Every Breath a Gift: a Memoir – More Retirement Activities, One Last Move

Larry Pearce

5984 Somerset Pike
Boswell, PA 15531

Chapter 6C: More Retirement Activities, One last move

I can’t imagine that there’s anything such as “pure retirement,” unless it’s in Heaven. We’ve all heard of people who retire one day from work in this life and die the next. I’m sure there are medical and scientific explanations for this: the earthly heart just can’t stand to be idle. For Susan and me, it’s almost a daily discussion of when and where we’re going to end up after the sale of our home. I remember local trips from Moon Township with Mom and Dad after he retired at age 67. We looked at various condos, retirement villages, and smaller houses for sure. After several months they decided to stay put in their home of nearly 10 years. At some point my sister Ellen then decided to sell her place in a golfing community in North Carolina and look after them. Dad then converted his basement family room  into a private apartment in the basement and added a nice bathroom. Continuing the usual yard work, he lived another 17 years and Mom with her household chores, another 21. No doubt that “staying” active keeps one healthy.

So whether Susan and I stay in Forwardstown or sell and leave, the question is: “How far should we take our plans to improve our physical ‘plant’ here”? This installment is really about a concept called “downsizing,” getting better, not bigger. I’ll pass along a helpful tip toward the end. Susan and I had each made preliminary strides in that direction some time ago, after we quit working for money and formalized our estate plan. I cleaned and organized my office, donating books, tapes, and records to local libraries and history centers. My filing cabinets got a good going through. More recently, we began investing in several home improvements, like initializing a more dependable water system. We had an expensive 119-gallon stainless steel storage tank installed in the garage, complete with filter, pump, and UV purification light. That was in response to having not one, but both of our century-old, hillside cisterns collapse unexpectedly. After pushing what was left of the walls back into place, supporting the metal rail and cement roofs with wiring, and covering all with tarps, I cleaned out the muck and had the water tested: safe as it always was! The purpose of the pressure pump is to give the lower spring a little more lift to our main floor should we decide to use it full-time while having the upper spring repaired. We’ll see if we can get a “fixer” in this summer.

Our other two main projects have been accomplished: a new metal roof with soffit, fascia, gutters and downspouts; and a new swimming pool liner. All of this cost thousands of dollars but was absolutely necessary if and when we sell the house. Yes, there are several jobs that would add to the “curb appeal”: Move several of the overgrown shrubs in front of the house and replace them with smaller ones or flowers, surrounded by mulch, of course. Right now we can’t even see the newly painted shutters around the family room windows. I need to rebuilt the three low profile flower beds near the barn and behind the house. Jack Frost has had his way over the years, pushing the stone walls to the point of collapsing. While I’m at it, I should add some additional perennial flowers to the delightful mix.

The author, Homelite, and Polaris recycling our dead mulberry tree near the barn

I’ve tried to keep the barn organized with my many implements and tools. While I hope our daughter takes my prize John Deere lawn tractor, I plan to sell or leave to the next guy such things as my field mowers and wood splitter. There are many smaller hand tools that can be donated to the Salvation Army and other charities as we did when our parents passed. I think auction sales are more painful than just giving things away to good homes. Watching buyers quibble over prices of things that hold sweet memories is just not worth it for me. And having strangers come on to the property for a yard sale could be an even worse option. Speaking of chainsaws and log splitters, It’s impossible to predict how much wood will have to be processed down the road if we stay. I believe that I have three years worth of winter fuel under wraps right now, ready to be moved to the back porch for burning in the kitchen wood stove. But then there is at least another year’s potential stacked against the barn ready for cutting into smaller pieces, split, hauled, stacked and covered. That doesn’t count the two-dozen dead, standing trees on the property, victims of either the ash borer beetle or drowning.

Larry supervising the “poop pumping”

Part of getting ready to sell can be messy, such as having the septic tank cleaned, a necessary task scheduled every decade or so. After calling my sanitation guy, I took ten minutes to dig the sod away from the tank covers, two minutes to pull them off, and we were in business. When that giant truck and vacuum pump start up, you’d better have ear plugs. Our problem this time, though, was the gradual deteriorating of of the nearly 50-year old outlet baffle with the potential to allow solids into the drain field. The expert poop sucker man said, “No problem. Just attach a 4″ PVC elbow with 6″ down pipe.” OK, I had all of those inexpensive items and had them on with the system working in minutes. We should be good for another ten years. I do add Rid-X, a septic tank enzyme, twice a year when we go on vacation to increase the natural decomposition process. Sometimes we just add yeast. Hey, am I getting too personal? If you want to have a house in the country you have to know this stuff! We’ll have a test on it later. The biggest reason I’m so hesitant to head for a “home” designed for permanent retirement is that I’m having too much fun right where I am. I’m afraid to take a chance on shifting gears. I love plowing snow in the winter, mowing, weedeating, and taking care of the swimming pool in the summer. Other questions include, “Will our two kitties be happy with limited indoor and porch space?” and “Will the exercise room enable me to keep my excellent physique the way cutting, splitting, hauling, and stacking wood does now?” (Cue laughter here.) I have my bar-b-que just off the back porch and my favorite rocking chair on it to entertain friends, so why take a chance of messing that up by moving? Well, Susan says, “What if our new life is better?” My reply: “It’ll be expensive, but I’ll buy that – someday.”

