Friends of ours just returned from four weeks in Italy. Days of sunshine. Mornings with una tazza di caffè. So delightful. They stayed at a four-story house their son and his family have rented: Their daughter-in-law was appointed to a prestigious job at an international agency headquartered in Rome and so the family relocated. What that meant for my friends, who have been plagued by health issues these past few years, is that their son is no longer available (as he had been) to help them out when they have a health or house-maintenance problem. The son, in his turn, is gently insisting that his parents move to Italy--the four-story house has a suite for them and he will be able to take care of them as needs arise.
A week after our friends returned from Rome, we had dinner together. "No way," they said. "We are not moving to Italy." Language issues aside (It's not a minor aside when you don't speak Italian and live in Italy.), they were not, they said "ready" to make such a move, a move that would make them totally dependent on their son and his family. How would they make friends? Have any kind of community life? Be able to talk to anyone outside of the house?
The question that hung in the air: When is one "ready" to pull up roots and move near one's grown children? Italy may throw a slightly romantic cast on such a decision, but whether it's Rome or Miami or Chicago (or wherever a grown child now lives), it's disorienting to leave a "life" behind and start over. Should we do it when we're young enough to join communities and build a new life? Or do we wait until we're deep into our dotage and don't have many good choices left?
Even more to the point: Should it be our children who are telling us (gently insisting) what to do and when to do it? During Covid, when those of us over 65 were told we were at greater risk than everyone else, many of us found our children got bossy: Telling us to stay home and keep ourselves under strict quarantine. I posted about that phenomenon here and here.
Within my own family, my children have brought up the "relocation" subject in a less insistent way. Their dad and I are without major health problems. We may no longer be taking bicycling vacations in Brittany, but we're still leading active lives. Our children want to know what we'd want to do if/when the time came that we couldn't manage on our own. Would we want to move to a supportive living facility near them or where we are? So hard to imagine not being able to take care of oneself. But who knows what lies ahead?
My daughter put it this way: "It's hard to imagine this most ordinary thing."
That said, the seed has been planted--by them for us. The issue is not front-of-mind but it's back there somewhere, ready to be addressed when we're "ready."
photo: Maia Lemov