Wendyl opens her home to Mum and Dad
When I used to dream about living in the country, I have to admit the desire was largely fuelled by my wish to live a very solitary, quiet life. I was born and bred in Auckland and spent most of my life rushing around eagerly trying to fulfil every little goal my head could think of. Husband, career, children and mortgage drove me at a relentless pace for years, until finally I just wanted a quiet place by the sea to chill out. My children were all adults, my husband felt much the same way and so… we escaped.
Since then I have found that the solitary, quiet life is all very well, but one of my greatest joys is sharing it with others. We have a lot of visitors and I love seeing how well and relaxed they are after a few nights with us.
But that is all about to change because in a few months I will be sharing it more permanently with my parents, who are moving up to live with us.
When we first looked at this house I noted the cottage on the other side of the garage. It is self-contained and has the best views in the whole place. “We might need that for our parents,” I whispered to my husband Paul, who nodded in agreement. We said no more. The possibility seemed a lifetime away.
Now in their mid-80s, my parents are still independent, but the time has come when they need to be near, rather than far. Things are becoming more difficult to get done and there are falls, mistakes and misunderstandings, which can lead to life being a bit harder to organise than it was. It’s a situation a lot of my friends are also in – children are off their hands, but parents are now in the picture.
For me, it is a wonderful chance to share this place with my father, who has always had a dream of living somewhere like this but never been able to do it. He also loves nothing better than sitting and watching the view, and he is a great help around the property, sharing my vision for the gardens and able to look after the chooks when we are in the city or overseas. My mother has been slower to come to the party, understandably resistant to change and leaving behind her bridge club and friends. But then she realised that most of her friends were now gone anyway. “There’s not much to keep me in Auckland,” she said. “But I’ll miss it.”
I’m also glad to have the opportunity to return the many favours my parents gave me when they loaned me money, gave me a home during relationship break-ups, were always there to give advice and took my children off me while I had much-needed breaks.
It’s very much my time to give back, so we’re busy doing all those things you have to do at the later stage of your life, like sorting out whether to rent or sell their house in Auckland, what furniture and belongings to keep, and checking on the health care available nearby.
For Paul and I it will mean some changes to our lifestyle. There will be no more wandering around in various states of undress, safe in the knowledge that no one can see us. Don’t worry, we’re not nudists, but sometimes you just don’t want to wear too many clothes in hot weather!
And we are trying to work out how to have my parents living with us as neighbours, not flatmates – an important distinction. It is vital to them that they cook their own meals and do their own shopping. The last thing they want is to lose their much valued independence.
At the same time we need to know that they are coping and have everything they need – so we’ll have to work out a checking-in system. I have a feeling this will be popping in for a quick coffee and chat in the morning, joining them for their daily glass of wine in the evening, sharing meals now and then and, for me, having a game of Scrabble with my mum when I can. My mother is a mean player who always wins, although now she is older I do win the odd game, which makes me extremely happy… yes, rather shameful, I know.
It will all work out, I am sure, and we are very lucky to be in a situation where we can do this. If I’m honest, I’m modelling for my own children exactly how I would like my later years to be. I’d happily live in the cottage while one of our five children and their family have the big house. No pressure, but just saying.