In 1967 while my parents, Mary and Francis, were dropping me at Boy Scout camp on a lake in New Hampshire, they found a cottage for sale. Three days later they scraped up the money to buy it. The cost of 2 waterfront lots with a furnished 5-bedroom, 1-bath cottage, including motor boat: $9,600. A second home was a luxury in those days, now too, come to think of it, but the whole family enjoyed escaping Massachusetts in the hot summers to head up to the cottage.
During our first few years there, I was working at summer jobs at home while my family stayed at the cottage. Even though my time as a teenager was limited, I made lifelong friends and met my eventual wife Barbara at the lake. The cottage at the lake is the stuff of dreams and fairy tales.
After my dad reached retirement, my parents moved from Massachusetts to St Petersburg, Florida. They had earned the classic East Coast lifestyle, winter in Florida and spend the summer months up North at the lake. The lifestyle in Florida is wonderful, but with the 3 Hs of summer - heat, humidity and hurricanes - it's not suitable for year-round living. Unfortunately, neither is the cottage - it's beautiful, but remote, and requires the normal upkeep an aging home tends to - so it's not suitable for a couple in their eighties.
Now it's becoming clear to the rest of the family that my parents need some help making a decision on where they will live for the next stage of their lives. We're gathering together for a family meeting here in Newport Beach, California on Valentines Day weekend, 2009 to hopefully assist with these decisions.
The likelihood of all of us agreeing quickly and easily sounds pretty farfetched. Can we muster the courage to set aside our family history of the cottage and sell it?
Are there any other reasonable resolutions that we can all agree upon? How can we handle this without making my parents feel powerless?
That's where the idea for the podcast series After the Cottage comes in... our family is making decisions now that thousands of you face every day, and the economy only adds to the urgency of the situation.
After the Cottage will start by featuring our family's real life issues, and will then invite readers
to share their stories of caring for their aging parents. Perhaps, by sharing
our trials and successes, we can all help each other navigate through what
feels like, some days, the hardest decisions we've ever been asked (or not asked) to make.