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Essays by Karen Anderson: Paradise

Illustration by Kacie Brown

In 1964, when they were middle-aged, my parents moved to Traverse City, Michigan, from Grand Rapids — where they had lived all their lives. The reason for the move was a job offer my father had received from the State Hospital.

He had been a dentist in private practice but was unable to save enough for retirement. As a dentist at the State Hospital, he could earn a pension. Besides, “Traverse City is paradise,” he said. “Haven’t we vacationed there for years?”

“Yes,” my mother said, “but we have never lived there.” Yet, as a career homemaker with no income of her own, she had no choice but to go.

They bought an old farmhouse outside of town with a view of the bay. “If we’re going to live in Traverse City, we might as well see the water,” my father said. My mother looked out the window and missed her neighbors. There was no one next door or across the street, no one to have coffee with, share recipes—to greet, to call, to count on.

My mother eventually got acquainted in Traverse City but new friends weren’t like old friends. She died the year after my father retired. “It’s hard to start over at this age,” she said once.

Even in paradise.

Karen Anderson contributes "Essays by Karen Anderson" to Interlochen Public Radio.