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FRED FIRST: One Move Left In Us . . .

We were working on a plan for the rest of our lives, for when the time would be right. And we were waiting for the pieces to come together. Waiting is hard.

IN the future “scenario” we had wanted to become reality, we would relocate from the Blue Ridge of southwest Virginia to near the Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina. This would transplant us a few hours west of here and an hour or two south of Knoxville, where our son and family live.

Our daughter’s family also spoke of plans to move back closer to that area, where she had met her husband Mike at Smoky Mountain High School in Cullowhee. Lucky for us, they still have mountains in their blood. They talked about leaving the NC coast and moving to the parts west when the youngest daughter was out of high school in three years.


And so, we zoomed in on Hendersonville, Junaluska, Maggie Valley. We could be within a couple hours drive of both kids (if we lived long enough. Always a subtext of any assumptions henceforth.)

It is true that a move to western Carolina would separate us from our friends in Floyd; but it would place me in reach of familiar Appalachians skylines and forests. After all, as I said in Slow Road Home: “Every place I’ve ever lived has been in–or in sight of–the Southern Mountains.” My sense of place–by nature and by nurture–is here, living on this ancient spine of high places.

I was enthusiastic about the Western Carolina plan. But in early October of this year, we put all-of-the-above abruptly on hold, and the waiting commenced. The outcome of a job offer could potentially take our son’s family away from Knoxville and shift our family geography drastically.

Weeks would pass as crucial pieces offered to come together or threatened to come apart. The geography of the rest of our lives hinged on a phone call. Until that moment of clarity, we were future-blind. We really could do nothing transition-related until we knew. Weeks passed. My engine was revving, with no place to go. I paced. Sand poured through the hourglass!


After a month of not knowing, it was suddenly certain: Our Knoxville family would be leaving Tennessee. Emotional whiplash. But the road soon appeared out of the fog. It was clear that we would follow our son’s family in their move, and I’ll have much more to say in the next post.

So the very hour we learned that the future map had changed, I began to organize in a Storm The Beaches full-force push. Doors were closing every hour we delayed. Our future had suddenly spun round. We needed to reorient.

The first thing and most important thing to consider was the kind of living environment we wanted. It needed to be available to us in not more than a year. [Remember I advised that if you wait until you need it, you have waited too late.] We’d need to get our foot in before the door slammed shut. And we had to be able to afford it (so we should probably agree to not live an inconveniently long time.)


We wanted to find an all-in-one-place living environment that extends from low-service INDEPENDENT living to high-service Skilled Care, Memory Care, Rehab, and such. The short-hand for this time of retirement living is CCRC.

As a physical therapist, I got to know this type of community well. Perhaps my favorite job as a therapist was treating and getting to know patients in Assisted Living at Warm Hearth in Blacksburg in 2000-2001. My mother lived in that setting the last six years of her life.

This was the kind of health-and-housing I wanted to establish as our new Last Stand in Some Other Place. This type of elder-housing-and-health package is a Continuum of Care Retirement Community. Warm Hearth is a CCRC. We wanted that.

And those fine elders I got to know and enjoy working with in assisted living two decades ago: Now, I ARE ONE.

We have hope that, at the end of all of these peregrinations of chance and design, we will settle in, rightly placed. And so we have begun the terrifying and exhilarating process of leaving home to find it again. May the force…

Woo Hoo?

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