Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 885 There has to be a beach

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery. I've entitled this episode "There Has To Be A Beach".

That phrase was expressed to me recently by my wife's cousin who was visiting us for a few days. She lives in  Jackson, Mississippi which must be 2 or three hours from the beach on the Gulf. But when she moves into permanent retirement mode she wants to be right on the beach. She wants to hear those waves all day long. She wants to sit in the shade and read books, read books and read books. For variety she will sprinkle in a stiff scotch with great regularity.

Her husband on the other hand is focused on the financial end of retirement. He is looking for retirement homes that they can afford for the duration. He wants to sell the house they now occupy and move into one of the retirement home complexes that offer various levels of care from providing you just an apartment to including one meal a day to providing full food service. And then nursing care when you need it. I think they call it extended care. He also wants to locate in the midwest where he feels like he will get good down-home personal care. None of that big city casual stuff. He has one spotted in his old home state of Iowa that fills the bill.

Funny how people think of different things when they start to think about retirement. I have two sisters who live on farms in Iowa. Kids are grown. Last crops are harvested. The land is sold or rented. Yet they continue to find comfort in living in the same house they have lived in for what must be the last 40 to 50 years. They are not moving. They are not moving to Arizona. One did recently move into town.

We met some folks for coffee last week who moved from Billings, Montana to Port Townsend, Washington. They did this when they retired maybe 10 or 15  years ago. Billings, Montana was where they were born and raised. Cattle country, mining country, big country, pickup trucks and gun racks. Lived there almost all of their life.

Then they moved to Port Townsend. It is a boaters town, right on salt water. It is an artists town. Everyone makes something. Lots of long dresses, long hair, Birkenstocks. Great coffee. Lots of charm and not enough money to buy the art produced. They love it.

We retired 28 years ago. We were pretty young to do such a thing but the opportunity presented itself and we grabbed it. We loved where we lived in Anchorage, Alaska but decided to look around for some place we might find even more satisfying.

And what would that place look like? We wrote down our dream before we went looking: a temperate climate - not hot and not cold. We wanted a University in the town and we wanted it on the west coast. We dreamed of it being close to mountains and salt water. And we wanted it close to a big city. We also wanted a place not so small that we would know everyone and not so large that we couldn't feel part of the community.

We found what we wanted in Bellingham, Washington. It had everything on our list. Temperate climate, Western Washington University, a school of about 15000 undergraduates was just right. It sits on Bellingham Bay part of Puget Sound and the Cascade Mt. Range rises up to the east. Seattle lies 90 miles to the south and Vancouver BC is 65 miles to the north. Bellingham was a town of about 75 thousand which was just the right size to get to know your neighbors or to get lost just across town. We could become active in community affairs. It has worked for us.

First we had the dream. We wrote it down. Then we went looking and we found what we were looking for. We feel very lucky.  We were living in a rented dwelling up close to the college our first couple of months. The plan was to just rent for a few months and then move on to another town on our list of prospects. We loved this town and decided to buy.I do remember a few moments of doubt the first week after we made a down payment on the house we have lived in these past 36 years.

One Friday night in October gun fire woke us at 2 in the morning. We were sound asleep. The shots sounded like they were just outside our bedroom window. There were three shots. It sounded like a shotgun. The shots were rapid and then there was absolute silence. We wondered if we had heard firecrackers instead of gun fire. Coming out of a deep sleep our mind was not working well. Our dog would not settle down. Brenda got up and let it out the back door. But it wanted back in almost instantly. We went back to sleep.

A couple of hours later bright flood lights lit our bedroom. A voice sounded, "We are inside. It is alright". I don't know which happened first: the lights or the voice. The shout came from outside our bedroom window. That was a good thing. At least the person wasn't in our house. We leaped out of bed, slipped on some clothes and stepped out into the lights.

Several police officers stopped us in the yard. There had been a shooting reported and they were investigating. Two people were dead as well as their pit bull guard dog. They lived upstairs above a garage set on the ally. They had a sticker on their door: "These premises are guarded by a twelve gauge shotgun three nights a week. You guess the nights." Someone had.

A low crime rate was one of the reasons we had chosen to put a downpayment on a house in this town. This was an example of a drug deal gone bad. We knew the victims and the shooter. The victims were students who had dropped out of college for a semester or two. They were into trucks, pit bulls, and guns. They liked to go four wheeling and I guess they also liked to do some drugs.

The shooter was an off campus friend. We learned from his public defender later that he had an  IQ in the low seventies. Two mutual friends had put him up to being the trigger man. It was a mess.

Our choice of a place in which to retire came under question. This was supposed to be one of the best places in America to retire. The shooting put a few doubts in our minds. We breathed a little sigh of relief to know our new home was located in a completely different neighborhood. Only later did we learn that the infamous Ted Bundy had killed one of his victims just one block away from our new home.

Choosing a place to retire can be daunting or exciting. It depends so much on the different desires of individuals. Some love hot weather. I have a sister who lives in Sun City, Arizona and loves it when the temperature climbs over 110 degrees. A brother of mine retired to Green Valley,Arizona. He loves it. Some love rural life and others want the hustle and bustle of the city. Some like to stay close to what they know well and others like everything new and different.

One thing about it: where ever you go, there you are. You always take yourself with you. But as for us. We are not moving. As for the gun fire at night; It has never been repeated.

This is Retirement Talk with something to think about. What would your ideal place to live look like? Is it out there?

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