The Debt I Can Never Repay

by Sara Murphy
Originally Published: 

Yes, after 31 years in the same town where I graduated from high school, my parents have uprooted and purchased a house only two miles from our own. They are now among the increasing number of retirees who have made it a more commonplace notion to move closer to the younger generations of their family, especially to support their children in the raising of their grandchildren.

Their fervor to be closer to their only two grandsons meant that my mother, who was still working at the time, allowed my father to house shop without her. My mother does not force my father to wear a ball and chain or anything like that, but she is the realist, and he is the idealist. So you can see the risk she was taking by not being fully involved in the house selection process. The only stipulations they each held tightly to were that 1) the house had to be in our school district, so the bus could drop our boys off after school to be spoiled by grandmom, and 2) it had to be only one story so they wouldn’t ever have to move because of mobility issues with stairs. Smart people, my parents.

The house my parents chose had been owned by an older couple with grown children before the husband passed away. The wife managed to live alone for several years after his passing, but her own health issues required her to move somewhere safer, somewhere with nursing care. Moving my parents into this woman’s former home, I can’t avoid thinking about the likelihood that I’ll be moving them (or, worse, only one of them) out of it someday for similar reasons. I’m putting aside such thoughts, though. We’re at the beginning, not the end, of their time with us. My mother is just barely old enough to retire, and my father is a few years from full retirement and will be seeking part-time employment till he gets there. They have had some minor health problems in the last 10 years, but they are young grandparents with plenty of wonderful years to enjoy their new home and their proximity to us.

Their moving truck pulled into the driveway today, and it all became real. I’m envisioning holidays spent together without anyone having to drive four hours each way, and my husband, our boys and I going on trips sometimes without having to kennel our dogs because my mother is the original Dog Whisperer. My mother and I plan to garden together and plant fruit trees in their big, empty backyard to mimic the mini orchard she had at their old house. And we can travel together as a six-pack to visit other extended family members and new destinations, sharing in the combination of craziness and relaxation that such adventures bring. I want to show them so many things—the gorgeous Victorian houses in Cape May and the burgeoning produce stands on the drive to the shore, the swim club where our boys swim like ever-growing fish with their friends, the crazy-yet-wonderful house nearby that overdecorates for Christmas and has a tiny collection box for their electric bill. I am overflowing with the possibilities.

And when the time comes that my parents, in their turn, need to rely on our support and assistance, we’ll be right there, offering whatever they need. They’ve been selfless my whole life, but this grand act of leaving behind all the familiar things and starting anew in their so-called golden years is something I can never fully thank them for. Still, I’ll sure as heck be trying every single day.

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