Intergenerational Living: The Experiment Continues

Inca and Her Mom

Inca and Her Mom

It’s the dog days of summer, and apparently all the literary agents are on vacation. So nothing is happening on the book front. That’s my excuse for now. However, much is happening on the living front, in the house by the sea where my husband Tom and I (both 63) now live with our daughter, Kerry (32), son-in-law Mike (36) and granddaughter Lilah (4).

It’s now been about two months since we all moved in together. At first, with boxes everywhere and the furniture all in the wrong rooms, and double the tools and food needed to stock and run a kitchen, things were a bit uncomfortable. After the first week, Mike returned to work, and the rest of us kind of lost interest in having to unpack even one more box.

Tom had a brilliant idea. He suggested that we put all the boxes and furniture we didn’t know what to do with in one room—the living room—and concentrate on making the rest of the rooms workable. This helped enormously. We were no longer tripping over boxes. The rest of the house began to settle down to more-or-less normal living.

But of course, the boxes did not unpack themselves. Last weekend, we bravely faced the room of boxes and began to unpack. Empty boxes began to pile up on the porch once more. We didn’t get through the entire room, but did make progress. We can now see the fireplace in the living room—Kerry had actually forgotten that we have a fireplace.

The people have been getting along well. No fights and no hard feelings, as far as I can tell. Everyone seems pretty happy. Mike is the one with the hardest situation as he has a longer commute to his job, and works the late shift, so he often arrives home when everyone else has gone to bed. He bought a commuter car to save on gas, which also helped his driving experience as he was navigating a winding mountain highway with an enormous truck. The smaller car handles better on the curves in addition to guzzling less gas.

The pets are having a somewhat more difficult time dealing with the blended family situation. We have Gigi, a 65-pound lab-shepherd mix with a saintly disposition, and Inca, a small black (formerly feral) cat who thinks Gigi is her Mom. Kerry has Hendrix and Marley, 15-pound Japanese Chins. Chins, in case you don’t know, are fluffy little dogs with squashed-in faces and bulging eyes. Marley has an overbite that makes him look aggressive, but he isn’t. Hendrix has a mop of wild hair and skewed eyes. He often has the tip of his tongue protruding as well, so the total effect is one of psychopathy—not too far from the mark. Hendrix appears to think he can take Gigi down, which apart from being delusional, is annoying. He will bite Gigi’s heels or try to take her gigantic toys away from her. Gigi, peaceable but insisting on her rights, retaliates, often by squashing him flat. Much growling and tussling ensues because Hendrix, far from being deterred by being squashed, keeps on coming. Adults scream at them, and Lilah runs away crying.

Inca, being a cat, hated being moved. Worse, we moved her twice—once into our friend’s home, and a month or so later, into our new home. She has settled down well, and is now trying to escape from the house. She’s gotten out twice, and apparently the local wildlife is terrifying, because she doesn’t seem to be enjoying her outings. There are a couple of known tough cats in the neighborhood as well as skunks, raccoons, possums and other assorted beasties. Inca may have once been feral, but I don’t think she was very good at it, and she appears to be better suited to lounging around the house and kissing dogs.

She’s an indoor cat, partly because I promised to keep her indoors when I adopted her, partly because indoor cats stay cleaner and healthier, and partly because she is black and what some people do to black cats is horrible. (Black cats are also harder to find adoptive homes for, so the next time you think about adopting, remember that black is beautiful.)

Being fond of dogs, Inca has been making overtures to the Chins. She tried to kiss Marley yesterday and he snapped at her, which may set cat-Chin relations back for months. She got out of the house again, but was back within a couple of hours, wailing and fluffed-up with terror.

So the non-humans are having a harder time than the humans in making this enormous adjustment. Hurray for the humans!

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