Posted by: chlost | February 16, 2015

Worry, the Best Medicine Doctors Can Provide

Presidents’ Day. A holiday that virtually no one else has off from work. In a way, I suppose it is a preview of retirement. Everyone else is working, and except for the post office, all other services are available.

It was the perfect day for a doctor appointment.

With the help of modern medicine, I am relatively healthy.

If I did not have access to modern medical miracles, I would be a blind, seizure-ridden, arthritic cripple with a huge goiter-assuming I were even alive at this point. I may have succumbed at an early age to heart disease. I definitely would not be able to enjoy my grandchildren, may not even be able to see them. Yes, if I were living in the 19th century, my life would be quite different.

You would think that I would happily trot off to the doctor regularly in order to ensure my continued good health.

You’d be wrong.

It is not as bad as the dentist, but I have had my fill of doctor offices. It feels as though I have used up my allotment of doctor visits, and prefer to just avoid them all together. It isn’t fair for me to take up the appointment slots when there are so many truly ill people. Plus, I really don’t like to push my luck. At some point, I may become one of those legitimately ill patients, and I know I will find out about that by a doctor, in their office, while I am visiting there. Best to just stay away, right?

I know that’s not right, but my procrastinating nature buys the logic.

Thankfully, up until now, I haven’t had to deal with any life-threatening illness. I am not a good patient. I know my faults.

Today’s visit was for the ol’  twist and squish torture of the female parts. The tech told me it has been five years since the last one. That surprised me-I knew I was overdue for it, but didn’t think it had been that long. Apparently time flies when you are procrastinating.

In any event, now that I’m home, it is time to worry. I always worry about the results. I’ve had issues two or three times in the past, and each time it turned out okay. But I worry each time. It seems prudent.

And really, in this day and age, why aren’t there faster ways to receive the results of the scan? You mean to tell me that no one has figured out a way to use a computer to read and interpret these things for instant feedback? What are we wasting our research and development funds on if not for this?

As I stood there, attached by the you-know-what to a machine which must have been designed by the spurned male lover of a woman who didn’t let him get to second base, I wondered out loud whether or not there is a comparable machine for men. You know there isn’t. Men would never allow their nethers to be squashed between plates of cold glass, even in the name of cancer prevention.

The technologist was very kind and helpful. Who has this job? Who decides to become a professional torturer of female anatomy? What kind of day do those folks have, anyway? I can’t imagine maneuvering dozens of mounds of flesh onto a flat surface each day. then slowly but surely lowering the boom until the flesh resembles pie crust dough ready for baking. Then they have to make the subject turn to repeat for the other side.

And we allow them to do so willingly.

We pay them to do this.

And we feel guilty when it has been five years since the last time.

And worry each time about the results.

The marvels and the curse of modern medicine all squished together.

Posted by: chlost | February 9, 2015

We March to April One Day at a Time

The daylight is lasting longer!

Although it happens every year, it is always a treat to realize that I am not driving to and from work in the dark. It has been rather sunshine-y and relatively warm these past few days. Rather enjoyable over all considering it is the beginning of February in Minnesota.

The brighter, longer days makes it a bit more likely that I will be still be sane when spring arrives in May. That’s always a bit touch and go for me each year.

This winter there hasn’t been much snow. Right now the front yard is brown grass with patches of about an inch of snow here and there. Not so good for the plants, but not so bad for the psyche. It sure is easier to daydream of green grass and flowers when you can actually see the ground.

My 2015 theme word is “Do”, and I have tried to follow that in at least some small ways. We have had the grandkids here for one long weekend and one regular weekend. It is quite busy when they are here. I truly don’t remember that part of parenting….it is just a blur. We aren’t used to it now, and at times Merle gets a bit cranky about not having a chance to relax before starting another work week. We didn’t do a lot this weekend, just had a tea party, played some games, watched videos, and ate. Merle took the girls to see the cows, and I took them to the bookstore. Guess which activity they love more than the other?? When the girls leave at the end of the weekend, even the dog is exhausted. He goes upstairs and plops on his chair, and we don’t see him again until morning. I really enjoy having them here, and it definitely counts as “doing” something.

