My wife and I are part of the thinking-about-retirement Baby Boom population. It’s a topic, along with the possibility of either downsizing or getting off the Island, that we hear at social gatherings among friends of the same age. So, we set things on scales, and like blind lady justice, we weigh the pros and cons.
We all know the taxes are too high. Downsize from the suburban dream of a plot of land with lawn-cutting, bush-trimming, snow-removal tasks? Condos are pricey and come with maintenance fees on top of taxes, too. It’s crowded on Long Island. Every road, every restaurant, every beach, every parking lot seems to have been designed for fewer people than now live here.
In February, as we contend with mounds of snow on our cars, we hear it from ex-Long Islanders who live in dry-heat or low-tax states. They mock us on social media. Is it my imagination that their smiles and emojis represent a disbelief in our dogged resistance to leave?
After all, we have the best bagels and pizza on the planet, beautiful beaches, and the city just a short train ride away. After living here most of our lives, there’s a comfort in knowing every road and where it leads. We’re part of a social fabric. We have a church and many long-term connections. It’s daunting to imagine uprooting and starting over.
As I picked zucchini from my backyard garden recently, I added something else to the “pro” side of the scale. While my yard is work, I like it. I’m not sure I could ever settle for a hands-off property where I couldn’t grow tomatoes or jump into my own pool with a certain degree of privacy.
And then there’s Sophie. Just over two years ago, our old faithful dog, Cleo, went to pet heaven and the house seemed a little quiet. Maybe it was our own empty-nest syndrome, but the folks operating a van from the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons had the most precious little black dog just waiting for my wife to adopt and love. They said she had been kept in a cage for all of her short life and that we’d have to slowly acclimate her to our home. Sure. The first time that dog saw our yard, she ran back and forth like a small gazelle for about 10 minutes, her tail wagging wildly. I was sure she had a huge smile on her face. If we downsize to a place with no fenced yard of our own, where would Sophie play? How could we leave now?
If that weren’t enough, our parents, getting up in age, live nearby in the homes where my wife and I grew up. We want to see them, and we know we need to help them now and in the future. A son in Manhattan is close enough for us to see on any day we choose. Two daughters, both married and living locally, are part of our daily lives. And then there are the grandbabies. Leah, nearly 2, gets grandpa to sit on the floor and act silly just to get her to giggle. And there are Abigail and Emma, twins born in August. We can’t imagine going even a week without seeing those little angels. Yes, grandchildren have tipped the scales, and there is no more discussion. Did I mention Sophie adores them, too?
My wife, Margaret, knew what would happen. Even before the babies were born, after I went off on one of my rants, threatening to buy land in North Carolina, she calmly told me, “You can live wherever you want. I’m going to live near my grandchildren.” A wife with wisdom is a good thing. She gets no more argument from me.
Reader Tony Morena lives in Coram.