A Perfect Solution?

The time for change had arrived. Around the second year into my retirement, I began to mull over the cost of living alone in my large two-story house.

When I retired, I still hosted international students who came to Canada for English study (ESL). When I first became involved in this endeavor, I never imagined I’d be involved for ten exciting years. My daughter’s wedding day and my first student’s arrival coincided on the same weekend. I missed my daughter afterwards, but I wasn’t lonely.

My mothering skills were in demand again. Girls, away from home for the first time, experienced a more difficult adjustment than boys (ages 18 to 23). Our unfamiliar culture required gentle hand-holding. I worked at my day job as they attended school. At suppertime we shared our day, discussed our countries’ differences, and the students practiced English through our conversations,

My life grew richer as the years passed and I met many young people from numerous countries. I still smile at my luck that I didn’t need to leave home to travel the world. Near the ten-year mark the number of students attending the ESL school dwindled to a trickle, and the school was forced to close. The larger city of Toronto had become especially popular because it offered mega entertainment, thrilling venues and a lively night life.

Alone again, I visited my daughter and her babies, took up new hobbies and enjoyed my new-found solitude. Shadows and echoes of my young visitors lingered as reminders that my house had once been vibrant, now mute.

Money become tight without the extra ESL income and I accepted the necessity of down-sizing. The housing collapse in the United States caused nervousness in Canada, as well, and I noticed numerous houses with ‘For Sale’ signs decorating their lawns. This was not a good time to sell, but a near perfect one to buy.

The longer I dwelled on it, the clearer it became I’d have to sell, but then what? Where would I be happy? The thought of returning to apartment living left me gasping for air. A condo maybe? No. I wouldn’t be saving money. I ransacked my muddled brain for restless days and sleepless nights until I found the perfect solution.

I’d been blessed with one child only—a daughter—who now lived with her husband and two young children in a tiny, crowded house. They had everything they needed and were happy with what they’d fashioned into a cozy nest. My idea grew and developed and excitement thrummed every inch of my skin. I couldn’t wait to share my plan with my daughter.

At first, I wanted to move at a snail’s pace, to study the ins and outs, to make careful, well thought-out decisions because this would be a major life change. My daughter, ecstatic with my suggestion, trolled real estate sites on the internet looking for her dream house. We’d agreed not to mention anything to her husband until we had a better understanding of my proposition. What risks or opportunities might await us? Did one house exist to accommodate her growing family’s needs, as well as a perfect space for me? A mantra echoed in my head: two families, two living-quarters, one house and separate lives? Was this a crazy idea?

Not one to miss unusual vibes in his home, my son-in-law detected his wife’s exuberance and caught her drooling over housing ads. “Don’t start dreaming about moving again. We can’t afford it.”

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  1. I love your story, Tess. It does say who you are quite well.

  2. Your piece could have been much more informative to readers looking to do the same, if you shed light on what your living situation ended up being. You mentioned two house holds, so, is it a duplex, have a guest house out back, etc.? What if one of the three owners wants to sell? Also, maybe some insight into what you’ve learned the past six years on how your family has worked out the living situation, particularly the son-in-law who didn’t seem too pleased with the notion. My father-in-law moved in with his son and family, and it really doesn’t seem to be going smoothly. My wife and I go to visit, and it is just a very odd situation, as nobody takes the lead on food, chores, activities, etc.

  3. Thank you for your comment. Yes, you are correct. The piece would have been too long had I gone into everything at once. I do plan to share my experience with others considering multigenerational living as a solution.

  4. A well-written and riveting piece, Tess. It’s relevant to several people I know, including a woman who made a similar move with daughter and family, but — unlike you — did not have a totally separate area of her own. The first year was very rough; subsequent years became better.

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