Okay, yes, I began this post a couple of weeks ago, but was too tired, busy, or conflicted emotionally, to finish it. Today, I've dusted off the draft, realised it's pretty close and that any more stalling will soon render it stale-dated. So here you go.
One by one, of course, the kids moved on. One daughter and her then-boyfriend/now-husband moved into the guest cottage for a year while both went to university the year before she headed off to grad school; my son, our youngest, moved away for a gap year before university, then back home, then a few stutters away and back for co-op terms before the nest was completely empty. My husband worked a few years on the other side of the country, then a few more across the (Georgia) Strait, while I stayed in place so that the kids could finish up high school, then university here in town, meanwhile getting my Master's, then my PhD, then landing a position right in the university here in town. Thus even after Pater retired five years ago, even though the kids were obviously settling in the big city, beginning to raise their own kids, it made sense to stay here until I was ready to retire.
We'd bought the apartment over in the city when Pater landed a promotion there ten or so years ago,and buying a place in an upwardly-trending market made more sense than renting, especially since the kids began gravitating there. Increasingly, I'd be packing up on Thursday or Friday night, trying to remember everything I'd need for an urban weekend, lugging stacks of marking and materials to be prepped. We called it "the best of both worlds," and it was, but bit by bit, the back-and-forth grew a bit wearying. When we were in the city, I crammed my work into early morning and late evening hours, and all the rest seemed to be spent catching up with the younger generations. A treat, absolutely, but when we got back to our island home, we were happy to collapse in our big leather armchairs by the woodstove.
In fact, between my work, which tended to chew up weekends and evenings during term, and Pater's numerous contracts and the several boards he serves on, any social life on this side of the pond languished, and really, on the other side, we only socialised with family. The ride from town to island in our very reliable commuter boat only takes ten minutes, but during the long winter months, there's not much appeal crossing in the dark, especially if it's raining and blowing hard, or if the docks are treacherous with ice. Over the years we've become less and less willing to do that crossing, and when we're on the island, we tend to stay home of an evening, October through March. Not a problem when I was working and either had marking or prep to do or was glad enough for the respite of a Netflix binge, but we're beginning to want a bit more activity.
Similarly, when I was working, my social energies tended to be exhausted by my students, and I didn't mind so much that we declined many weekend invitations because we were planning to visit the kids in Vancouver. But part of the sadness that's been hitting me the last few years is tied into the huge difference between the rich friendships I nurtured much more carefully before teaching full-time and the ones whose potential I've only tenuously grasped lately. Moving up my retirement date was at least partly motivated by a determination to give more to friendships, both old and new.
There are certainly people our age living on our little island who manage very active social lives here with a rich complement of hobbies and interests, many of which they pursue "in town," happily commuting by boat, even on those dark winter evenings. But having raised four children who chose to live "away," we now have five grandchildren growing up in places that require a minimum half day's travel, round-trip. If even two of those grandkids were living in town, we'd probably stay here, but their parents have good jobs and full lives in cities we like. We're the ones with flexibility now, so with the logistics of that travel growing more wearing, we decided definitively a few years ago that once I retired, we'd give ourselves two to five years to enjoy the island together, at a more relaxed pace, and then move to Vancouver. . .
Next up, a (much shorter, I promise) post about why, having decided to have at least a couple of years together enjoying a slower-paced island life, did we put the house on the market, setting in motion a period of our lives that is not characterised by the words "enjoying" or "slower-paced."
Meanwhile, though, as always, your comments are welcome. I'm curious to know how many of you have relocated for similar reasons. I'd always marveled at people who move across the country to a city or town where they knew no one but their own adult child's family. The uprooting from their own lives seemed so drastic to me, and yet I could see that most often, these moves were happy ones with new social lives established, new activities adopted, new nests feathered. Our move will not be nearly as drastic, moving to a city we've had lifelong ties to, but I'm still feeling a bit apprehensive about making sure we establish fulfilling, interesting, joyful lives independent of our children and grandchildren. So your experience would be appreciated. I'm also happy to share what we find along the way, for those of you who anticipate similar moves down the road.
But now, it's time for yoga. Namaste!