Thanks to the Hip and Knee doctor for editing assistance.
I guess my big mistake was not manning up earlier. I let myself get into a funk and now I was paying the price. To be honest with you, it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. A man is supposed to hold up and carry on, but I just didn't feel like it. Mary, was gone and at the time, as far as I was concerned, my life was over. All I wanted to do was mope around and wallow in my own misery. Without Mary, there was nothing to live for. I know that sounds corny, but we had been married for almost fifty years and it was hard for me to adapt. My kids tried to console me the best that they could, but something was missing.
I am sitting here in my son's house, listening to him arguing with his sister, my daughter, about their plans for my future. Of course, they are in another room, but I am not deaf and I am not senile. In fact, my only problem is depression, which was brought on by my wife's death. I am actually in better shape physically that either of my kids, who are both in their forties. It would have been nice and considerate if they included me in these discussions, but they seemed to feel that I am not mentally capable.
After Mary passed away, I stayed in the family home for about a year. I admit that I was in pretty bad shape emotionally, but I wasn't incompetent: I was just not interested. My son, Bob, and daughter, Denise, suggested that I sell the house. I didn't offer any resistance. It was actually the only good idea that the pair of them had. I didn't feel like living in the empty house or maintaining it. The mortgage had been paid off many years earlier and the house had appreciated nicely. The first indication of a problem occurred at the settlement. Denise arranged to have half of the proceeds put in a money market account in her name and my name. The other half of the money went into a tax-free municipal bond fund, with Bob as a joint owner. I paid attention, but didn't say anything at the time. My loving children had both gotten dibs on my money and I wasn't even ready to die yet. Were they concerned for my welfare, or just greedy? At this point I wasn't sure.
Bob was married for twenty-two years and had two sons, both in college. Denise married a year later and had two daughters, one in college and one exiled to the far end of the earth for committing the crime of getting knocked up.
Bob worked as an insurance adjuster. Denise's husband was a county building inspector. Neither one of them was wealthy, but they were comfortable.
The argument today was about where I was going to be living for the next six months. I stayed with Denise and her husband during the first half year, and I had been at Bob's place since then. I didn't consider myself to be any trouble at all, so I had a hard time understanding why there was a problem that had to be resolved. I didn't care where I lived.
After listening for about twenty minutes, I grabbed my jacket and drove over to the mall. I didn't have a house, my kids controlled most of my money, but at least I could still drive. In addition to my Social Security check, I had a small pension. I gave my benefactors five hundred dollars each month to off-set expenses, which I thought was generous, and I still had a nice wad left over to spend on fancy lunches, snacks, and car insurance.
The mall was air conditioned and full of life. I had just settled in, when I got my first surprise.
"Hi, grand-pop. What are you doing out so early? Trying to pick up girls, I bet." Wendy was the black sheep of the family, but she was always my favorite. For some reason, I just could not be upset around her, even if she did get herself into a family way. She was cute and perky. Any boy would be lucky to get to spend time with her. She was the only one of my grandkids that ever send me a birthday card.
"Jason, say hello to your gramps." The tyke in the stroller was almost old enough to be walking. I wasn't sure if he could talk or not. Being cloistered in Bob and Denise's places the last year, did not give me much time to see Wendy, or her son.
Wendy and I enjoyed each other's company for almost an hour, before she had to leave to go to work. She didn't get to finish high school, but she was working hard to make a life for Jason, despite being ostracized by her parents. She served lunch and spent the afternoon doing prep work at the local Olive Garden. In the evenings, she watched two kids for the girl who took care of Jason during the day. I never asked her about Jason's father. I didn't think it was my place. If she wanted me to know, she would tell me.
The short visit with my grand daughter made my day, but it was destined to get better. I watched as a van from the Bear Valley Community Village pulled up in front of the main mall entrance. Eight to ten people got out and all started off in different directions. I was expecting walkers and wheelchairs, but that was not the way it was. All of them were normal active people, just a little older than most. Three of the ladies walked in my direction. As they got closer, I recognized a smile. It was from Janet Moyer, a high school classmate from fifty years ago. She was older and grayer, but her smile was the same. Janet and I had dated a few times, before I met Mary. Actually, I didn't meet Mary until after Janet's family moved to Lancaster.
I sat quietly, while watching in fascination as they walked by. I was smiling to myself, because I had a good feeling when I saw her. It was a feeling that I hadn't had since Mary died. As I was recalling old memories, she broke through my reverie.
"John? John Terrell? Is that you?" Janet approached me as her two friends stayed back. I stood up with a grin on my face like a teenaged boy.
"Hi, Janet. You look good." I was flattered that she remembered me. She turned and waved for her two friends to go on. We talked for a few minutes and then wandered over to the food court. An hour later, her friends came to get her, because the van was returning to Bear Valley. She gave me her phone number. I was like a teenaged boy all over again. I was happy for the first time in two years.
