Someday David will decide it’s time to retire. The thought is disconcerting. What will he do when he no longer has a place to go every day? We’ve heard that many people retire to the area north of Austin, and because David has a couple of days off, we decide to visit the area and see if, in the future, this will be a nice place for us to settle.
The notion makes me feel rebellious. I have a house full of unpacked boxes. There’s work to be done. Also, it makes no sense to move to some random unfamiliar town just because we’re approaching a certain age. The three towns we visit—New Braunfels, Georgetown, and Marble Falls—are becoming rich off the baby boomers who are flocking to the area, buying homes and boats, golf carts and RVs.
David is especially interested in a place called Sun City, a Del Webb retirement community outside Georgetown. He’s overly enthusiastic, in love with the place before we’ve even seen it. I’ve visited the website and it looks sterile and colorless. I’m scared to death he’s going to like it.
The woman who gives us a tour of Sun City is very sweet, a young mother with a soft voice. It’s her job to sell us a new home; this can’t be easy, as the model homes are awful—closed-off kitchens, tight hallways, low ceilings. The facilities outside the home are the selling points. Two fully outfitted gyms that offer classes as well as equipment, several swimming pools, tennis courts, walking trails, three golf courses. Painting, pottery, wood-working, and fabric studios. Allotments for gardening, a softball diamond, even a dog park. There’s a drama club that puts on three productions a year. And common-interest clubs, like biking, reading, hunting; there’s even a club for people who like to remote-fly airplanes. If you like to do it there’s a club for it. There’s probably even a club for people who enjoy clubs.
“Do you like living here?” I ask a woman in the art studio. A couple of people sit at easels, serene as they paint—and they paint well.
“I love it,” she says. “It’s safe.”
Yes, it’s safe. Gray people poke along in golf carts at five miles an hour. Every stair has a rail and an accompanying ramp. And a burglar or rapist would never venture here—anyone young enough to burgle or rape would draw notice.
We enter the fabric workshop, a paradise if you like to sew, which I do. Machines are set up, ready, waiting for someone to stitch a seam or two. There’s a quilting table with an in-built Bernina that looks even more advanced than mine. Several women hover over tables on the other side of the large room. When they see me enter, they swoop, excited to see a different face, desperate for new blood. They tell me everything I want to know without my having to voice one question.
“This is a wonderful place to live. Do you sew? We have knitting and hooking, even fabric art. We take field trips to quilt shows. And if sewing isn’t your thing, there’s plenty else to do.”
“My husband calls us old hens,” one says, happy that her husband likes to tease. “Mostly what we do here is gab, gab, gab.”
Their ages range from mid-sixties to really old.
Living here would be easy. The most difficult decision David and I would ever have to make would be what to have for dinner. Making friends would simply be a matter of stepping outside the door—literally, as the houses are only separated by a few feet. It seems self-indulgent, though, to move to a place where all you do is have a good time. And isn’t it odd to remove yourself from society simply because you’re older than you used to be? Although I imagine the younger people of Houston would be thrilled to get the seniors off the roads. No matter how they couch it, this is a place where people come to wait to die. But shouldn’t they be doing something useful while they wait? Something besides playing games, filling the hours with hobbies, and talking, talking, talking?
We leave the area on Saturday morning. Tomorrow David will begin a lecture tour of Canada and the northeastern US. Ostensibly, he’ll be speaking to engineers and geologists about the geologic features that indicate the presence of shale gas. In other words, fracking. This is, apparently, a controversial topic in Nova Scotia and I fear there will be heckling. Good luck, David!