Tag Archives: widow

The Yellow House

January 12, 2014 by
Photography by Keith Binder

“You have to be a little crazy to live with 14 people,” says Josh Buckingham-Weibel, “but, for our family, it just works. And I personally have enjoyed every minute that we’ve lived together.”

Buckingham-Weibel is a junior in college. On Jan. 15, 2009, just a few days before he turned 16, his three siblings and his mom moved into a house with his aunt and uncle and their five kids. A few months later, his uncle’s sister and brother-in-law joined them. Nine kids—now 10—and five adults have made a home in The Yellow House.

The oldest of the kids, Buckingham-
Weibel was all for it when the families were deciding to move in together. The benefits, in his eyes, included getting to see his family on a daily basis, having cousins who are essentially more like younger siblings, and getting to watch them all grow up. “And you learn so much from everybody else in the house,” he adds. “There’s a lot of different life experience that everyone has had, so there’s a lot to learn.”

The appeal of 
shared parenting

Was it kind of like having five parents? “Well, there’s a lot of accountability, and you really don’t get away with a whole lot,” he says.

That adjustment to the number of parents was one worry that his mom, Amy Lee, had when making this decision. Recently widowed, Lee had become a single parent. “I was concerned about them going from having two parents to one parent to three parents—or three adults in their life every day, nagging them about cleaning their room or whatever. And it ended up being more than three. It’s five,” she says with a laugh.

This idea of community living came about one day while Lee helped her sister with some childcare. “Eric had died almost two years earlier, in July of 2005,” Lee says of her late husband. “In that two years, my sister had two babies.” That’s in addition to the three kids her sister already had. “So she had needed help one day to take her kids to the doctor or something. And I had gone over and helped her.”

That day made her sister wish that Lee lived closer.

“Here I am, trying to figure out what it means to do life by myself. And here’s my sister trying to figure out how to deal with two small babies,” says Lee. “It was really just coming to this place of wanting to support each other. Moms with small kids get to feeling pretty isolated and alone. And moms who are widows get to feeling pretty isolated and alone.”

First the sisters talked about moving into the same neighborhood. However, when they started to look at the options, neither family’s needs could be accommodated in the other’s neighborhood. And that’s when the conversation turned to the two families buying a house together.

The hunt for a place that worked for everyone

“We did some reading, we did a lot, a lot, a lot of talking, and we did a lot of praying,” Lee remembers. “And we decided: We’ll commit to five years.”

The house-buying process took a year and a half—“plenty of time for people to back out; plenty of space for the conversations we needed to have,” says Lee.

Those conversations included drafting a mission statement and other community documents that were specific about things like no extramarital affairs, no alcohol or drug abuse, and what “safe touch” meant. This ensured that they were all on the same page to start out.

In that time, “we looked at, gosh, hundreds of houses. And I’m not joking,” says Lee. They put offers on five other houses that didn’t work out for one reason or another. “Then winter hit. A bunch of houses dropped in pricing, and this house came more into our price range.”

The 3,600-square footage includes six bedrooms and two and a half baths, with expansive front and back yards. “It’s definitely more space than I could ever take care of on my own,” says Lee. But it was perfect for a community living space. (And it’s even been approved by the Omaha Planning Department.)

Adults No. 4 and 5, Amanda and Chad Knihal, were invited to consider living in this community shortly thereafter. As a couple planning to have kids, “I was pretty confident that, if we had children, I would want to stay home with them,” says Amanda. “And the idea of having two other moms who were also at home at that time was really exciting.”

The two years that the Knihals originally committed to went quickly, and now it’s been almost five. The Knihals had a baby last August and have been getting a lot of questions about whether or not they’ll stay in The Yellow House. For now, anyway, Amanda says, “This is just where we live—this is home.”

The payoff of a family that’s closer than ever

Lee has loved having the Knihals around. Before they had a baby and became “real adults,” they were a great bridge between Lee and her teenagers. “Close enough to those teen years that they remember what it’s like, but adult enough to understand where I’m coming from,” Lee says.

And, as far as parenting goes, “I learn all the time from them—all four of them—even though I’ve been parenting longer,” Lee says.

“I really value that my kids get to live with other adults, especially married people. That they get to see two couples who love each other and who respect each other and who work together. They wouldn’t have gotten to see that if we didn’t do this. I think that’s really valuable in life,” Lee says, tears welling up. “On the flip side of that, it’s been surprising to me how that makes me miss Eric a lot, to watch that.”

