A Hollow House

My son has moved out and only the cat and I remain. The walls are bare after having the place painted to sell. Boxes were packed up and moved out yesterday. My home is a hollow shell of what it was. It feels strangely like the day I moved in 5 years ago. It is just that empty. Back at the beginning it had not been renovated and I didn’t know what lay ahead. It was a new life full of possibilities. I bought the townhouse for myself and my autistic son to start anew. So many good things happened for him in those 5 years. He developed a very full life in our town. He had a job, a church, and a therapeutic support system. My life was focused on making a good life for him while also earning a living. Unfortunately after a lifetime of living in large cities like NY, Boston and Tokyo, I never adjusted to the small town life here.

A year ago I decided it was time to make a change. I had always envisioned moving west at some point in the future and even though I’m not retired yet, I decided to do this sooner rather than later. I explored a few possibilities. I was considering New Mexico and Colorado but most of all I was interested in Arizona. I resumed a search that I had started in 2008. Back then I went out to Scottsdale, Prescott and Sedona to see if I would like living in AZ. For several reasons it wasn’t the right time but I was intrigued with how different AZ was from all the places I had lived before. I felt happy there because there was so much sun. I noticed a difference in myself. I felt energetically in tune with the area.

In 2016 I made several trips out to Arizona and Colorado to explore. The act of exploration was rewarding and fun and a new lifestyle emerged. It gave me hope again. I felt that there were possibilities for my future after all. Getting him on board with this move was not easy. After all, he was very content in the northeast in a small town even though he had grown up in Brooklyn and NYC. He didn’t want to leave and I tried to find a way for him to stay without me but it wasn’t going to be possible. I found a program in Phoenix and he’s there now. They are teaching him life skills in order to transition into some sort of supportive living program later. He is 26 years old. I never had the empty nest that my friends experienced when our kids came of age. Mothers of disabled adults are never free.

Right now I’m looking back and forward at the same time. The past is done, over, finished. I don’t get any do-overs. The future is hopeful but still uncertain. The home that I moved into with anticipation is hollow and empty but I am not. There was a life here. There are so many good memories and most of all I expressed myself creatively here. I did renovations and designs that I am so proud of. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction to arrive at this point. There was nothing left for me to do here. I was stuck last year and I knew that if life continued that way for another 5 years, nothing was going to change or get better.

Aging is full of unknowns. Health issues can’t be predicted. Even practicing all the best health habits can still result in an unexpected illness down the road. That is why I decided to make a big change now. I couldn’t afford to wait. One small go round with cancer was enough to wake me up and make me grasp the present fully. We always hope that a new place will be a better place but it doesn’t always turn out that way. There are no guarantees on change.

However, feeling hopeful is a refreshing change in and of itself. My experiences over the last 12 months were exciting and fun. The process was extremely enjoyable. I’ll never forget that. My son has made strides in his new program and he feels more hopeful about his future without me because chances are, he’ll be around long after I’m gone. It’s important to create win-win situations with our loved ones. Everyone deserves to be happy and fulfilled, even mothers.

 

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Author: Debbie Simon-14

I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been in practice for 30 years. I combine years of experience in medical and psychiatric settings with a little bit of humor to come up with ideas for this blog. I lived in Brooklyn and NYC most of my adult life and raised my 2 sons there. From 1989-1992 I lived as an expat in Tokyo, Japan. I moved to CT in 2010 and after 6 years here I have decided to move west to a warmer climate. My interest in "this stage of life" stems from an observation that there is a lack of research and information on this developmental stage. Since baby boomers have always set the pace for future generations, the value of our lives between 50 and 70 years of age is just starting to gain some attention. Many clients in this age group who I've worked with in recent years have experienced agism in the work place, lay offs, foreclosures of their homes and financial concerns for the future. The retirement that our parents may have enjoyed is becoming a thing of the past. My hope is that this blog might strike a chord for some who are making their way through this leg of the journey with the same resilience, positivity and grit that they got through all of life's challenges with.

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