My “doing” also includes a baby blanket that I am making for an office colleague. She is expecting her first child in a few weeks, so I am under the gun to get it finished started. I make these blankets without any pattern, I just pick out some yarn and make it up as I go along. I suppose that means that the blankets can look a bit goofy, but so far I think they’ve turned out okay. I bought yarn this week, but got home and realized that I didn’t like the way I was thinking of doing it. That means I have to go back and exchange some yarn. So I haven’t started the actual making of the blanket yet. Unfortunately, I don’t think I could get away with working on it in the office, so I will be working on it feverishly in the next several days.

As part of “doing” things this year, I’ve also been booking trips. I am looking forward to several trips-to Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania on the long side, and Northern Minnesota for a couple of short trips for family events. I have things planned through late July-so I still have a bit more to set up to fill out the year. I’ve also been setting up several dinner dates with friends. I usually just go home after work and sit on the computer until I finally drop into bed, so I think that going out to dinner with friends qualifies as “doing” something. If only I could do it without eating so much!

The “do” motto is changing some of the little things in my life. I am a procrastinator of championship caliber. If it doesn’t have to be done, I won’t do it.  I tell myself that I will do it……any time but now. So I have made a big effort to just do it when it comes up and not put it off. That is for things as small as taking out the garbage or starting the laundry. It is a very hard personality trait to change. I still find that I suggest to myself alternative times for things to get done… and I am a sucker for these suggestions. I will find myself arguing back with my thoughts to convince myself that I can just do it now instead of putting it off.  My goal of working on the family budget, for instance, involved obtaining bank information. All of the information I put together is still sitting in a pile for me to review. A half victory, I suppose.

The anniversary of my sister’s death is this week, the day before her birthday. It is always a hard week. I usually feel it looming over me as soon as the holidays are over. This year is no different, but I do feel a little better about it. Five years is a long time to be in mourning for a sister, but part of my “doing” is to try to let go of some of the depression that has hung on since then. My procrastination is even part of this. In my mind I tell myself “After this anniversary, you can start to let go of the dark feelings”. It will be easier then.

Work has been slow as far as the number of cases, but the cases that I do have are more difficult. It drains me most days. I keep telling myself that I have only a few years to go, then I will be in a warm location for the winter.  Procrastination again…..in a few years when we are someplace warm for the winter, it will be better.

Meanwhile, the daylight is getting longer! It makes almost everything easier.

As Merle is fond of saying, “We are one day closer to April”.

Posted by: chlost | February 1, 2015

A Once-in-a Lifetime Gift

This past week I received a gift. It came from my daughter-in-law.

It was a complete surprise. Well, she did tell me that she was sending a package to me, but that was all. I had no idea that it was a gift. I expected that maybe it was something that had to do with my granddaughters. Drawings, notes, or perhaps treats from those three little girls. They love to make things like that and give them as presents.

I was totally wrong.

This gift was given in love, and is the most amazing gift I have ever received.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, my sister had brought copies of old family videos which included my sister Kathleen.  We had not seen the videos before, and it was quite emotional to see her and to hear her talking. If you recall, I posted about that.

Kathleen was a professional singer. She had a spectacular voice. She sang for a Temple choir, a church choir, a professional Chorale, and had roles in operatic shows as well as more traditional musicals. She lived on the East coast, so we did not see many of her performances.

After watching the videos of my sister at Thanksgiving, we realized that no one has a recording of my sister singing. She sang for over 30 years in one venue or another, and no one had any copies of a performance. Not even a casual song like Happy Birthday.

My daughter-in-law tells me that conversation hit her hard. She never heard my sister sing. She only met her a couple of times. But d-i-l decided then and there to track down any recording that might exist. She knew that the fifth anniversary of Kathleen’s death was coming up, and she was determined to try to find a recording of her singing before that February date.

And she did.

She contacted my sister’s college. They have archived all performances of the school musical performances. Over 30 years ago, my sister performed solos in the school’s annual performance of Handel’s Messiah. She was a senior in college, at the very beginning of her career. The school sent d-i-l a copy of the performance, as well as several photos and articles about Kathleen.

