“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
Lao Tzu, philosopher.
By Peter and Sally
Our friends Peter and Sally have a zest for life that is evidenced in the choices they have made over their adult life and into retirement. They also seem to move a lot. We appreciate that they were kind enough to share that history with Topretirements. They have ended up (so far!) in a very cool, extremely tiny incorporated city below Palm Beach. Our hope is that you will find their saga interesting as well as instructive.
May 15, 2016 — We have many friends who have spent their entire married life in one home. It didn’t turn out that way for us. It’s not like we planned it or anything, it was just that the grass always looked greener somewhere up or down or across the road. Circumstances also change. Here is our tale of where we lived from newly married to several iterations of retirement.
1978, Hartford Connecticut – A cool condo! One of the first in the city. Historic rehab, 3 levels, exposed brick. Walk to work with all the other hip, young professionals. Perfect.
But … shlepping groceries up two flights, no yard, condo association, street noise, the purse snatching episode. So…
1980, Foxcroft Road, West Hartford Connecticut – Our own house in a classic suburban setting where the young professionals move after they’ve done their urban guerilla thing. A cute, 5-room red brick cape. Nice yard, quiet street and friendly neighbors. Then 2 cats, a dog, a baby named Matt. Sally paints every room and papers the baby’s room. So pretty. So peaceful. Perfect.
But … all that baby stuff! Toys everywhere – no room for the playpen. The ceilings are too low, the garage is a little too small. And so is the yard. So …
1984, Steele Road, West Hartford Connecticut (2 blocks from our Foxcroft Road house) – Big colonial, 3 floors, 4 bedrooms, 3 ½ baths, needs a lot of work. Sally paints every room, we refinish floors, redo kitchen, redo master bath. Great neighborhood, lots of kids, dinner parties with young, interesting neighbors, walk the dog to Elizabeth Park and its famous rose garden where we were married. Matt strolls to school. Comfortable, beautiful, safe. Perfect.
But … detached garage. Shlepping groceries through the muddy or snowy yard. The kitchen is too far from the family room and the beautiful metal tile roof is getting very rusty. So…
1995, Mohawk Drive, West Hartford Connecticut— Bigger colonial, 6 bedrooms, 4 full baths, 2 half baths, attached garage. Double lot on the golf course. Needs MAJOR work. Undo “modernization” done by prior owners in the 60’s. Remove walls, restore crown molding, woodwork, refinish floors, replace ceilings, add mantle, rebuild a back staircase, design a wall of bookcases, gut and replace entire kitchen and pantry. Sally paints every room (sometimes twice). Beautiful! Matt walks to middle school. He has his own “suite” – bedroom, bath, and study (as do we).
Christmas is great – lots of room for the family to gather and bedrooms to stay over. Matt’s friends love to come over and gather in the finished basement or horse around in the yard. Perfect.
But … Matt goes off to college. Wow! What a big house! We both trip and fall down the
sizeable front staircase…sober no less. We’re living in four rooms: the kitchen, den, office and bedroom. What a waste of space. We need something cozier. So …
2003, Cedar Close, Bloomfield, Connecticut – Originally built in the thirties, it is the loveliest little house in the world, each room an independent, unique, wood-paneled beauty. Cozy with lots of windows, bookcases, a substantial fireplace in an oversized living room, sizeable decks off the den and the kitchen, and a steaming stand-up Japanese-style hot tub on the deck outside the master bedroom. Our two acres are protected by a small nature preserve and adjoin walking trails. Quiet, peaceful, just the right size. Needs a little work, not much, just the kitchen. Not much painting required – just a couple of bathrooms.
But … Well, for starters, the winters!! Snow, ice dams and leaky eaves, falling down on the steep, icy driveway, schlepping the trash cans and recycle bins to the top of our hill every week. And in the spring, weeding the garden, painting the deck, washing all those windows. And then Peter needs heart surgery. Major wake-up call. Time to retire, slow down and move to easy street. So …
Heading South for Retirement
2012, Front Street, Key West, Florida — We dispose of most of our worldly possessions, transition into an apartment in downtown Hartford for 6 months and then hit the road for Key West, Florida. For a brief time we owned a little condo at The Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, but the vibe was a bit too precious for Sally. We want southern sunshine and the proximity to the ocean, but we need a more “eclectic” community… i.e., an edgier hometown with a more diverse, unpredictable, artistic array of characters.
Over the years, we vacationed up and down the East coast, but nothing had the charm (for Sally) and the quirkiness (for Peter) and the free-wheeling friendliness of Key West. So Key West it is. We time the real estate market just right and go back to the future… we purchase a cool condo again, this time a 3-story brick townhouse in the Truman Annex, a former Navy base that was converted into a beautiful residential community back in the seventies. What fun! A vibrant, historic city that’s been reinventing itself for 150 years. We can walk or ride our bikes to everything we need or desire. It abounds with quality restaurants, theater and music venues; a legendary list of writers, artists, sinners and saints; and it boasts a long list of irrepressible, eye-popping celebrations that can make you jump for joy or run for cover.
Key West is a frothy concoction served up in a sublime contradiction: rich and poor; young and old; athletic and dissolute; family friendly and a singles haven; spiritual and profane; expensive and cheap; a surreal adventure and a quiet retreat…just the place for strong hearted, lively spirits of all ages and inclinations. Perfect.
But … No yard to speak of, the cruise ship tourists are a maddening horde and, let’s be real, we can’t party like we used to. Island life is smaller than we anticipated, the condo is closing in on us and the staircases are killing our knees! Then another wake-up call. Peter has to have more heart surgery, this time about 160 miles up the road in Miami. Urgent but, thankfully, not an emergency. And, no surprise, we get caught in a wicked traffic jam on our drive up to Miami…5 ½ slow, frustrating hours. So…
2014, Atlantis, Florida — The day after the surgery, we drive about 60 miles north to Atlantis, a tiny city of 1 ½ square miles incorporated in 1959, and located near Lake Worth in Palm Beach County. We find a pretty one-level, single- family home, 2800 square feet, 4 bedrooms (we use 2 as offices), 2 full and 2 half baths, an attached garage, our own private screened pool and an unobstructed view of the golf course. We can’t walk into town anymore; we have to drive short distances to shop at Publix, CVS, Home Depot, et cetera. But it’s no problem unless Peter decides to take I-95 (aka “Die-95”) and starts jockeying for position with the other cowboys who think they’re racing on the NASCAR circuit.
Our home provides much more space to spread our wings and we’re centrally located about 20 minutes from every imaginable convenience: beautiful beaches, arts and entertainment, polo matches, world class museums and, everything from hamburger joints to some of the top rated restaurants in Florida. With its own police force, an active self-governing city council and JFK Medical Center located right here in our little community, our home in Atlantis has turned out to be just the right place for faint-hearted, weak-kneed, pill-popping, high-spirited characters like Peter and Sally.
When we reflect on our forty happy, lucky years together, it seems as though we’ve always found just the right home at just the right time. And when the times change, we change with them.
It’s a wonderful journey.
Thanks Peter and Sally, we have enjoyed the trip!
Comments: Have you made what you thought was the perfect retirement move, only to find that your dream or your circumstances had changed? Please share what your learned in the Comments section below.