Lee’s biggest concern in all this was moving the kids out of the house that they lived in with their dad. “That place carried so many memories for them—for us all,” she says. “And it was hard. It was hard to leave there. They’d already been through a lot of change, and so to put them through another one…I was really concerned about that.”

When she asked the kids about it, they had some questions, but they seemed very positive and interested. And the ways that the cousins have bonded have made it all worthwhile.

“I had hoped that our kids would be close,” Lee says, “but I feel like they really have forged some strong friendships. That kind of stuff anchors you in life. When you have made movies and played games and roasted marshmallows and skated with sparklers on the ice rink in the back yard—what were we thinking? Oh my gosh.”

Traditions like these are what make a house a home, and The Yellow House has no shortage of them. Winter Olympics on that same ice rink, playing Sardines with all the lights off, and countless celebrations mark the passing years. Five will have come and gone in January.

“I’m really grateful for family who were willing to try something that, for our country, is out of the ordinary,” Lee says. “I know it’s not for everybody, but I think more people should try it.”

Dating Over 60

August 28, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Jim Hanson peruses a sea of online profiles, hoping to find his match. What sets this self-professed Renaissance man apart from thousands of other men doing the same exact thing? His age: 65. At a time in life when most people his age are thinking of retirement and mutual funds, he is looking for love.

After being happily married for 33 years, Hanson, a widower, found himself in a position understood by many of his generation: He was alone. Never one to give up, he has tirelessly searched for the right person for the last seven years. “I have met a lot of neat people in that time,” he says. “The main thing I noticed that’s different dating now than then [in his 20s] is people have twice the baggage.” He explains that there are two groups of people he has encountered on his quest: widows and divorcees. “The thing about baggage is you gotta find someone to help you unpack it.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people 65 and over make up 13.9 percent of Nebraska’s population. Many local seniors are experiencing being single again after the death or divorce of a spouse. Plenty are turning to online dating sites to meet other people.

This was the case for Linda Knapp. “It is really difficult to meet people,” she admits. Despite the fact that she owns her own business and interacts with countless people both socially and professionally, the 66-year-old has not dated much in the last year and a half. “I don’t like going to bars. It’s difficult to find a venue to meet people of my generation.” Like many, she turned to online dating. After a couple of bad experiences, she decided it wasn’t for her.

“The thing about baggage is you gotta find someone to help you unpack it.” – Jim Hanson

Karen Larson doesn’t look at seniors dating as any different from the younger generations. “No matter what age, it’s difficult to meet people.” Which is why the local 56-year-old started organizing meetup groups on Plenty of Fish, an online dating forum, to help people get out there and meet new people. “I like to host in small venues so people can actually get a chance to talk,” she says adding, “It’s a safe environment where people can meet.” According to her, a safe environment is what women want. “Many women from my generation have never walked into a bar by themselves.” She will meet up with people and help ease their anxiety, acting as a modern-day matchmaker.

“I have success stories,” she says. One woman who was nervous about attending a meet-and-greet that Karen organized found her special someone after attending the gatherings for a few months.

“Everyone has baggage,” Larson says, echoing Hanson. “I don’t even like to look at it as baggage. I think of it as experiences that shape who you are. It can be positive or negative. Just like your past experiences, dating can be the same way, depending on how you look at it. It’s a scary adventure. People don’t want to be taken. There are those who play games and want to play with your heart. You have to discern the difference. One sign? Can the person describe their past without extreme emotion? Without anger or sadness? If not, they aren’t ready to date again.”

“The way I see it, it’s a numbers game,” Hanson says with the zeal of a pep squad cheerleader. “You have to love without fear. It takes honesty, integrity, and a sense of humor. Yesterday is gone forever. Learn from it and move on. I lost my beautiful wife of 33 years in an instant. Nothing is a given. Embrace today. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.”

After many years of dating and many more being married, he will tell you the importance of communication and making compromises. At the end of the day, he says he is looking for the same thing everyone looks for: that person who is the last person you think of at night and the first thing you think of in the morning.

“It’s like that famous quote,” Hanson explains, “‘Love is like a butterfly.’ If you chase after it, it will fly away. But if you are patient and wait long enough, it will land in your hands.”

Dating Sites
plentyoffish.com
seniorpeoplemeet.com
eharmony.com/senior-dating
datingforseniors.com
dating.aarp.org
seniorpassions.com
ourtime.com

Meetup Sites
seniors.meetup.com
single-seniors.meetup.com
seniors-social.meetup.com
senior-singles-get-together.meetup.com