And out of the blue, I received a small package in the mail containing a jump drive with my college-aged sister singing her Messiah solo

There also was an amazing note from d-i-l, filled with love and the explanation of how and why she did this.

“I never got to hear her sing, and while this is from some time ago, I am glad to have the chance to     hear her voice. I hope though this may cause you sadness, it will also bring you a touch of joy to have her voice near you again.”

I cried like a baby. Even when I think about it now, tears fill my eyes and my heart hurts.

What a true gift. My heart is full of amazement and gratitude that she did this.

My sister would be cringing to know that it is her young, virtually untrained and immature voice that we have in this recording. Her voice sounded much different in later years.

But one of the even more amazing twists to this gift is that Merle and I were at this 1981 performance of the Messiah. We traveled through a very dangerous ice storm, along with our oldest son (then just a year old) and Merle’s parents in order to see this concert.

Of course we never could have guessed that I would be listening to it again 34 years later while bawling my eyes out.

Thank you.

Posted by: chlost | January 25, 2015

Wanting it All

This past week, several of my co-workers have had to deal with sick children at home. They have had to shuffle daycare, job and marriage responsibilities. As I observed a colleague’s daughter “working” with her in the office because there was no school (her dad was at home with her 3 brothers), I remembered the years Merle and I did that kind of juggling. As I think about it, I am really not sure how we pulled it off. Three kids, school, jobs, unemployment, flu, colds, meningitis, summer vacations, teacher workshops, daycare, babysitters, family members who filled in for caregivers. It is mostly a blur.

We made it.

The kids turned out well despite the craziness.

And the years flew by.

Now retirement is within sight.

Our working years will be coming to an end soon. Our identities, tied into our jobs, will be changing. There are decisions that need to be made, and there are no easy answers to the many questions which arise.

Where will we live?

How much money do we need?

What do we want to do with our time?

When should we “pull the trigger” as one friend called it?

My job has an early retirement option. I could retire now. Merle could have retired several years ago. Many of our friends and relatives have already retired.The list of people we know who live in Florida and Arizona over the winter months grows longer every year. My address book is filled with the snow birds’ double bookings. My calendar is all marked up  with the various spring return dates. I’m getting a little jealous.

But Merle loves his job, and I still need a few more years to obtain a retirement amount that is reasonable. Early retirement equals monthly benefits which are substantially reduced…not much of an incentive there. So we are only in the talking stage. But we have been talking about it a lot.

It recently hit me that I have about 20 more years of what I can reasonably expect to be “active” years ahead of me. After that…..well, chances are I won’t be making my own life choices. Twenty more years doesn’t sound like a lot of time to me, so we have been trying to figure out the best way to go forward.

The biggest issue we are discussing right now is “What do we want?”

In fact, to be more accurate, it is really a question of what do I want. Merle is pretty clear as to his wishes. He wants things. He wants a bright yellow sports car and a boat. He wants more cows.

I realized that I cannot think of anything—meaning any thing—that I truly want.  When I consider what I want for my retirement years, I think of the type of life I want rather than things I want. This is a major difference between Merle and me which we have struggled with throughout our relationship. Even though I don’t see our retirement with a canary yellow Corvette (I mean how would I get in or out of it? It would not be pretty.), perhaps we can compromise. I am not sure how it will work out in the end, but I decided that I’d better make a list of what I would like when I am retired even if I make the list only for myself.

Here is my list for the next 20 or so years:

1. Live in a smaller space.  Yes downsizing is on the top of my list. I could have sold this large house a few years ago and been happy.  This would also include getting rid of lawn and home maintenance. Even though he has acknowledged that I am right about this, Merle loves this place and he is not ready to sell it.

2. My children and grandchildren. My life needs to be within a few hours’ drive or plane ride from my family. They may disagree, but my life has to have the option to be with them on a somewhat regular basis.

3. No horrible winters. I can take snow. I can also deal with cold weather. I’ve lived in Minnesota almost my entire life. But I don’t want to deal with snow and cold for 6 months of the year, and not to the point that it is dangerous to be outdoors. My dream is to be able to do a VRBO or something similar to that in a warm place over the winter months.

