The Long Way Home 11.17.23

Seeing athletes, politicians, and other celebrities retire at the pinnacle of their careers has always inspired me. Knowing when to step aside is a badge of honor.

Sadly, most people deny the inevitable decline for far too long, ending up as a sad shadow of their best selves. 

In my life choices, I have tried to step away when I was peaking. Like selling a business or two that was ready to move beyond my limited talents. Leaving a job or consulting assignment when I passed the point of adding value. Even giving up my prized Red Rock Democratic Club in Las Vegas after leading a compelling and energetic organizing effort from 2005 through the big national election of 2008.

With the invasive aquatic species work over that I’d done during the boating season and the firewood put up for winter, I’ve been reflecting on where the Bohunk and I are at these days.

Half of our offspring, all four in their 40s now, proposed to Becky that we should leave our refuge on the ridge that overlooks Lake Superior and move closer to the stress-producing metropolis of Duluth.

Our son-in-law even offered to build a casita for us at their house in Carlton. (Having spent a couple of decades in Las Vegas, he finds the word “casita” more appropriate than the politically correct phrase of housing and redevelopment bureaucrats, “Accessory Dwelling Unit” or ADU.)

We aren’t sure we’ve reached the pinnacle of our Northwoods experience that began seven years ago, but it does seem clear that the physical peak is near. And since I’m nothing, if not consistent, we are thinking hard about moving on from that peak.

With four dogs and two cats, both of us are outside a lot of the time. Being outside in winter, with the ever-present threat of a slip and fall that could break a hip or two, we are both realistic about our physical decline. 

Driving in the dark is nearly impossible, with weakening eyesight and slower reflexes. 

I recall the anger-filled days, months really, that it took to get my mother’s car keys away from her when her driving was a threat not just to herself but to others. I do not wish for a similar fight with our offspring.

Over our half-century of married life, we have lived in 17 different dwelling units in 11 cities in four states. Every move included a modest purging of stuff, but we still have more than we should. I recall moving my mom from the modest tract house she called home for 40 years to a one-level townhouse while she was recovering in hospital and unable to offer us her guidance about what to keep and what to toss. 

So this winter, you will find me going through old photos (boxes of them), paper records, and general junk--sorting into treasures to pass on, trash, or sell on Facebook. 

By next Spring, we will have very little stuff to leave behind or store in a tiny ADU in Carlton.