Before going home, I treated myself to a couple of new shirts. I realized that I had not bought any clothing for several years. I felt like a resurrection was coming on. It was a good feeling.
Bob's wife, Marsha, was just setting the table for the evening meal. She smiled and reminded me that supper would be ready in twenty minutes. I put my shirts away and washed up for the family gathering. It was a somber meal. Nothing was said about the earlier discussion. I could only guess that I did not have a need to know. It was time to make my own plans.
I spent the rest of the evening in front of the TV with Bob and his wife. She was knitting, he was reading, and I was recalling my afternoon conversation with Janet.
She had married a fellow named Felix Simons, a year after finishing high school. They had two children who were both grown up, with families. Felix died from cancer three years ago. He had set things up so that his insurance money and cash from the sale of their home would go into an annuity fund. Two hundred thousand dollars in savings were set-aside for her to buy a unit at Bear Valley. Between her Social Security and the monthly draw from the annuity, she was set for life. When she died, her children would get what was left of the annuity plus the resale of the retirement unit. She said it was a CCRC, which meant she could stay there even if she got sick and needed nursing care. It sounded good to me. I went to bed that night with a smile on my face. I had big plans for tomorrow.
I was up and out of the house before anyone else. I got breakfast at IHOP, and when I finished eating, I realized that nothing would be open for several hours. I was so damn anxious that I jumped the gun. To kill time, I drove by the Bear Valley facility. It was just as Janet had described it. At least a dozen people were wandering around the grounds. There were jogging paths, but everyone was walking. That was fine with me, because running hurt my knees. I looked around, hoping to see Janet, but nobody can be that lucky. I spent about an hour checking things out and trying to look as if I belonged. It wasn't too hard to do, because I already felt comfortable there.
I stopped by the mutual fund office just as it was opening. Bob had Tom Trench set up the tax-free municipal bond fund to hold his half of the money that I got from the sale of the house.
"Mister Terrell, it is nice to see you. Where is your son?"
"He isn't here today, Tom. Can I call you Tom?"
"No problem. What can I help you with?"
"Do you handle annuities?"
"Excellent question, John. If anyone was ready for a life annuity it was you. Your son, however, wasn't interested. How much do you want to know?"
"About an hours worth. I won't be able to absorb any more than that."
Well, it didn't take that long. In half that time, Tom had convinced me that an annuity would be a perfect fit. There was only one catch: he wouldn't take care of it for me without either Bob's approval, or a certificate of competency. I opted for the second one. I figured I would also need it when I went to close out the money market account.
While any licensed medical doctor could take care of the certificate in our state, Tom felt that a psychological examination would be stronger. He set things up, and before lunch I had my certificate and Tom Trench had arranged for the transfer of all the money from the bond funds into my new annuity. He smiled when I told him to make the death beneficiary Wendy Gibson.
I had soup and salad for lunch at the Olive Garden and got my favorite 'perky' waitress, after an insistent request. I left her my rat hole hundred-dollar bill as a tip. I always carried it for an emergency, but none ever came up. It was time to move it on. She tried to refuse it, of course, but finally relented when I threatened to make a fuss.
Closing the money market account went a lot easier than I expected. They simply gave me a cashier's check for the full amount, and thanked me for my patronage. I went right back over to see Tom. I now realized that financial advisors do have a place. I had revealed my plans to Tom and he paid full attention. Rather than take the money market check, he suggested that I talk to the admissions people at Bear Valley first. To make things even better, he called over and made an appointment for me.
The lowest cost buy in at Bear Valley was a studio apartment at an even one hundred thousand dollars. It was bigger than the 10 by 12 room I was in at Bob's house, and it even had an efficiency kitchen. It took a little work, but between Tom and the Bear Valley business office, they figured out how to get it done. Tom ended up with another big wad for the annuity and I now had a studio apartment.
Of course getting the unit allocated was just the first part of the admissions. I had to qualify for the monthly fees, which turned out to be damn high. My jaw dropped when I was told it would cost almost three thousand dollars a months to stay in the studio apartment that I was going to buy for cash. My Social Security and retirement plan together still left me short. Tom Trench came to the rescue again. He could start the draw on the annuity immediately, so that I could get enough to off set the difference that I needed and still leave me some spending cash every month. The only problem was that the annuity would run dry in twenty-eight years. I had to snicker a little when he said that. I really wasn't planning on living to be ninety-six. It didn't matter anyhow, because Bear Valley was set up to start drawing against my unit's equity if my income ran out. Now, I could live to be one hundred and thirteen.
The deal was cinched. As the papers were being prepared, I found myself smiling again. I made Wendy Gibson the beneficiary on my studio apartment. I wasn't planning on dying any time soon, but just in case, she would be covered.
