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Ten Years

The longest I ever lived in the same house at the same address is ten years. That didn't happen during my growing up years in Philadelphia mostly and Evansville, Indiana. It happened from 1999-2009 in the Browndale neighborhood in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. I moved there from Iowa City when Baby Lilia was one years old. It was the house that I did (hired out) every home improvement project imaginable. Gutted kitchen and bathroom, new front walk and steps, new patio deck and driveway, new paint throughout, wallpaper removal, hardwood floor refinishing, shag carpet removal and replacement, roof replacement....I am sure I have forgotten a few things...

It was the house where Baby Natalie came home from the hospital (twice)--once as a two day old infant--and once as a ten month old infant after months in Children's Hospital for cancer treatment. I'll never forget that day. Snow on Easter. Or the day as a two year old, she locked herself in my bedroom and couldn't get out--and the police and fire department had to come and break the door jamb to get her out. My mother came over, and we went straight to Dayton's at Southdale for popovers to get over it.

It was also the house that we welcomed home our dog, Miki. We went up to Eden Valley, Minnesota, to claim the tiny Yorkie Maltese. He was so little he slipped out of his harness on the way home but didn't escape because he didn't know how. The girls were ecstatic. Miki instantly became a member of the family and traveled with us on vacations, flew on the plane under my seat (or on my lap) to Ocean City, New Jersey for family reunion vacations in summer.

Memories of progressive dinners with neighbors, book club with ladies in the neighborhood, their kids coming over all the time, the girls' handprints pressed into the freshly poured concrete and the apple tree that was given to Natalie on her first birthday planted by the street--these are some of the very precious memories I have of that house and those precious years of young family life on a street with lots of other young families doing the same thing. That house is only a few miles from where I now live--but I get very sad every time I go by and think of those times.

I'm thinking a lot about this right now because Lou's wonderful mother, Mavis, is getting ready to leave her house of seventy years. Mavis is 92, and it is time for her to have more care in an assisted living building. We think she found one close by to her son, my Lou, daughter, Mary, and lots of grandchildren and two great grandchildren. The thought of leaving a place (Trimont, Minnesota) where she's lived in for so long is really challenging. I can't imagine what seventy years in the same house would even feel like. A lifetime of memories of course. A lifetime of familiarity. A lifetime of constancy. A long and happy lifetime. It makes me sad just thinking about it, and I am not sure I really fathom the depth of the loss and change. Moving is hard, but this is way more than that.

This has me reflecting on how we do things in life not necessarily because we feel like doing them, but because that is what is required. That's where Mavis is at this point. She can't remain in her own home safely, and we can't let anything happen to her. She agrees, but it doesn't make it one bit easier.

I often told my daughters during their growing up years--if you wait until you feel like doing something--that moment may never come. Just do it, but that was referring to homework and making beds. I think of decisions I have made in my life, and just because I chose it, it didn't make things much better. (I'm divorced...what a misery that process was...)

This trip down memory lane (actually Coolidge Avenue) is a friendly reminder to you to approach your changes, transitions, decisions with self compassion. Go slowly if it helps. Go with someone (like me, as your coach) or friends and family so you can be supported. Go with a sense of humor that you will make the most of the rough spots and celebrate the bright moments. Go with the expectation that you are human, and you don't have to like things to do them--sometimes you just have to get through them to do them. But never go alone--never without the support of someone loving at your side to help you along and bear witness to your precious life.

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