Baby Boomer Orphan Goes Gray Gracefully
We baby boomers were ready to change the world in our youth and now we’re busy reinventing retirement. But we’re forced to do something entirely ordinary and conventional.
No getting around it. We are getting older. That means we all have to face some inevitable changes.
My guest blogger, Cat Michaels, faced these changes head-on as she became a baby boomer orphan after losing her father this year, “right-sized” to a one-story home and decluttered, altered her writing goals after penning her first non-fiction piece, and ditched the dye to gray gracefully.
Here is her engaging story:
My first year as a baby boomer orphan has been one of emotional ups downs. I took time to grieve and learned to deal with sadness. Then two huge personal challenges clicked into place to alter my personal space.
Adios, Old Friend
My first change reflected new realities of ascending into my family’s senior-member orbit after my parent’s passing: My husband, JM, and I are right-sizing. After watching my parent’s failing health and slowing mobility, we decided to find a home where we could age in place and not wait until poor health forced us to transition.
Yep. We’re leaving our cherished home along the greenway and neighbors of 20 years to build a residence three miles away. Still near the ‘hood and close to all we love, it’s not a retirement community (see next section). Instead, it’s a wonderful mix of generations and families in all life stages. JM and I hope our new neighbors will be as wonderful as the ones we were blessed with for two decades.
Right-sizing was a head decision. not a heart decision. Our new home will be mostly on one level, so if we’re unable to climb stairs in the future, no problem. Its square footage is nearly what we have now, redistributed minus a formal living room and one bedroom. I still have my office, and JM can’t wait to build his O-scale model train layout in his ginormous new game room.
We never had hordes of possessions, but I still dreaded skinnying down our household. Armed with boxes, packing tape and bubble wrap, I started sorting. Keep. Toss. Donate. I trekked to Goodwill with carloads of donations and filled a rented storage room with books, linens, and other “non-essentials” to make our home look more spacious when staged for sale this spring.
I was surprised at how unburdened and downright buoyant I felt passing along my belongings for others to enjoy. Like that young worker helping us spruce up the front entry, who received a small rug and an end table. His huge smile told me the vintage pieces I purchased at an estate sale years ago found a happy home.
I even unearthed forgotten treasures in a box in the attic, unopened from our last move 20 years ago: Dad’s 1970s-era McDonald’s morning mugs he left after visiting us from Connecticut. These reminders of his sunny disposition and coffee addiction will be featured in our new home.
Hardest has been parting with the 100-year-old pump organ that was connected to JM’s family since it was made by Weaver Organ and Piano in York, PA in 1906. I will miss its beautiful walnut case and Victorian charm, but there’s no room for it in the new house. I hope we can find someone who will cherish it just as much as we have.
It’s also tough leaving lush woodlands in our established neighborhood. But we’ll have a wee hill and teeny green copse of trees, leftovers from construction bulldozers razing the old pine forests that once stood where our new community is being built. It will be a tough transition from miles of greenway right outside door to a single, short walking path to our new place.
BUT … we say adios to constant leaf raking, yard work, and copperheads in the adjacent woods (Hooray!). And yes, I’ll take a carload of favorite plants for new garden beds, but most specimens stay for the next family. Plus, I get to create a whole new outdoor garden space in addition to interior design. Sad/happy times.
Finding My Roots
Finding a new home hasn’t been the only thing on my radar. I’m piling on another major life transition most women of a certain age face. Yep. Letting my natural hair color take root, so to speak [winking here].
I resisted going natural for the longest time. I adore my sassy reddish-brown tresses and am over the moon when people under-estimate my age. But it’s time to embrace my baby-boomer status. Spouse JM supports my decision. We’re looking forward to seeing what color (colors?) emerge. Already, a few grays at the temple and salt-and-pepper shades at the neckline give us clues.
My biggest fear: this new look could stereotype me as a slow, forgetful senior-citizen luddite. Sigh. I’m not a member of AARP and don’t expect to play bingo at the community center any time soon.
I was offended when a Millennial recently once assumed I didn’t know several cool apps or have a presence on social media. And this was with my sassy brunette look! Grrr.
I format my own digital and print books, maintain a website and two blogs, plus manage three email accounts and just as many cloud storage platforms, and moderate multiple Facebook groups.
Like any journey, it’s what you make of it along the way. I feel sad as I let go of the past, but I’m ready for my dance with tomorrow.
Author and blogger CAT MICHAELS, M.S., Ed., has more than two decades of experience helping students from kindergarten to college with learning disabilities and Asperger’s syndrome reach their potential. Her chapter books and Sweet T Tales series for beginning readers tell of everyday life with a twist of magic and mischief. Cat lives in North Carolina with her family, where she enjoys digital photography, graphic design, writing, and designing pocket gardens. Click on the following links to learn more: Website/Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Have you found it hard or easy to make a major life change? What helps you find energy/courage to move in new directions? Please share in the comment section.