I could move in on Monday morning. It was furnished, including linens, so all I had to bring was my clothing. I got three meals a day, plus snacks, and a never-ending coffee pot.
On the way home, I stopped by to see my insurance agent. Wendy became the beneficiary of my largest life insurance policy. I had a smaller one that I split between the other three grand children. I loved all my kids and grand kids, but I just didn't like the way Wendy was being treated: besides, she was my favorite.
That evening, I called Janet and asked her out for lunch the next day. She sounded more than anxious. I slept better that night than I did in the last two years. If I were lucky, Bob and Denise would not have a clue about what happened until I moved out. All I could do was cross my fingers and hope. I decided that I would buy some good walking shoes.
I made my own bed everyday and Marsha changed the sheets every Friday. That was about the only time she ever came into my room. I dropped my dirty clothing off in the laundry room, and she usually had the clean stuff folded, or on hangars, for me to pick up. I appreciated that these things were being taken care of, but, after all, I was paying five hundred dollars a month. I figured that I could move my things, bit by bit, into the car over the weekend, and no one would even notice.
Janet and I had a wonderful lunch at a Red Lobster. She became giggly when I told her that I had bought a unit at Bear Valley, and after we finished, she insisted on showing me her one bedroom unit. The tongues were wagging as we walked through the entryway and down the hall. She was strutting like she had just won a prize at the fair. I felt a little self-conscious, because I had no idea that I was so desirable. Of course, I did find out later that any warm-blooded healthy male fell into the same category.
Compared to Janet's unit, my studio looked pretty puny. The maintenance people were busy painting it for my arrival on Monday. It was an up-grade from what I had been staying in at Bob's house. Janet was gracious with her compliments about the room, but suggested that I get a full bed instead of the twin that was there. I thought I noticed a twinkle in her eye when she said it. As we were walking back to the lobby, I was trying to figure out where I could get some of those little blue pills.
I called Marsha and told her that I would not be home for supper. Her response seemed a little indifferent.
For some reason, I felt the need to get some new duds. After two years of moping around, it was nice to have an interest in life again. I am sure that Mary would understand. If the places were changed, I would have wanted her to move on with her life. I was sure that she would feel the same about me. I was mad at myself for wasting two years. I got four more shirts, two pairs of nice slacks, and a pair of very expensive walking shoes. At my age, it was important to walk regularly and I needed the good sneakers. Just for the heck of it, I also got a pair of Chuckie's, like I had when I was a kid. They looked the same, but I noticed that they were now made in China. I finished my shopping spree in the food court at a Chick-fil-A, and spent a couple hours on my favorite bench, watching the girls go by, and humming the Otis Redding song.
I was beginning to realize that the female species was pretty interesting. I felt a little guilty, because I was comparing the walk-bys to Janet, and not Mary. I convinced myself that I was not a bad guy: it was the normal progression of things.
When I got home, I left my new purchases in the car. Bob and Marsha were watching the television and did not even inquire about my day. It was a long time for an old man and I was dragging a little. After a quick shower, I was out like a light.
My hosts were up early the next day. When the weather was nice, they liked to play golf and Sunday tee times meant that you had to get there before the sun came up. That worked out great for me. I had an English muffin with peanut butter on it for breakfast. I liked the way the peanut butter melted on the hot muffin. They were a mess to eat, but I always enjoyed them.
By noon, all of my clothing and belongings were loaded in the Honda. The room still looked lived in, so the only way Bob and Marsha would notice that I was gone was if they did an inspection. I didn't expect it. Of course, there was really no good reason for the secrecy. I was a grown man, who was capable of making my own decisions. I just didn't want to have to listen to the tirades that I knew where going to be coming. It was easier to just disappear quietly.
I knew that Wendy didn't work on Sundays, so I drove over to her place. I think I was the only one in the family that knew where she lived. Jason was walking around and having a great time with two other toddlers. He was talking, but I didn't understand most of the words. It was Wendy's turn to baby sit for her neighbor. We ordered in pizza and spent the afternoon relaxing. She seemed quite excited when I told her that I was moving into my own place. The words that stuck in my brain were, 'It's about time.'
She made macaroni-and-cheese for supper, and insisted that I join them. The two extra tykes went home with their mom, so it was now just the three of us. Wendy also convinced me to stay the night. Under the circumstances, it seemed like a good idea, so I called Bob to let them know. I got the machine.
I was up early the next morning, mostly because the couch was so uncomfortable, but also because I was anxious to get into my new place. Wendy and Jason went with me to Bear Valley. While my grand daughter and I moved in, Jason was being spoiled by a flock of blue hairs, and was eating it up. Candy and goodies seemed to appear from nowhere. Janet was waiting for my arrival, with all the little things that were necessary for me to set up minimal housekeeping.