The Cliffords like to keep close. So close that when it came time for Laura and Pat’s only son, Sean, to choose a bride, he conveniently selected the beauty three doors down. So close that when an unheard-of property went on the market, just a mile from their original Highland’s homestead—a property consisting of an old plantation-style farmhouse for Sean’s new family with enough vacant land to build his parents a nearby home on—Sean decided to jump on it.
When Laura and Pat moved into the home where they raised Sean 34 years ago, they never saw themselves moving, but once this opportunity opened up, they began to shift their thinking. “We never thought we’d build a house, and especially not one so late in life a mile away from our old one,” Pat says.
But Laura chimes in, across the table from Pat, ping-pong-style, the way that close couples bounce off of each other when telling a shared story, “We loved our old house but it was two-stories that sat up on a giant hill. It was a great idea 30 years ago!”
“Yeah,” Pat says, “That hill was horrible. You had to mow the grass sideways or you would flip the mower. The driveway needed four-wheel drive when it iced, and all of the bedrooms were on the second story.”
“Too many steps,” Laura says.
“So we got the bug to build. There are no empty lots in the city, so this was an opportunity that not many people get,” Pat says as he looks around the modern ranch-style home.
The build itself wasn’t an easy one. Plans changed, as they are known to do. The original plan was to divide the property into four lots, sell a few, use one for the parents, and renovate the property’s original farmhouse for Sean and his wife, Genny, and their growing family. However, the farmhouse was out of code and needed too many cost-prohibitive renovations in order to restore it. One of the lots was sold to someone outside the family and later repurchased by Sean and Genny; and Laura and Pat’s lot changed positions from lot three to lot four.
How’s It Working?
Now, over a year later, the close-knit Cliffords can comfortably go about their daily lives from different ends of their shared property. In Pat and Laura’s new home, they have successfully transitioned from stairs and steep-hills, to single-story living. Their flat, irrigated lot is perfect for their aging knees and Pat’s favorite pastime: gardening. Laura installed pull-drawers instead of cabinets in the kitchen and hardwoods throughout the home for ease and accessibility. Not to mention, Genny, their beloved daughter-in-law, is a nurse that lives a stone’s throw away. The couple jokes that they have all the aging in place essentials here, even an extra-wide doorway for Ratterman to haul them out of some day.
Pat’s favorite part of this new multi-generational living arrangement is being able to watch his grandchildren play basketball on their home court from the comfort of his sunroom. Pat made sure to go to all of Sean’s basketball games when he was growing up, and he enjoys being able to have the same experience with his grandchildren.
Laura enjoys watching the kids barrel through the shared middle lot as they run over to say hello to their grandparents. “We have always had a close relationship with our son, Sean, and his family. I think that’s what changed most since our move is the spontaneity of the contact we have with Sean, Genny, and our grandchildren. Sean works long hours at the University of Louisville Hospital, but because we are now right next door, he often wanders over for a late evening drink on the back patio, or to talk sports for a few minutes. Even living just a mile apart, this wouldn’t happen. Genny strolls over to talk gardening, or to see what we’re doing, and the grandkids can run over whenever they want to see us. We also love when the kiddos pop up at the front door without warning, sometimes dragging neighborhood friends along with them,” Laura says.
During the quarantine, the Cliffords found refuge together, albeit six-feet apart, around a shared firepit between their two houses. While many families were forced to distance themselves from aging parents, the Cliffords kept it safely close. It also helped Genny and Sean to know that their parents could assist with virtual school should their children need it (Laura is a retired educator for JCPS).
While life hasn’t changed all that much for the close Cliffords since the move that brought them even closer together, Laura and Pat are now secure in knowing that their family (conveniently consisting of two healthcare professionals) is just a yard away. And at any hour of the day, despite the demands of careers, school schedules, or plain-old growing up, they can catch a glimpse of them from the sunroom and know they are still there.
By Megan M. Seckman | Photos by Melissa Donald
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