Is this a Halloween mask? An outer space creature? A new Sesame Street character?
Trick and treat. It’s the bark on a section of a felled log where I rested during a recent hike.
Isn’t it beautiful? Looking at it reminded me of my own wrinkles (how much time I have spent pondering them!) and about the wonderfully wrinkled other faces I see on the aged ranchers in Dubois. Those wrinkles have great stories to tell!
The young, hip gentry back in that now-trendy city neighborhood in Brooklyn that I must visit now and again refer to Baby Boomer homeowners like us, who haven’t yet sold and moved out, as the “leftovers.” These new neighbors walk right past me on those familiar streets, as if we were both wearing masks. It makes me feel more like a ghost than a leftover, but perhaps appropriately so. The house I used to occupy began to feel haunted, by the high, noisy voices of our children who grew up there.
Then I retired, intentionally making a ghost of my former self. I embarked on a journey into a spooky thicket that is treacherous and tangled, with truly endless commitments to adult children, sad and scary duties to aging parents, unforeseeable hazards and murky decisions.
One of them may be the choice of where to live out those perilous years in the shadow of your own mortality. That decision can be scary. It was for us.
A brief road trip to the Southwest has brought to mind some of the options we did not choose. For instance:
The planned retirement village, offering a quiet life in the exclusive company of other people with similar interests and lifestyles.
If you want, of course, you can guarantee that exclusion with gates and guards.
A friend at my mother’s retirement village — one of the oldest and best in the country, a nonprofit — calls it a “ghetto.” A very pleasant ghetto indeed, she says, but a self-imposed prison nonetheless.
We do have the feeling that by removing all challenges and inconveniences, this option has a way of hastening your trip into passivity.
Of course, as the sad picture above demonstrates, these communities may fail to evolve as planned.
The opposite end of the spectrum, the RV nomad lifestyle, beckons with the pleasant thought of following the best weather everywhere and seeing new places at every turn.
We see these nomads passing through Dubois all the time, and sometimes host them at our local RV parks. Temporary communities do seem to form among the mobile homers who settle in the same seasonal location year after year, but this gypsy lifestyle would only suit me for a few weeks at a time.
We have neighbors who lived only in their large RV for nearly a decade. They finally sold it and settled in Dubois.
Nobody planned Dubois. It is what social planners have called a “naturally organizing retirement community,” where people of our age group gravitate and build the resources they need for themselves.
We are indeed a community of like-minded people, but just about the only opinion that we feel the need to share is the value of the community itself. At home in Dubois, I’ve found, people don’t really care where you came from or what you used to do. (In fact, a newly published oral history of the town says that a century ago it was considered rude to ask.)
What matters is who you are now and what you contribute to the village.
Which is what it really is: a village, with children and noisy, irreverent teenagers, and young adults who may make bad choices, as well as many who grew old here and others who came here to grow old.
That’s enlivening, and hopeful, and not a bit scary.
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© Lois Wingerson 2015