“Now you’re one of those people, the ones who live at the end of the road,” my new neighbor quipped when I dropped something off at his house, an old cape with gawking black windows and all the paint gone from the clapboards, secreted at the end of another dirt road that backs up on the same deep forest which surrounds both our homes.

Gene is at least as old as I and has lived in this house on the edge of this woods most of his life. I felt as if I was being welcomed into a society of batty eccentrics who share the secret glee of living where nothing signals civilization: No cars scuttling around, no people traipsing by, no human sounds squawking, no built structures vying with trees and ferns and rock for space.

When we built this house in the middle of the woods, we’d come from living for 40 years in a ship captain’s house at Porter’s Landing, on the edge of a salt marsh a mile from L.L. Bean in Freeport. I never expected to leave that home my body had learned so well: How many steps in the dark over warped pine floors, how moonlight falls on the pink wainscoting, the smell of must after summer rain.

I am also at the end of another road. Yesterday, I got a vaccine shot for shingles, which, the nurse said, would need to be renewed in 10 years. She said it hesitantly and blushed a little as if the thought “you could be dead in 10 years” had occurred in mid-sentence and she was afraid I might read her mind and be upset by the idea of how close to death I am.

“Oh! It’s OK,” I told her, putting my hand on her shoulder. “Being this old is a great relief. It’s so much better than it’s cracked up to be!”

Nor did I expect to get old and have the postman warn me against lifting a box that weighed less than a kitten. I thought that people who got old had somehow made a mistake. Taken a wrong turn. Not used their night cream. After years of planning for the future, when I got to the far end of it, I realized I hadn’t prepared for this part at all.

It was like getting off a train at a stop in a foreign country you hadn’t planned on visiting: I had no maps in my backpack, no Rough Guide to the End of the Road.

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