Nothing my family has ever done has been “conventional.” My parents were always on the move: either escaping harsh New Jersey winters in Miami Beach, or moving me and my siblings to Southern California when I was 16, or jetting us off to our home in Hawaii. Life was always an adventure.
Cut to fifty years later, and the adventure still continues: now, in a small fishing village/artist colony in Mexico called Todos Santos. But I am not alone. I’m living here with my 92-year-old father.
A few years before our move to Mexico, my mother had been diagnosed with Picks Disease, a frontal lobe dementia. Dad had heroically and valiantly cared for her; it was a daily struggle that took an enormous emotional toll on all of us. Feeling he needed a break, I invited him to accompany me for his 81st birthday on a trip to Todos Santos, a little slice of heaven 50 miles north of Cabo San Lucas on the Pacific side of the Baja Peninsula.
The first day, we walked around the historic puebla and entered what I can only describe as a very hip espresso bar/café. It made me aware there was a lot more to this place than met the eye. As an architectural designer, I admired all the charming buildings as we wandered around. I found myself stopping in my tracks, grabbing Dad’s arm, saying, “Dad, I could live here!” And Dad, true to his gypsy self, replied, “So could I!”
We both share the nomad gene and a love of real estate, so we relished the familiar routine of looking at homes for sale. Nothing was just right, so we decided to build what we wanted to create…a family compound. We just needed to find the right property. I returned two weeks later and found it, and we built it.
For the past 11 years, we have shared 2 ½ acres at the beach. We designed our little paradise together, each with our own home, one shared pool, a guest casita, and a property full of fruit and rare specimen trees. I have been living here full time, while Dad, who was still active in his business, came down for 10 days or so every couple of months.
Mom’s disease was progressing, and instead of putting her in a home, Dad moved her into a condo near him, with round the clock care. Unconventional? You bet. Our decision to buy land, build, and move to Baja came at the same time as Mom’s Filipino caregivers were asking to take Mom back to the Philippines to live with them. It was a really tough family decision to make. They had already taken Mom there a couple of times to visit and each time she returned, she seemed happier and somewhat improved. Her UCLA doctors were stymied. They said she was their oldest patient and mildest case.
Picks Disease normally hits people in their 50s, and most succumb to it within 7 years. Mom was in her 70s when diagnosed, and by her 14th year, she had completely lost her ability to communicate and did not recognize any of us anymore. Her Pilipino family was so devoted, and loved her dearly; they considered her “their angel.” We let her go. Unconventional? Yes, indeed.
My parents had a remarkable love affair my entire childhood, and my dad was going through hell as he lost her more each day. He was still so vital and alive, and I know my mom would have wanted him to enjoy his life and find companionship without feeling guilty.
My dad is now 92, lives in his Todos Santos home full time, and is so grateful to be here. He will be the first to tell you how much he looks forward to sitting by the pool, smoking a cigar while reading a book and watching the palm trees sway. He drives his own car, takes Spanish lessons, cooks, plays drums, enjoys dinners out, swims works out in the pool every day, and shops at Costco in Cabo on his own. He’s virile and handsome and he loves the ladies (and the ladies love him right back).
He continues to inspire me and to be the brightest light on this unconventional path we’re taking together.
Wendy Rains enjoys multiple careers as an International Architectural Designer, Fashion Designer, Artist, Author, Poet, Columnist, Travel Journalist, Ghost Writer, Magazine Publisher, Editor, and Radio Show Host. For the past 12 years Wendy has been living in Todos Santos, Mexico, where she shares 2 ½ acres at the beach with her 94-year young dad. She currently hosts one of only two English radio programs in Southern Baja on Cabo San Lucas’s only radio station.