4. Good health. It is likely that I will need access to health care over the next several years. I hope to be able to be mobile enough to keep up with the grandkids (I’ve had one knee replacement and will soon need another).

5. Friends. I have never had a lot of friends. I’m just not that kind of person. But I have several friends whom I’ve known for many years. I want to be able to continue those relationships. Whether via personal contact, blogging, emails, or whatever new technology options become available, I need to keep these people in my life.

6. Travel. This is on almost everyone’s list, isn’t it? I love to travel. Road trips are my favorite, but if possible, I want to do more travel abroad. I have a plan for several small trips this year, and to travel abroad in 2016. Looking forward to a trip makes me happy. The trip itself is enjoyable. Looking back on a trip is almost the best part. And a trip with those friends or family noted above would make it even better.

7. Work. I know. It is retirement, right? Why would I want to work? I just can’t imagine a life without someplace to go, without something to do on some sort of schedule. A part-time job, or even volunteering with a non-profit or small business would be perfect. I could see myself in a small indie bookstore, or volunteering with teenagers or small children.

Is it too much to hope for all of this? I feel lucky to be in the position of trying to figure out a life in retirement. It is a first world problem.

Now all I have to do is make it through the next few years in order to retire.

Posted by: chlost | January 11, 2015

Freedom from Terror Should be a Basic Human Right

This past weekend has been awash with news from France about the Charlie Hebdo attack and the reactions to it. It is heartening and awe-inspiring to see millions of ordinary people in the streets of Paris, London and other cities showing support for freedom of expression in the face of terrorism. Clearly, I don’t know all of the political intrigue which may or may not have been behind the attack, but the fact that it happened at all was meant to strike fear in the hearts of ordinary people. The ordinary people of France have responded:

“We are not afraid!”

Here in the US, there have been very few, if any such demonstrations. Watching the videos from Paris, it struck me that if there had been such demonstrations here-say in New York, for example-the response to them would have been completely different.

It is hard to imagine such a demonstration here which would not have been met with riot police, SWAT teams, dogs, and a military presence (at the very least as a back up for local or state law enforcement). The demonstration, if it happened, would have been seen as threatening, a terrorist act in itself. Two million people on the streets of New York? That would send shivers down the spine of every local, state and national official. It would be reported as violent by the media, even it it were not. The mere act of that many people blocking the streets, forcing the closing of shops and businesses, snarling traffic and eruptions of thunderous applause would be seen as an attack on our civilized society.

If twelve staff members of Mad Magazine been murdered, would we have responded in the same way? How about if the Onion staff had been attacked? These are both long-established publications of biting political humor.

Let me answer my own question….it was a bit rhetorical, after all….No. There would not be two million people in the streets over such an attack. We did not have that big of a response to the Boston Marathon attack.  Or the 9/11 bombing. Or any other act of attack on private persons, none of whom were in the business of rattling the cage of the extremists.

America prides itself on its’ freedoms. We boast about how free we are. We fight over how our freedoms should be balanced against each other. Americans claim their freedom of religion, speech, press as the definition of what it means to be American.

How free are we?

The American reaction to a terrorist attack has been to take away the freedom of its’ citizens in the name of protecting us from future acts of terror. Our fear of a future attack has been used as a reason that none of us can be fully trusted. Our phones calls are monitored, cameras follow our daily routines, arrest without charges or trials are justified if there is suspicion of bad acts, and the media is denied access to some public information. All in the name of fighting terror.

We are still living in terror. We are afraid.

The French, on the other hand, seem to be angry as hell.

It will be very interesting to see which response is more effective in stopping these attacks on freedom.

At this point, I think the win goes to France.

Posted by: chlost | January 11, 2015

Pick a word, any word

Yesterday I received a notice from the “boss” as WordPress.com telling me that I have been blogging for five years.

Huh. I guess so. This blog is now of kindergarten age. The same age as my middle granddaughter.

It certainly has had ups and downs. The number of posts here has certainly declined. I have never had a lot of readers, as I don’t take advantage of the recommendations to Increase My Readership! by linking the blog to my facebook page, or whatever other ingenious methods that there may be. I’ve never been one to have a huge circle of friends. I prefer fewer good friends than a lot of acquaintances.

