Packing Up and Moving On

Lewis Walker |


One early summer day many years ago, this writer was working outside in the yard as a new family was moving in across the cul-de-sac. Spotting me, their very young son decided to say hello. Dragging a little suitcase on wheels, he comes up the driveway and asks, “Wanna see my cars?”

His mom watched as her son proceeded to take out a very large collection of tiny Matchbook cars, lining them up on my driveway one by one with a running commentary on each one. She later told me that she thought to herself, “That poor man!”

Over the years my wife and I become quite fond of the boy and his little sister who was born about a year and a half after the family moved in. As he grew, his verbal and social skills were impressive. Knowing that my wife and I loved to travel, he always asked about our plans for adventures. Upon our return he would ask about the hotels, what we had seen, and it was amazing what he remembered and the conversations that ensued. “He’s going to be a sales guy,” I said to myself.

Fast forward to a few days ago. The young man pulled into the cul-de-sac in his own car, parking clear of the moving vans that were loading up goods from his parent’s house. Alighting from his vehicle, he greeted me and said he had come to say goodbye to his childhood home. He introduced me to the lovely lady who is central to his life. He’s now 27, a college graduate, and active in his church where he serves as a youth counselor. Recently he started a great new job as southeastern sales manager for a growing company. He’s well grounded, on a great path with strong values, and, yup, he’s a “sales guy.”

His sister is a college graduate living on her own in Atlanta with a good job that excites her career ambitions. The parents have every reason to be proud of the children they nurtured and guided into responsible adulthood. A number of years ago, as a second home they bought a cottage at Lake Oconee as the dad, in particular, loved boating and golf. What they termed a “cottage” would qualify as a palace in many places around the world. Dad made a decision to retire at the end of this year so he and mom, who gave up her job, decided to make the move full time to the cottage.

Mom admitted that it was tough to leave the family home where they had lived so long, raised their children, and generated lasting memories. But it was time. So the moving trucks came and went. As this is written painters are readying the home for the new owner.

Life transitions of any kind are a challenge, especially if you have been in one place or one situation for a very long time. The mom recently lost her mom and dad so she had to deal with all of the complications involved in wrapping up an estate, figuring out what was what, disposal of the family home. Now, even though she can look forward to a new life at the lake, merging one home into two means not everything you love and treasure will fit. What to let go of, what to keep?

The oldest of the baby boomer cohort turns 76 this year, and members of the preceding so-called “Silent Generation” will range in age from 77 to 97.Caregiving for the elders among us is looming large as a challenge for the older couples themselves, the widows and widowers, as well as their adult children. Members of Generation X, ranging in age from 42 to 57 this year, increasingly are having to step up to deal with mom and/or dad’s health issues and care giving needs. All of this comes on top of soaring inflation, 9.1% year-over-year, looming college and other educational expenses, and perhaps career decisions and pressures in our post-Covid economy. Often the go-to “alpha child” is a daughter, although it may be a son, so the decisions you make in advance, mom and dad, to provide for aging eventualities may have a lot to do with the sanity of one or more of your children.

What to do with all of your “stuff,” the lifetime assemblage of possessions that can’t go to the new home or senior living facility? Walk through your house. If you were to downsize, or move to a care facility, what would you do with everything within your gaze or stuffed away out of sight? It isn’t just’s bank records, investment statements, computer documents, passwords, how bills are paid, etc. Are wills, trusts, powers of attorney for assets and health care, advance directives, Form DD-214 for veterans, insurance policies, etc., readily available to whoever will step in? Are documents up to date? If you have life insurance in force, have the policies been reviewed relative to performance? Does the alpha child know where everything is, what you want? If you don’t have adult children, who steps in? Perhaps a meeting with your financial life planning advisor is in order.

When you check out of Hotel Earth, the only thing you take with you is your immortal soul? What happens to all of your earthly treasures? What happens to your soul? The latter is the most important question. Eternity is a really long time!