Many of you who follow me on Facebook know that I was on a self-described “stealth project” to Maine that may or may not have to do with unseating fake moderate, Senator Susan Collins. That’s kinda sorta true. But before we get to that, let me inform you that sometimes the stars do align. For awhile now, various strands of my family have had some goals that had seemed a hard climb to achieve. My brother has wanted to retire early and refocus back to music, but wasn’t sure how to figure out the finances to that. We’d reached a stage where it was clear that my mother needed more care than our current plan could achieve, and Andy has been moving us out of the stock market and into real estate, which in light of what he sees coming down the pike looked more stable.
To get back to my mother, we’d had what we thought was a good long-term program: we moved her into a house in California and set up a series of staff — meal delivery, twice a week home health care, maintenance workers. The thought was that, as things progressed, we could transition to live-in care and keep her in her home. Well, folks, plans like this only work if said parent is NOT a granite-backed New Englander who doesn’t like “being fussed with people in my home”.
My brother and I were reaching the conclusion that the only step at this point was assisted living — especially since Mom needed to be removed from any cooking facilities and ability to drive. Then, of course, we looked at the cost of that and nearly fainted. But the lightbulbs went off in our heads simultaneously. One of the few people that this stubborn New Englander will listen to is my brother. And she is still active enough that a twice a week home health care is enough to take care of her. So the idea was born that Steven should retire early, move to a home with a mother-in-law unit and supervise the day staff that would be caring for Mom. (Supervision meaning mainly that he kept her from firing them all!) As we further crunched the numbers, we realized, such a set up would pretty much allow Mom to stay in a family home until the very end — which judging by her long-living relatives would be somewhere around 105 years of age, but for a fraction of the cost of commercial assisted living, We put the idea to Mom and she was enthusiastic. Fast-forward and in record time, we found a perfect property in the lovely town of Hallowell Maine, Steven quit his job and started prepping the place, and I’ve been getting Mom ready to move. Mom’s only concern was, “So at what point are you going to put me in a nursing home?” I was able to tell her confidently, “Never. You are going to die in this house at 105 years old. Then you are going to haunt this house and become a wonderful local legend in Hallowell Maine.” Everyone is happy with that plan.
Did I mention that this is Hallowell Maine? Maine is a beautiful state, but it’s sort of the Mississippi of the North, a few dollars go a long way. So we didn’t just find a house, we found THE house. We actually found a house that was the home of one of the first governors of Maine. A house where the main rooms were from the late 1790s. Then in the early 1800s, a Shaker meeting house was grafted on to the main house, a barn was built, along with various outbuildings, until you had a wonderful New England series of connected buildings.
Oh, and if you don’t know Hallowell Maine, I need to tell you that this is one of the most special places in America. The nearest I can describe it is…well, it’s Brigadoon. You drive through the capital, Augusta — through all the honky tonk of a typical American city: Dollar Generals, Burger Kings, Starbucks — and suddenly you go over a hill, into a valley and land in a beautiful town that is virtually unchanged since the 1850s. This is a town on the scenic Kennebec River filled with stately sea captains’ houses, brick Federalist era warehouses, absolutely no chain stores, and stuffed full of antique stores, restaurants featuring locally sourced produce, small taverns and brew pubs, where virtually the entire town is a protected historic district.
I know my New Orleans friends will laugh heartily, but Hallowell styles itself “The Little Easy, New Orleans on the Kennebec” because of the huge number of live music venues and restaurants supported by this small town of 2000. As we arrived in town for the closing, Steven and I felt like we met most of the residents. I’d say, out of 2000, 1500 are musicians and the rest are antique store owners, restaurant owners and staff. As Steven is a musician, who through the years has driven up from Boston to do a number of fill-in gigs for Maine bands, he found he had six degrees of separation with practically everyone we met: “Wait, you played with the Erratics? I played in this band with the bass player. Do you know so-and-so? He’s the brother of the guy who’s lead guitarist in this band.” Needless to say, Steven is in musician heaven. For my sister-in-law, the town offers a slower pace of life than the Boston area and a fantastic public library, endowed by Governor Hubbard, the man whose ancestral home we are moving into. For my mother, well, she’ll be back with her people in New England, there is a great senior center and she’ll be able to have my brother’s great cooking instead of the meals on wheels that never came up to her standards.
So, for all stakeholders, this is a dream come true. And as long as no one breaks the spell of Brigad…er Hallowell…this the town of our dreams for our family goals.
Oh, and back to my secret agenda. Please be aware that I am personally delivering three adult voters to Maine who will be voting AGAINST Susan Collins. Go BLUE!