When home is where the heart isn't

Story highlights

  • Kat Kinsman's parents moved from the Kentucky house where she grew up
  • Kinsman: "They feel freed. ... I am thrilled for them -- and yet unexpectedly adrift"
  • They sent objects from childhood, which began to pile up on her desk at work
Two decades ago, I strode out of my house and knew I'd never think of it as my home again.
I hugged my mother goodbye and climbed into the car with my dad, my tape collection and every decent piece of clothing I owned. When he made the multistate drive back from dropping me off at college, the car would be empty, and the house would, to me, no longer be our family home -- just my parents' house.
Recently, it ceased to be even that.
A few months ago, my parents handed the keys over to a real estate agent and, for the first time in more than 40 years, were no longer homeowners. They headed southeast from Kentucky to a retirement community near my sister in South Carolina. If all goes as planned, they'll spend the rest of their days in blissful, assisted leisure.
For them, there will be no more fussing over gutter clogs, leaf piles, loose shingles or any of the other burdens of ownership. While their house has weathered the passage of time well -- even gotten more elegant in the absence of two squabbling, headstrong daughters -- my mother has not. My dad will benefit from the on-hand help with her care, and she will be less isolated by her declining health and mobility.