My mother, bless her heart, has always looked at apartment living with distain. Dad and her enjoyed separate floors in their house, which possibly can account for their long life together. When I would mention that they ought to consider moving into a smaller abode, my mom would look at me in horror and tell me the same story about how some friends had sold their lovely family home and moved into a flat, instantly regretting it. Apartment living, according to mom was like being confined to live in a rabbit cage. Moving into such limited quarters would invariably lead to sadness, depression and early death. Apartment blocks were veritable eyesores, particularly the hyper-modern triple complex piercing right out onto the fjord in the center of their picturesque town. Nothing would ever change her mind. She planned to leave their house feet first!
The problem with living in a big house is that one tends to fill it, especially if one lives there for more than 40 years, which was the case for mom and dad. We moved into our house when I was in primary school in the 1970’s. Small Norwegian towns didn’t have many apartments then and those that did exist were only considered suitable for bachelors, widowers and the working class.
Our new house was not a Modern Scandinavian Design showpiece, but it was big and comfortable and suited a young couple with three kids, as they were at the time. It had views to fields and hills and even to an old ski jump, and mom loved to sit in her favourite chair and watch ‘her painting’ as the sun disappeared on the horizon. 70’s houses had an abundance of storage, so every room had a wall of floor to ceiling closets. As the years passed, each closet was filled to the brim, as was the attic, the basement and the garage. Especially since my dad, bless his soul, had a certain affinity for buying ‘stuff’, acquiring an enormous collection of maritime antiques and rarities, old gym equipment and, amongst his oddest collections, hand-held vacuum cleaners. Is there any reason my mom thought that moving into a two bedroom flat was simply impossible?
When my father passed away last fall and mom fell a month later, needing by-weekly hospital care, she may have started to wonder about living alone in a large house with too many rooms, an unused indoor pool, a cavernous double garage, as well as a lawn to cut and driveways to clean. It is quite possible to live with uncut grass, but snow is a whole other matter. November came and so did the snow, as is to be expected in Norway. Mom had to get help to make a trail to the street and onto the garage. The next morning the snow would be back again and she would have to find help to remove what she calls the ‘Berlin wall’, which appears after the snowplow passes. If not, she would be stuck. Recently she told me that her car was caught in a snow bank. Luckily the mailman passed by and could give her a push. Norway in winter is not for the weak of heart. Maybe, just maybe, my mom thought their house on top of the hill wasn’t completely ideal for a lady in her advanced years?
Then one day my mom admitted to having gone, PURELY because she was curious, to a flat viewing. Of course she said afterwards that the flat was way too small and had no view and no space for her dining table for 18 and… In other words, it was official, flat living was not for her! Yet, a few weeks later mom said she had met a lady in church who had moved into a flat and loving it. Mom was invited to see the wonder and declared afterwards that if she has that amount of space it would not be too bad to live in a flat. Not that she planned to move… Only days later she met a former neighbor who spoke excitedly about her new abode. My mom went to see it and came out claiming this is where she wanted to live. Sadly it wasn’t for sale. Mom is evidently not the only old widow in our hometown looking for simpler living. But this flat-thing had now peaked my mom’s interest, she was on the hunt.
Mom called one day asking me to go to a real estate site to look at the photos of a flat for sale. To my great surprise, the apartment was located in the infamous ‘eye sore’ complex that mom always had been complaining about. Looking at the pictures, one saw the other side of the coin: a lovely, sunny, clean and modern flat with a big balcony looking out over and indeed overhanging the fjord just above where some brave Vikings take their daily morning dip. The flat came with heated floors, underground parking (no shoveling!) and ample storage. It even had its own boat mooring spot! I asked mom “What is there not to love?”
Knowing that mom would not manage to envision living anywhere if she saw the flat at the same time as dozens of other interested buyers, my brother arranged a private viewing. (Old ladies should be allowed a few perks) As expected, mom came out saying that even though it was a nice flat, the kitchen was painted too dark and that the underground parking would be hard for her to navigate and… She wasn’t sure. Being a Libra, my mom can only buy a dress after bringing the two contestants home on loan and trying each on several times. But when it comes to buying a flat, there is no time for such dwelling. It was a situation of now or never. In spite of all her misgivings about flat living, my mom bought the fjord view apartment, which proves that one thankfully can learn to appreciate new things at the age of 83.
And as far as her mooring spot is concerned, she can always get a speedboat and take up a new hobby.