Laurel View Retirement Village
Davidsville, PA

So where are we headed? We had considered moving south in the County, closer to our church with its choir and organ. And don’t forget our obligation to Meals on Wheels out of another Somerset church on Fridays. Nearby are the beautiful modular homes of Whispering Pines. We have friends there. Most of these retirement villages take care of yards in the summer and driveways in the winter, for a price of course. The problem there as I see it is the necessity to drive everywhere and limited walking and biking paths. And what if extreme health care is needed down the road? Another move would be necessary. The answer for us seems to be an all-in-one move to Laurel View Village in nearby Davidsville, just a stone’s throw from where Susan and I began our lifetime adventure together through marriage at St. David’s Lutheran Church. We’ve already decided to be buried out of Hoffman’s Funeral Home, right across the street. We’ll get to ride down Rts. 219 and 601 to St. James Cemetery, where Susan will have three generations buried. I just pray that the president of the place, me, will beat her to the grave. Hey, who’s going to weedeat and trim the stones when I’m gone?

Laurel View Village has five levels of living and several other specialty care options. They offer several exercise rooms and two swimming pools. Along with a public restaurant and dining rooms for middle care residents, LVV has on-campus salons, banking services, and a physician. It’s adjacent to a large farming operation, and the administration is talking about expanding in the near future. I would want a view of the woodland next door and easy access to the walking path. Susan and I have spent countless hours at LVV over the past decade. She buried her dad and uncle out of there, and we regularly visit several friends and a former neighbor there. Did I mention the free coffee and lemon water in the lounges?

Just a quick mention here of yet another option if and when we leave Forwardstown: Our daughter is about six hours away in southwest Virginia, and our son is two and a half additional hours south of her in Charlotte, but he may be moving. Annie has what we call a “granny flat,” where we stay for several weeks in the spring and fall. As we say in Appalachia, “It’s plenty big enough” for two old folks, and who knows, we may find ourselves taking care of our daughter and/or her property. Matthew isn’t terribly fond of his southern big city and can work from anywhere. I could picture us taking care of his  new place in the suburbs while he is off in Colombia, South America, for a visit to his other property and adopted family. At this point, all options are on the table.

Vickie Dellaquila
Author, Master Trainer, & Certified Professional Organizer

Before I call it quits, here’s that tip I promised earlier in this installment. It’s also a tip of the hat to a lady who has been extremely helpful over the past few years, Vickie Dellaquila, who travels from Pittsburgh’s North Hills to Laurel View Village to give a presentation she calls “Making the Move with Downsizing.” It is based on her book and workbook titled Don’t Toss my Memories in the Trash. Her company is called Organization Rules. She begins her talks by relating how difficult is can be to make a move in the latter stage of life. In fact, she says, Western Pennsylvania has one of the highest rates of seniors living in the house where they were born or had inherited. Letting go and consigning memories to the landfill can be traumatic and guilt producing. From her twenty years experience she believes that the younger generation simply doesn’t want their parents’ “stuff.” But here are just a few of her suggestions:

* Get help – perhaps a friend, a relative, or professional
* Take time – enjoy the process of downsizing and make a schedule into a habit
* Have a floor plan – limit and stage what you will keep in an unused area by linear feet for future move to the actual area of your new residence, and most importantly
* Keep what makes you happy

Of course Vickie has many more helpful and practical tips. Her inexpensive materials are available on Amazon, including a new book called Orphelia, named after her grandmother and dedicated to helping folks of all ages get organized. I’m amazed at the coincidence that her latest workshop was held just this past week as I was preparing this installment.

Beautiful fading sunset out our front window

Well, that sounds like a good place to almost end. Just as the view out our living room has afforded us winter scenes, wild life, and what not, at the end of each day it has also given us a preview of what’s in store. Come with me now to the final installment . .  .

Move to Chapter 7 – Postlude

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Last revised 7/11/22