Monday, January 17, 2011

How It All Began

Back stories are always interesting. How did the two of you meet? What made you decide to become a_____? What brought you to Madison? You know how it goes. These are questions that when answered, help us understand someone and get to know them better. So, I was recently asked by a reader, "what got you so interested in simplifying?" Here is the long and the short of it. Love that saying.

I was 22 years old and living in Milwaukee. I was the Marketing Director of an independent retirement community. My job had many aspects all of which I loved. I wrote newsletters and talked with groups of people. I gave tours of our building and helped people through the application and moving process. Every day was different and yet there was great comfort in the norm. Because the facility was "independent" it meant that retired persons could live there if there was no need for any form of nursing care. Basically condos for people 55 and older. With tons of amenities. A dining room, exercise classes and equipment, a convenience store, coffee shop, beauty/barber shop, social and holiday events, transportation. The list could go on for a while.

On a day that I was catching up on paper work, I got a call from the receptionist. Could I give a tour to a couple who had just walked in. Of course. I gave the tour and visited with them. Truly lovely people. I mean the epitome of health. Really looking for a place to call home that wouldn't require outdoor maintenance. They wanted more time for golf and travel. I could see them in the next newsletter welcoming them to our building! I sent them home with the paperwork. They wanted their children to look it over. Their son is an attorney. I said I understood. The next day the son called. Could he come for a visit? After our tour he said this is exactly what his parents wanted. Everyone was excited.

Then no contact for a few weeks. I was growing a bit concerned and placed a phone call. The wife answered and said that she just wasn't sure this was the time. They were still so vital and involved in so many things. I said, exactly, perfect to move in now to free up even more time for these things. Now isn't the right time, she said. We stayed in touch via notes through the mail every few months. I thought this was the end of the story.

About six months later I received a call from the attorney son. Was the type of apartment still available? They had wanted a two bedroom, two bath. No, there is now a waiting list was my reply. What is available he asked and I told him. Could we come and see you? And a date was set. I was happy that this couple was going to move in. I could see them going with a group to the Performing Arts Center for plays and musicals, playing bridge and hosting parties in the community room. I could hardly contain my excitement.

And then they came for a visit. The son and the mother. The husband had very suddenly died of a heart attack. And now the wife was in a wheelchair. She had slipped off the back step shoveling. Their story absolutely broke my heart. It was two fold actually. I was so sad to hear of her husband's death. Such a wonderful man. And to see her suffering even more from her injury made my heart break. And then I had to deliver the news. She would not be able to move in to our facility with her nursing staff. Ours is an independent living facility. Unfair as this may seem, she needed assisted living arrangements. I was able to help get her in to one such facility.

A few months later I received another call from the son. Mom is flying through rehab faster than they can believe! Her motivation is to move to our building. And true to form a month later she did. No more need to have help from any nursing staff. Her move went well. She made friends as I knew she would. She was very active in social gatherings and I would see her in the coffee shop often.

One day she invited me to her apartment. She wanted to show me how she had settled in and decorated. She offered me coffee. We chatted about her children and how happy they were to have her living here. And then she gave me the jewel of knowledge that I have carried with me ever since. She recapped how it was her husband's idea to sell their house. He wanted the freedom from shoveling and mowing. He wanted to travel more and not worry about the house. He wanted to get rid of stuff so that they could spend the rest of their lives interacting and not cleaning and maintaining. He told her no one ever dies wishing they had more stuff. They may die with regrets of not spending enough time with people and going to places, though. And when he died, she hung on to all of her stuff and her house. She said it was silly, perhaps, but it made her feel closer to her husband. And then she told me it almost killed her. She was shoveling, slipped, broke her hip and almost died of pneumonia. She thanked me for helping give her the nudge to recover. She wanted to honor her husband and herself by getting better.

As you can imagine, I was touched. For this woman to share such sage wisdom with me at my age, was forever life changing. That day I decided to never fall in love with my four walls, or my house, or my clothes, furniture or car. This is all important in life. You need it to live. And it feels good to be comfortable and stylish. But I reserve my love for the people in my life. My family, my friends and my pets. The experiences I have with them are always with me---no matter where I am living, or what I am driving or what I am wearing.

©2011 Ann M. De Broux

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