Never Too Old to Begin Again
Last winter, my 88-year-old mother, Adeline, who had lived with me for twenty years after my father died, who’d traveled the world with me from Baku, Azerbaijan, to safari in Kenya, to settle in our new hometown in the foothills of Colorado, had decided to move back to Florida to be closer to her church and her friends.
Her reason was simple. Although Adeline's lived a rich and rewarding life, always working, always traveling the world, she'd never fulfilled one dream which was to live alone as an independent adult.
I could sympathize with her desire. After I graduated from the University of Michigan, I moved to New York City with nothing more than a peacock blue suitcase, three-hundred dollars, and an overwhelming desire to work on Wall Street. While it was a challenging time, it was also one of the most exciting times of my life.
When Mom moved to Florida, she was declaring her independence.
She described her singular desire to me in this way, “I went from living in my mother’s home, to living in my husband’s, to living with you, Suzie. I’ve always wanted to try living on my own, and I have to do it now before it’s too late.”
Knowing what a strong and independent woman my mother has always been, I respected and understood her desire to do this thing, especially as she said, if not now, then when?
On an intellectual level, I was happy and proud of Mom’s decision. In every phone conversation, it was clear that she was reveling in not only her ability to live independently for the first time in her life, but to be surrounded by her old friends, and embraced by her church. But on an emotional level, it was difficult to let her go knowing that we would now be living two thousand miles apart.
As it turned out, Mom and I had gone the distance on our journey together. The only way that we could fulfill the unique plan that God had for each of us was to go our own way.
After she made her decision, I watched Adeline’s move to Florida come together in an amazing way. Her condo in Florida was completely empty. There wasn’t a piece of furniture or a plate or spoon in the kitchen. Yet, as the time neared for her to move, and she told her friends she was returning, the most amazing things began to happen.
Friends began to bring furniture, sheets, dishes, pots and pans. Within a week of her arrival, Mom had everything she needed to begin her new life in Florida.
While I thought it was an incredible outpouring of coincidences. What I didn’t learn until much later is that Mom had spent months praying about this move before she made it.
However, at the age of 88, Mom was not without doubts. As she later described to me, she was very scared, and wondered if she was making the right decision. We had a great life together in Colorado. Our house was lovely, Mom enjoyed looking out the windows at the mountains and the changing seasons. She volunteered at the local thrift store and was loved by everyone she met, we had a comfortable life. Why was she feeling this overwhelming need to give all of that up now?
When I went to Florida to visit Mom, a year after her departure from our home in Colorado, I discovered that her experiment in independent living has been an outstanding success. She has created a supportive community of friends in her garden condominium. Thanks to her vivacious social skills, she has brought all of them together. They share group dinners that Mom cooks. In exchange, one of the three gentlemen does small repairs for her, another does her grocery shopping, and a third takes her to her doctor’s appointments.
While this sounds the best of a barter system, it’s much more than that. They are a group of friends, each of whom lived solitary lives until Mom showed up. Now they share a table together for meals, they plan social outings together. They have formed friendships and support one another.
Here’s what I’ve learned from Mom’s move: It’s never to late to start again. For the first time in twenty years, I am also living on my own. I am 54-years old, relatively young compared to Mom, still, it took me time to adjust to living alone again. Yet, like Adeline, I have found this to be an exciting time of learning how good independence can be. If our desire is stronger than our fears, our lives can continue to be filled with new adventures until the day we die. Age is not a reason to face ever smaller horizons and isolation. Instead, it confirms that each stage of life offers new possibilities for growth of our selves.