I write this as I sit at my desk on the day before it will be moved to my new apartment in our Jewish community’s new Legacy senior residence. This is my chance for a fresh beginning of a kind: something that not everyone gets to make — but a very welcome one — so late in life.
Parts of the process in readying for this move have been simple enough: Long undone matters (like having a locksmith drill open the desk drawer I inadvertently locked and have been living without for many months) have finally been taken care of. Some things have been harder, such as purging (although I really don’t like that word!) my clothing: I have made many donations to Goodwill — including 10 pairs of shoes — and to the Jewish Family Service resale shop — including the gray silk faille skirt and cream-colored lace blouse I wore to stand under the chuppah at the wedding of my son — who is now, already, the grandfather of two himself. (Amazingly, this outfit is still “stylish” today; I’m hoping that someone new will also choose it for an important family occasion. But of course, I’ll never know…)
Hardest of all: just saying goodbye to the rooms in which almost 40 years have been lived — with their not-surprisingly inevitable mix of happy and miserable times. This is the place where my late husband and I welcomed family and friends to our “Brisket Bash” every year on the evening after Thanksgiving. This is the place where my grandson Robert first visited me in my own home; next year I’ll be attending his wedding, and will surely regret that I so recently parted with that skirt and blouse! This is the place where we were living when I had both of my successful breast cancer surgeries but also broke my left leg so badly that I’ve depended on a cane ever since, the place where Fred’s breast cancer surgery (so unusual for a man) was not so successful — but he was able to be here, with me, until the five brief days in hospice that preceded his death.
And now: after seven years here alone, I’m also leaving. But I am thrilled that family will continue to live here: Son Mike is moving in as soon as I move out! He will, of course, start other very different traditions of his own, but the memories of his father’s good life in this same house should help sustain the past as he creates a new present for himself. As I will do at the new Legacy…
I especially look forward to less housework and no cooking to speak of! I never did like to cook, but that’s what a good Jewish wife always used to do, yes? Of my three granddaughters, two — much as I have always done — get away with as little cooking as they can, but the third loves her kitchen and doing creative things in it: She requested my original cornflower-blue design Corning Ware from the ‘50s, and I’ve been happy to comply; the others have chosen other things, but their choices have also related to this house’s past; how could they not, after such a long time?
So I will also learn to love my new life — differently, but still love it. And as I move from the old, I anticipate future “reunions” with souvenirs of the place where I’m now saying my farewells. Those family visits will happen when the pandemic — like my tenure in this house — will also be a thing of the past. Wish me good luck, please!
Harriet Gross can be reached at