Thank you to my small group of readers, whom I think of as good friends.

A five-year anniversary which coincides with the beginning of a new year ending with a five-it seems a bit more momentous to me than just a “regular” anniversary.

My sister recently told me about a new way to think of new years’ resolutions. It is to pick a single word which you want to describe your goal for the year. Apparently, you are allowed to change the word up until January 31st. After that, you are supposed to live the year with that word as your theme. My sister had picked “creative” as her word. She has always been very artistically talented, but feels that she lost that in the past year or so. The past year was very challenging for her, and she felt that she had lost her creative side while dealing with those challenges.

Now I have been thinking of what I want as the theme for my upcoming year. My first thought was “travel”. I really want to travel more. I love to travel and have several trips planned for this year. But my goal is a bit more broad than that. The next word I considered was “active”.  I hope to be more physically active, including traveling. This computer has become an anchor, sucking me to my chair as I read blogs, facebook, watch Netflix and keep up on the emails and news sites.

Finally, I think I have my word. It encompasses much more, and really does describe my goal for 2015.

“Do”.

Do things.

Do More.

Travel. Go out with friends. Walk. Meet people. Take classes. Make things. Play with my grandchildren.

Stolen from Nike, when an opportunity arises, Just Do It.

It may mean that after 5 years on this blog, there may be even fewer posts. Or, it may mean that part of doing things will give me more things to post.

Perhaps things more interesting than posting about a 5th blog anniversary.

Posted by: chlost | January 1, 2015

New for Old

20141231_211340Last night we went out for a New Year’s Eve celebration for the first time in about 15 years. My soon-to-be sister-in-law found tickets for a local comedy show. There were six of us for dinner, drinks and laughs.

The dinner was mediocre. The comedian was quite funny at times, but I am not much of a drinker-two beers are my limit. Merle had one beer, as he was the driver. We enjoyed laughing and chatting. But when the comedian was done, the music was turned up and it was nearly impossible to have a conversation. Then I started to yawn-rudely and uncontrollably.

We ended up leaving at around 11, and were home by 11:30. A peck of a kiss at midnight and we were both asleep as fireworks could be heard somewhere in the distance.

Romantic? Not so much.

Exciting? No.

Wild? No.

Practical? Yes.

The traffic on the highways soon after midnight on NYE scares me. I know too well how many drunks are on the roads on any given night, let alone on NYE. I feel much more comfortable being back at home before they head out on the road. This is a somewhat rural area where heavy drinking is often a major element of any celebration. I’m just not interested in being part of the tragic ending to their holiday.

It was fun to be out, and it was nice to spend time with my brother, his fiancee, and her sister and brother-in-law.  We really don’t go out much, and realized that we need to do so more often. That is one of our hopes for the next year It just wasn’t a good night to start. I’ve learned a few things in my day.

Ah, yes, I still keep myself open to learning new things. In fact, I learned something new yesterday.

It made me realize that I am out of touch, stupid, or just plain old. This is the year for a major “zero” birthday. I am soon to reach the point that I will be hard-pressed to justify any thought that I am not old. This conversation didn’t help.

I was talking with a couple of young ladies who had come into our office for the day with their mothers. They are 8 and nearly 7 years old. Somehow, our conversation included counting the number of reindeer on Santa’s sleigh. I started naming off the reindeer. “Dasher and Dancer. and……Blitzen. And of course, Rudolph, so that is nine” I explained.

“No”, the eight year old told me, “you forgot Olive”.

I was confused. “Olive?”

“Yes” she told me confidently, “Olive, the other reindeer”.

That one really made me laugh. In all of these years, I had never tumbled onto that.

And with that, I enter the new year of 2015 (my god, how can that be?) humbled and full of hope that there are new things for me to learn and enjoy.

Happy New Year to you!

Posted by: chlost | December 21, 2014

Carded

It’s the last few days before the holidays. I am finishing up with all of those things on the “to do” list before Christmas. This was the weekend to accomplish things. Big things.

