Having The Undiscussable Conversation

Last week, Mark and I had The Talk. No, not that talk. We’re parents. We know about the birds and the bees. This talk was the “how do we live in this house when I can’t walk out the front door, or down the driveway, or take in the mail? How do I deal with the snow when you’re out of town in the winter?” That talk.

I hadn’t expected to have that talk this early. Oh sure, I’d expected to have that talk sometime, in the distant future. But not when I’m still traveling the world as part of my business. It seems wrong to be able to travel and work lots of places and find it difficult to live in my own home. But those are the facts, and it’s time for us to see the reality of it and deal with it.

So, we made a list of everything we need to do to the house to make it so I can live comfortably in this house. And, then I asked the million dollar question: how long do we really want to live here? Daughter #2 is in her second year of university. Once she’s done, we don’t need to stay in this house. We can downsize. We can live in a place where someone else removes the snow and ice. We can live in a place that doesn’t have snow and ice. Well, that’s not the question Mark wanted to hear. It wasn’t the question I wanted to ask. But it’s the question we need to discuss.

Daughter #2 realized it first. She’s the one who told us what to do. “You two should sell the house, buy a small condo, and buy a mansion of a beach house, so I can come visit and have a warm vacation.” She’s got the right idea. I thrive in the warmth. Chills are a side effect of my medication, so I’m ready for the warmth. I don’t think we’re ready for a mansion of a beach house—and may never be—and it’s time for us to rethink how we live. It’s time for us to consider options, crazy-sounding as they might be, because downsizing from this house when Mark retires is not going to be the primary option. It’s going to happen much earlier.

We made two lists: the minimal list of what we need to do to make the house okay for me to live in for two more winters, so we can stay here until Daughter #2 graduates from her university studies. We made a longer list of everything we wanted to do to the house if we decide to stay here longer. I have yet more appointments with more doctors to see what else is an option for my balance in the next few weeks to see what is possible before we make more decisions.

This is one of those undiscussable conversations. It’s similar to the living will conversation. We had that conversation last year. I thought at the time that we had that conversation about 10 years too early, and then I realized that since we’d been married 26 years at the time, it was about 26 years too late.

We’re not done with this discussion. But those undiscussable problems circle around and bite you on the tush if you don’t talk about them. Or, in my case, cause you to fall over if you don’t discuss them.

The difficult part of this conversation for me is recognizing that I am not going to get better enough. Oh, I will make progress. I am stronger than I was in 2009, 2010, even three months ago in 2011. My balance is better. But that doesn’t matter. I don’t have the balance I need to take in the mail or walk on a not-even-enough front walk, or walk into the house from a too-high front step. I can’t reliably manage the snow and ice.

The undiscussable conversations in your life, as in mine, can drive a wedge between you and your partner, your boss, your colleagues. Or, they can create opportunities you didn’t know you had. Mark and I have just started exploring our opportunities.

It’s okay to be wary of these undiscussable conversations. But once you recognize you need to have one, it’s not okay to postpone them. The need for the conversation will sit there, just like the elephant in the room, growing until it takes over the entire relationship.

So, take your courage, and start somewhere. Start that undiscussable conversation. It might not be a happy one, but I suspect you will end a much more relaxed and less worried person, as I am. Good luck.

4 thoughts on “Having The Undiscussable Conversation

  1. Lisa Crispin

    I admire your courage. Denial is so much easier than taking action. And you are kind to share this with us – it has really gotten me thinking.

    You must be proud to have raised such a smart daughter! The beach mansion is a great idea!

  2. George Dinwiddie

    When we bull-dozed our house and rebuilt, we did so with an eye to making it easier to get around as we’re finding it harder to get around. It’s still hard to predict what you’ll need and make it happen. The basement is under-used because the steps remain a significant enough barrier. The hillside to the river will always be an issue. And someday the steps to the house may need to be covered with a ramp.

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