We sold the house and disposed of much of our stuff in the summer of 2007; the MG, the hot tub, years of decorative country crafts, saved pieces of pipe and lumber, books and magazines and piles of cable TV bills and bank statements, the lawn mower (good riddance), beds and furniture, the RonCo salad spinner…all the knick-knacks of life. Those invaluable things that were left; video tapes and picture albums, great grams quilt, dad's snow blower, fit neatly into a small storage unit with room to spare. Years later, we don’t remember much of what’s there. Obviously, nothing we have needed. Through the years the stash has dwindled as stuff got distributed to those who could use it. Our goal is to empty it.
The rest of the summer/early fall was spent in a small rented camp on a lake in Maine resting, swimming and canoeing, preparing for our journey. I finished up at my job, trained my replacement and signed up for individual health insurance coverage, a high deductible, expensive safety net. We bought a Town and Country Touring Van with “stow n’ go” rear seats, power adjust front seats and a roof top Thule carrier. We established accounts and purchased a nationwide cell phone plan. The laptop and phones would be our invaluable communications links to family and friends, banks and investment accounts and provide us the tools to stay connected to those who wished to stay connected to us. We established a budget.
We also established a travel blog; www.gdfoss.blogspot.com in order to provide our kids with pictures and prose of our journey. As of this date, there have been over 86,000 hits on the blog. Clearly our adventure has piqued the interest of so many more people than we had expected. And it has provided me an opportunity to practice “the craft”.
Writing is something I undertook in the painful aftermath of the loss of our son. It was a way to process my thoughts and emotions, an attempt to capture the lessons Life was serving up, at times shoving down our throats. Like the blog, writing led us into incredible experiences, contact with thousands of “strangers”. It cracked open doors that we had never imagined were available to us.
October rains stripped the leaves from the trees and ushered in chilly mornings and teeth chattering nights in our little cabin. The wood stove could not keep us comfortable and we began packing for a drive down the east coast. We outfitted the van with a cot, porta-, tent, sleeping bags, books, tools, clothes, maps and scores of other personal effects. Over the years we have added and subtracted from this list of necessities as we ventured into unforeseen living and travel situations. It is less a science, more an art. What can you live without? What items bring the most utility and joy? Everyone will refine their own list. Our partial list of “essentials" include; a guitar, a massage table, a GPS, a camera, a good set of binoculars, a magnifying glass, our Cutco "cultery", a wok, journals, computers, jumper cables, pillows and down comforter and an old school file box where we kept track of contact information of our people and the people we met on the road.
We visited doctors and dentists, friends and family, accountants and financial advisers and said our good-byes to our son and daughter. They arranged a wonderful send-off party for us at their apartment in Portland and we basked in the love and well wishes from loved ones. Stops in New Hampshire and New York for more good-byes and we were on our way.
Leaving a life behind, the people and places that were and still are so much a part of us, is no easy task. We are now 10 years down the road from that point in time. My sister and brother-in-law have just begun the "downsize exercise" and they are feeling all those emotions that go along with it. Are we doing the right thing? It's scary. Can scary be right?
But we know what we know. We have lived long enough, experienced enough, watched others reach the same fork in the road. Should we stay the course? Go down with the ship, to speak. Or are we enough to move forward and grab some of a life we have dreamed of, but not yet experienced? It's a very personal decision and it depends very much on your choice of a life partner.
I have always been the adventurer in our relationship, always up for new places and new faces. Connie has been the nest builder. asking her to consider such a radical step was a multi-year conversation. We talked and we talked. And then we talked some more. I couldn't answer her questions; what if this happened or where would we spend Christmas or what will people think.
In the end, we knew what we knew. Life was for living. It is short and uncertain. People die and move away. As much as we all crave security and live like there will always be a tomorrow, life can change in an instant. There are no guarantees. We saw our window of opportunity open. And we jumped.
In hindsight, it was the best decision for us. Over the past 10 years we have been stretched and tested. It has not all been fun. It has been challenging. We have grown. I can't recommend it to everyone, but I can encourage those who have it in them to live life fully and to suck the marrow out of life. We like this quote
“Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, champagne in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “WOO HOO what a ride!"
And so, little sister and her wonderful partner, we are very proud of you. Your eyes are wide open. It's scary and you're doing it anyhow. Do we ever regret our decision? Not once.
What a ride...