One of the items on the list was to send off the gifts that had to be mailed. I still had a few to purchase, then pack them up and get them to the post office. Done.

And as of today, the holiday cards are done. I will be putting them into the mail tomorrow.

Last year, I was feeling particularly curmudgeonly, and did not do holiday cards. In my mind, I guess I was feeling sorry for myself. I kept thinking about the fact that I do the cards every year, I buy the gifts every year. I plan the holiday every f….g year. Merle does not.

And last year, he didn’t write out the cards. He kept bugging me that they should get done. But I didn’t do them. And he sure didn’t. So, they didn’t get done.

This year, for some reason, I seem to be ahead of the curve in my holiday preparation schedule. Compared to almost everyone else in the world, I may be slow. But for me, things are going great. It looks as though I may get things done before Christmas gift opening this year. I will admit that there have been a few years when I was still wrapping gifts on Christmas morning, in between breakfast and the start of the children handing out the gifts to the recipients.

Online shopping has been a godsend. My entryway is filled with boxes to be wrapped, but by God, they are here, in my house, just awaiting that covering with gaudy holiday paper and bows. Can’t forget the bows….although I have in the past. Just so that you don’t get the wrong idea, my tree is up-hurray!-but it is not yet decorated. We didn’t quite get to that this weekend. But hey~ there are still three more days until Christmas. Really. No one else will see it until then, anyway.

Back to the holiday cards. Today was my day to get that done. A few weeks ago, I finished the annual family update letter (Yeah, I know, I know…..but I kind of like them…I read all of the ones we receive), and had sent it out for approval from the rest of the family. All was a go.

In the past several years, I have also included a collage of some of the past year’s photos. It is a pretty big job, sorting, and arranging, rearranging, and trying to format the whole thing to fit. It usually turns out pretty well. We’ve actually had people comment on some of the photos from past years.

Today I spent a long time on the photo collage. I had balanced out the photos so that each child and grandchild was fairly evenly represented. I included a few relatively good photos of Merle and me. In the past, I had included photos of my sister and mom, but then didn’t have photos of Merle’s brother and his family. So I made certain that only our immediate family was included in the photos. The photos ranged over the course of the entire year. The mosaic was balanced so that the larger photos were the best. The smaller ones were still very good. It took a lot of revisions, additions, deletions, but I thought I had done a very good job. I really liked it.

Then I made my mistake. A huge mistake. I don’t know what I was thinking.

I asked Merle to look at it and wondered what he thought.

Thus began one of the biggest arguments we have had in many years.

When I asked what he thought of it, he commented that “You can sure tell who chose the photos”. Well, that was it. We didn’t speak for several hours after that one. I won’t go into all of the sordid details, but the cards did finally get done. We are sort of back on speaking terms, but only because he made his own collage and did all of the printing of the letter. Then he made a nice dinner.

The cards are all addressed, stamped and stacked for mailing.

The recipients will have no idea of what went into those cards. They will look at the card briefly, toss it into a pile, and it will be in the trash within a day or so.

Little do they realize that it will likely be the last holiday card they will ever receive from us.

Happy Holidays!

Posted by: chlost | December 8, 2014

Falling down on the job

The day was drizzly, with sleet and freezing rain mixed together. The streets and sidewalks were left with a thin white coating of snow and ice.

As I made the one-block return trip to my office with my to-go lunch, I stepped gingerly amidst the patches of ice-melt pellets and the snow-covered paving stone sidewalk. Then I stepped across the ice-covered curb to cross the street.

My foot slid across the ice like a kid’s tongue on a popsicle.

I watched the action in slow motion. I saw the food container and my billfold slide across the pavement in front of me. My body soon followed. Although I tried to catch myself with my hand, I ended up landing on my side along the curb and gutter of the intersection. It would have made a hilarious youtube video, I’m sure.

Oh, God, I hope no one has a video of that.

