It’s where your heart is

My father and mother have lived in the same house for almost 60 years.

The house has changed over the years — they’ve added a bedroom, a bathroom, an office and a den. They’ve painted, repainted, painted yet again and finally gave up and added metal siding to the outside of the place. They’ve mowed and tended the acreage so lovingly, I swear they know most of the blades of grass and even the weeds by heart.

They’ve fixed water leaks, solved electrical problems, dealt with foundation cracking, repaired broken windows (at least two caused by my childhood baseball game simulations throwing a ball against the wall), and dealt with all kinds of happy times and personal calamities there, too.

There are far more memories than problems in a house that has become a home, but the good times of the past still can’t change the realities of the present.

Today, the house and grounds are far larger than two jokingly self-described “old” people need, even as the house and storage buildings are jammed with just about everything anyone in the family ever acquired over the years — including what appears to be every school project my sisters and I completed from kindergarten through college.

They are not hoarders, at least in the current reality-TV vernacular. But like many of us, since they have room to save stuff, lots of stuff has been saved.

So I asked my dad what it would take to get them to move to a smaller home that would be easier to care for and would demand less from them as they continue trying to defy the aging process.

He paused, thoughtfully I presumed rather than for that “give-the-kid-the-idea-I’m-actually-considering-this” effect, and said words that ring true regardless of age and status.

“I don’t know,” he told me. “It just seems a lot easier to stay put here where we’ve always been.”

It is easy for my sisters and me to express our concerns and offer our opinions, because of course we know what’s best for people other than ourselves. But only my mom and dad can determine what’s best for them, and if they choose to ignore us, should we blame them? They’ve done just fine over the years despite all of the things we’ve dragged them into, through and over.

My parents have earned the right to live their lives how they see fit, not that they need my permission to do so anyway, and if health-permitting they want to ride off into the sunset in this house they’ve called home for so long, I guess that is their call. It certainly isn’t mine.

That point was clear as I left their home after a recent pilgrimage, driving off into the sunset myself.

There they were, arm in arm and waving goodbye while standing in the front door of the only home they’ve known together — just as they have so many times over so many years and under so many circumstances.

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