them to conclude that you don’t believe in them.But it really gives you pleasure to help. And you want to be part of their life. You have so much more experience and they are working and you have the time. However, when you help, you do not want to be taken advantage of, abused, or taken for granted.And you do not want to feel that you ARE the amazon fulfillment center or THE HELP.But you do want to be appreciated and loved.
A friend of mine answered “Yes” when I asked if we are trying to buy our children’s love.And I thought – that was refreshingly honest.I felt happy:Thank Goodness, I can afford tobuy a piece of my children’s love and Thank Goodness, I cannot afford to buy all of their love!!!
How do people know what they want to do in retirement?I knew I had to retire because I was too tired to get up at 5:00 a.m. and commute an hour each way.But I wasn’t ready to give it all up.
What if you don’t golf? What if you had melanoma so Florida is out? What if you have ALWAYS been more focused on work than on social get togethers? What if you don’t like volunteering because you still like to earn money? What if you are committed to family and want to be around for grandkids but your own daughter sees your help as a threat to her independence? What do you do with your time?
So, far, my husband and I have not made any major moves, nor any major changes.
We both tutor.We go to the gym and exercise – everyday now.And we babysit when asked. BUT…
Enough is enough and we decide to go up and have our champagne.We are planning to get to TKTS early the next morning.It is our last day of vacation in NYC.Tomorrow is Wednesday and we are going to a matinee.
TKTS is exactly thirty two blocks away – straight going downtown.Everyone walks in NYC.I want to walk but my husband’s BPHdoes not allow it.(Until I wrote this, I had no idea what BPH stands for:Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia).He insists on taking public transportation.He wants to take the subway.I want to take a bus.Since I originally wanted to walk, he caves.We wait a long time for that downtown bus.When we get off at 47th street, we both have to pee.Before we do anything, we have to find a Starbucks.My conscience does not allow me to go in and just use the restroom, so we have to wait on line to get a drink, which we both know will only make me need to pee again real soon. We finally get on the TKTS line. We are in the company of tourists and middle aged or aging seniors.We get the tickets we hoped for.We are going to see Idina Menzel in If/Then…I am thrilled.The sun is shining.It is a warm autumn day.We walk to nearby Bryant Park to grab a bite for lunch.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PIT STOP in NYC?
Bryant Park is full of people.A lot of working people from the surrounding office buildings come to play ping pong, chess, and other board games.There are kiosks of fast food.There is a public restroom with long lines.There are jugglers and a carousel.It is one of my favorite places to rest and feel energized simultaneously.You can’t help but feel young.
We are both lazy and so we decide to dine at the hotel.They have a lovely outside area and we sit down.There is a constant parade of people going by.I follow my husband’s glance.She may be twenty or thirty.I can no longer tell.
My husband likes to make up stories about the people he sees.He then believes the story he tells and goes on to ask me questions about the people.It goes like this:“ See that couple over there?’’ and he points, totally humiliating me. “He’s a professor at Columbia.And she is a journalist.How do you think they can afford the city?”I answer:“They live in the one bedroom rent stabilized apartment he moved into when he was in grad school and they chose not to have children.”“See that guy sitting over there?”(and my husband points to someone at a nearby table.Someone who might be staying at this hotel.Or not.Because we have no way of knowing short of going up to him and asking.Because we are making up a life he may or most probably does not have). “He is here on business.What do you think he does?”I look and I have no idea.“He is a visiting professor.He is here to talk to other intellectuals.He is collecting ideas for his book.It is publish or perish.”I answer.“What is he writing about?”“Economics,” I answer.“See this couple walking by?”my husband points.She is all but four inches away from me.“He is a trust fund baby,” my husband shakes his head disapprovingly.“He doesn’t work.”I say.“She is studying at Bank Street.He is an art collector.They inherited money and they live in a fabulous two bedroom apartment with floor to ceiling glass windows that overlook Riverside Park.They are on a high floor and they can see straight across the river to New Jersey.”
What kind of games do you play with your spouse? Do you play real estate and go shopping for homes you know you will never buy? Do you play yachting where you go look for boats you know you cannot afford? Do you go to auctions and pretend you are going to buy valuable antiques? Do you spend time looking for artwork that you wish you could afford the insurance on?
In my late fifties I was still multi tasking at work and at home.My kitchen is literally in the middle of my house.The laundry is right on the other side.
I used to cook, roast, run the dishwasher, wash a load, dry a load, turn on the coffee pot, boil water in the electric tea kettle – all – simultaneously.I was the master of doing it all and all at once.
But one day “it” happened.I had put a load of laundry in the washer and decided I wanted a cup of herbal tea.I heard the noise of water andI poured myself a cup of tea. But the tea in the teabag was still intact and the water was cold.My first thought was that the kettle had broken.I turned it over to see where it was made. Then I heard the noise again.I could not identify it at first but as I turnedaround, I saw it was my washing machine. I had never even plugged the tea kettle in.Clearly, I can only do ONE machine at a time now.
WAS THIS A SENIOR MOMENT? WHAT DO YOU THINK HAPPENED?