Two different people asked if I was okay, but the only thing truly hurt was my pride. It was embarrassing to struggle to stand up again without falling once more. I am not a graceful person by any stretch of the imagination. It’s been more challenging to haul myself up from the ground ever since my knee replacement, let alone on an icy street pavement. In front of concerned onlookers

Luckily, I fell on the knee that is still “natural”, so my knee replacement was not endangered. Somehow I must have had the instinct to protect that knee. My hand, shoulder, hip and the other knee didn’t fare quite as well. I am not hurt, but I am  stiff and sore.

This happened when I was by myself. No one from my office knows about it. When I returned to the office, I just ate my lunch (and took a couple ibuprofen) with the group as usual. It crossed my mind to say something, but then I decided that I didn’t want them to know. They are almost all my kids’ ages. I don’t want them to think of me as an old lady whom they must worry about falling on the ice. I feel like their colleague. I don’t want them to feel like I’m their aging parent.

Add to that, there was a summary of my projected retirement benefits awaiting me in the mailbox when I got home tonight. I had asked the benefits office for a comparison of my benefits if I were to take the early retirement option or if I were to wait for several more years. After falling today, that early retirement option begins to be quite tempting.

*Sigh*

I know that I will continue to live here most of the year as long as my kids and grandchildren live here.

I know that I won’t retire for at least several more years.

It does mean that I am going to be making travel plans for later this winter, though. It will be a lot harder to fall on a slippery sidewalk along an ocean beach. Even in January.

My stiff arm and shoulder should be healed by then.

For some reason, I’ve recently been hearing a lot about the “Third Act”. Apparently this is the new euphemism for getting older. The theory being that life is like a play, written in three acts before the final curtain.

Baloney!

Shakespeare is not life, Hamlet be damned.

Life is made up of three epic battles, as I see it. Youth, old age, and the demilitarized zone in between the two.

As a young person, we struggle against the world to make our place. In our family, we fight with our siblings for the attention of our parents, we fight against our parents in order to become independent. We battle our age mates for grades, friends and jobs. We go up against rivals for a life partner. We fight with our life partner to maintain our individuality within the confines of a marriage or longterm relationship. We protect and fight for our young children who depend on us. Our weapons in this battle of youth include anger, righteousness, physical strength and pride.

When we reach old age, the fight is against time. We fight to maintain our health, our independence and our mental capacity. Our strength in this battle may wane, but we use the weapons of activity, chemistry, medicine and good humor as long as we are able.

And then there is the demilitarized zone.. That time span of just a few years when we are not young, but we are not old yet, either. It is finally possible to relax. Just a little. Rest upon our laurels, so to speak, and reap what we have sown. The span of this zone varies among us, but it is usually shorter than those on either side of it.  We await the upcoming battle of old age, but we know we have some time to enjoy the life we have built. If we are lucky and have chosen well, our family and careers will flourish and support us during this time.

The DMZ. For women, it is that short interval of time between Tampax and Depends. Men may see this as the time between pleas for assistance in opening pickle jars and pleas of “let me help you with that”.

It is fleeting, this middle time. We must enjoy it for as long as possible.

And then, there is this. The time of being within the DMZ, but helping those who are either side of it.

My mom, at age 84, is definitely in the old age category (she probably would deny this, as she complains about all of the old people at her assisted living facility-she does not include herself in that group). I am entering into the DMZ. She needs the Depends. I am the one who has to buy them for her. When I go through the checkout at Target, with that huge package, I know-I just know- that the young clerk thinks that the package is for me. I have to restrain myself from screaming out loud what I say in my head, “No! These are NOT for me! I am not old!”

My kids are all adults, We recently saw that last child marry. My youngest son is the father of three young daughters. Our daughter lives with her husband in Pennsylvania. They are all still fighting the battle of youth-establishing their careers, families and homes. They have each needed help in different ways at varying times in their lives. We, of course help when and as we can. That assistance comes in the form of money, emotional support, time, or advice. Sometimes all at once. We are paying for student loans at the same time that we are planning our retirement.

Every time that I start to worry about getting older, or wonder about what the future may hold for Merle and me as we near retirement, I try to remember: these few years are precious. We need to embrace this time. Cling to it and squeeze out every minute of it. We’ll get through it.

I’m ready to sit back and enjoy this  and laugh at all that may come our way. And prepare for the battle ahead.

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