When I was a kid, the decision about where to live was easy ─ anywhere but my parents'house.
After two years of marriage, the decision became more complex. In addition to needing to live far enough from our parents to keep them from meddling in our lives, we cared about job opportunities, apartment prices, and reducing the time we spent in traffic every day. We hated leaving New York City, but in the late sixties, suburban Maryland met our needs.
Eight years later, we had two kids and a mortgage. Vietnam and Watergate had left us desperate to get as far from Washington as possible, and we’d discovered that 250 miles from our parents wasn’t far enough. Our first thought was to leave all that as far behind us as possible, but our query to the immigration people in Australia was not well received ─ they already had their fill of disillusioned Americans.
In the seventies, easterners dreamed about Colorado and California, but Denver didn’t have an ocean nearby, and southern California was…well…southern California. San Francisco no longer basked in the glow of the Summer of Love, it was horrendously expensive, and its traffic was as bad as New York’s. Ironically, our obsession to leave Washington as far behind us as possible took us to another Washington.
Life in Seattle was wonderful, but after eleven years there, our parents had retired from meddling and we felt the need to be closer to them as they aged. Entering our forties, we were far more career conscious than we had been, and to our utter shock, returning to Maryland was the obvious answer. Despite its unpleasantly evolving climate, high taxes, worsening traffic, and the corrosive effect of being so close to our ever more dysfunctional government, the last twenty-nine years here have been fine. But our kids wound up in California and Florida, most of our friends are moving on, and we’re both retired. Once again, we have to decide where we want to live.
It’s funny how things change. We’re fortunate in most ways. Our forty-nine year marriage is alive and well, our financial advisors tell us we never have to worry about money again, and we’re grandparents. We can go anywhere we want. We can have multiple residences if we wish. We want very badly to watch our grandson (and his future siblings) grow up, but we’ve learned to balance that with never making our kids feels like they need to escape from us.
Now, the decision about where to live has taken a strange turn. It’s starting to look more like finding the best place to die, or at least put off dying as long as possible. Maryland has the best concentration of quality health care in the world. We’re both healthy, and it’s hard to contemplate giving that up, but the seemingly endless winter of 2014 and gradually encroaching arthritis made it clear that this will be a decision year.
Last month, MarketWatch published an article called “The Worst U. S. States to Die In”. Not very grammatical, but informative. It turns out that we live in one of only two states that have both estate taxes and inheritance taxes, and Maryland has the third lowest estate tax exemption in the country. California and Florida have neither, and Florida doesn’t have a state or local income tax. But Florida has swamps and one of the worst health care systems in the country, and California has earthquakes, serious drinking water problems, and a bone-crushing tax structure. California has rattlesnakes and Florida has pythons and alligators, but they both have warm days and miles of beaches.
Why isn’t the choice ever easy?
AlanZendell spent more than thirty years as a scientist, aerospace engineer, software consultant, database developer, and government analyst, writing really boring stuff like proposals, technical papers, reports, business letters, and policy memoranda. But trapped inside him all that time were stories that needed telling and ideas that needed expression, so with encouragement and cajoling from a loving baby sister he plunged into fiction. Since then, he has written mostly science and extrapolative fiction with three-dimensional characters. It’s the things they believe in and how much they’re willing to invest to preserve them that make a story worth telling. It’s convincing interactions and well-researched credible plots that make a story worth reading. And, of course, like any writer, Alan loves having an audience. You may find Alan’s books here.