Sometimes events make choices for us. Superstorm Sandy devastated thousands of homes and caused many on Long Island and New Jersey to think about assisted living for the first time.
My family knows a great deal about aging parents and events that change everything. Most recently, the storm uprooted my uncle and aunt and their Baby Boomer children suddenly had to help.
In Babylon, my Uncle Murray and Aunt Phyllis’s home of more than fifty years was flooded.
The pond in their backyard,that gave them so much pleasure, flowed over the lawn into the house and ruined the electrical system and the flooring.
Sure, others had it much worse. Uncle Murray and Aunt Phyllis could repair their beautiful home. But he’s 91-years-old and she’s 87. The challenge was huge. They had no heat and couldn’t live in the house. Thankfully, a long-time friend invited them to stay for awhile. Their daughters, Jeanne and Laura, had been visiting from Oregon when Sandy shook their world. They helped with the cleanup right after, went home and then came back again. They encouraged their parents to sell the house. You can imagine Phyllis and Murray’s despair at the idea of a natural disaster forcing a decision upon them.
Maybe they were thinking about selling their home some time in the future. But they didn’t have a firm plan about when and where to go. They had deep roots in the community. Uncle Murray is a doctor and until recently he volunteered at the hospital. They have friends, a Temple nearby, things to do. Aunt Phyllis enjoyed her book club. Murray loved his garden. They weren’t quite ready to give up their home and inevitably some of their cherished possessions. But the storm left them adrift. Neighbors suggested they sell the house. The children asked them to move to Oregon. They resisted. Yet as they went over and over the options, the negatives stacked up against them. In a place where you need to drive, suddenly they couldn’t. Their two cars were flooded. One was totaled. They are smart and sensible people and after a couple of weeks of visiting their unheated, cold, dark house daily to sort and protect their possessions, they reached a decision. They would fix the house and put it on the market for sale. They decided to move to Ashland, Oregon where their daughter Laura and her family live. It is not a plan they like or really want to follow. Their daughter Jeanne returned to help them to pack up and select what they want to keep, give away and sell, and Laura returned to finish it all up. It isn’t easy for any of them. Sitting in a diner over a cup of coffee Aunt Phyllis said, “Everything changed so quickly. We never imagined. I never thought we’d lose our home.”