Retired Life Ups and Downs


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I Get It. I’m Getting Older

          This is a tricky one. I value all my family and friends dearly and don’t want to offend anyone. But enough is enough. For some reason, a number of folks in my age group seem to be obsessed with getting older. That’s fine and it’s really none of my business nor should I be evaluating their fixations or state of mind. But some lines are being crossed. 

If you have reached your golden years, perhaps you will identify with my dilemma. In a nutshell, it seems I can’t go a day without someone telling me how worthless they’ve become because they couldn’t think of a name or some other fact. This is always accompanied with the obligatory complaint about growing old. Also, every day my email contains more than one “funny” cartoon and/or forward about the perils of growing older. 

In a lesser vein, I also receive numerous emails taking strolls down memory lane. Did you know everything was better back in the good old days? Performers, automobiles, and virtually every other thing you can think of. Really? You may actually have some memory issues. 

Now before someone actually gets angry, let me say I understand. Fact is we do slow down in almost every way as we age. And yes, I would love to be riding around in my red ’56 Chevy. But here’s the deal. We are living in this world today. Key word here is living. Sure, we have some years on us, but there are questions we could be asking and answering each day. What would be productive and interesting for me? What can I accomplish? Who can I help? What would be fun? 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not up in some ivory tower scolding and passing judgment. I’m an observer of the aging process. In my humble opinion, we don’t really miss those old cars; we miss ourselves at that age driving those cars. Were drive-in movies really better than watching our big screen plasma with surround sound in the comfort of our home? No, but we remember being at the drive-in with that hot date on a Saturday night and miss all the fun of being young and having our lives in front of us. It’s perfectly understandable.  

But this is life. I’m always inspired by those who accept life and live it fully to its completion. You pick the cliché, but while we still have the ability to think and love, I would hope we would embrace life with every bit of energy and passion we can summon.         

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From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking, step into the sun
There’s more to see than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done
There’s far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the sun rolling high
Through the sapphire sky
Keeps great and small on the endless round

 

It’s the Circle of Life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the Circle
The Circle of Life

 

These beautiful lyrics, if you’ve never heard or read them before, are from the Lion King song The Circle of Life. One of the greatest challenges retired life thrusts upon many of us is the caring for aging parents and other relatives. It’s a time of weighty responsibility. It often also turns into a time of gut-wrenching life and death decisions.

We live at a point in time in which modern medicine can keep someone technically and mechanically alive forever. When one has the responsibility for making such a difficult decision, it is frought with tension, second-guessing, and tremendous guilt. There are no easy answers. You do the best you can to fulfill the wishes of your loved one.

If you’ve experienced this particular challenge, you know the feelings involved. I’ve now been involved in such decision-making four times, most recently with my father and mother. If we can learn anything from this experience, it’s that we need to sit down with our children and/or other family members to make clear our own wishes. Be precise. Don’t put them in a situation in which they have to guess what you wanted. Put it in writing. Fill out your Advance Health Care Directive. The forms are available from your health care provider and will make it so much easier for your loved ones. If you’ve done this already, bravo. You are a responsible retiree.  

If you are wondering why I began this blog with The Circle of Life lyrics, it’s because two days before my mother’s funeral service, our youngest son and his wife presented us with another grandbaby. A cute little fellow (well, not too little, 8 lbs. 6 oz. and 21 inches long) that has given everyone in the family that uplifted feeling we all needed. It is truly the circle of life. My mother is smiling from above.

Here is my wife and proud grandmother Trisha with her new little fellow.

From the film Don Juan DeMarco, 1995

“There are only four questions of value in life, Don Octavio.
What is sacred? Of what is the spirit made?
What is worth living for? What is worth dying for?
The answer to each is the same. Only love.”

Imagine this scenario: One day you feel your chest tighten and before you know it, you are in the hospital having heart surgery. Now imagine things going from bad to worse and you eventually require a total of five serious surgeries, you spend over four months in intensive care, you flat-line (die) several times, encounter a number of other life-threatening health issues, and are given the last rites more than once by the attending priest. It’s a nightmare most people would not survive.

The fact is, my good friend Lee lived this nightmare and survived. He not only survived but is now living with a positive outlook and a renewed zest for life. How did he do it? Well, on a recent visit, as my wife and I sat and talked with him under the stars of the Arizona sky he calls home, he explained. In a deeply philosophic tone, and tender romantic spirit, he said: “You know, most people cannot point to one person and say that person saved my life. But I can,” as he pointed across the table to his loving wife Susan.

It would take an entire book to describe all that Susan did for Lee. She fought battle after battle taking on everyone and everything that stood in the way of her husband’s health and recovery. The odds were never in their favor, but she did not give up, and in the end, neither did Lee. To describe even the little I know about the hell they both went through would not do justice to their story. Without question, this is one of the most extraordinary love stories I’ve ever witnessed. 

After only months back home, once again learning how to eat, stand, walk, etc., Lee is now in the gym, in the pool, and well on his way to living life to the fullest. It’s a great story, a passionate love story, and a testament to the power of love and the human spirit. Can love conquer all? In this case the answer is a resounding yes. A wonderful life-lesson for us all.

 

www.TheBestofOurLives.com

 

Ups and Downs

As retired persons, we often have to deal with the serious issues of life and death. This week I received some very inspiring news. My good friend Lee has not only returned home after several months in the hospital and numerous surgeries, he is now getting around and tending to his website. Without all the gory details, he fought hard to battle life threatening circumstances and is looking forward to resumption of his busy life. I could not be more inspired and value the example both he and his wife have set. This news was a big “up” for me.

On the flip side, when writing our book on retired life, my wife  Trisha and I suggested retired folks keep life simple. In all fairness, we had purchased income property prior to writing the book. Without boring you with the details of our experience, let me further recommend you keep your retired life simple by never, never, never, never, never, ever become a landlord. Can you make money on your investment? Yes, if you are smart about it. But the hassle is just too much when there are so many other ways to spend your precious time. For me, it’s a big “down.” 

Another “up” this week was the launch of the space shuttle Discovery. Trisha and I were able to watch the launch with my mother Marty. It was a beautiful Florida day and the launch was spectacular. It was our fifth launch, and mom’s second. While the launches are still a big deal in Florida, I get the impression from the lack of news coverage, most people are not all that interested. It’s a shame. I think every school child, and for that matter,  every adult should have the experience of viewing a live launch at least once. I once heard a television pundit proclaim a shuttle launch as mankind’s greatest scientific accomplishment. I agree, and gave it a big “up.”

While the news stations this week found little time to report on the space shuttle, they did find time for the Academy Awards and Charlie Sheen. When they passed out the gene for being interested in celebrities and award shows, I must have been absent. While I know I run the risk of offending some folks, even in my old age I still can’t figure out why anyone cares who “wins” one of these many made-up award shows. Years ago, I happened to personally know a couple who were actually honored with their children at the White House for being the “Parents of the Year.” Ironically, what the President, and most other people involved in the award did not know was –  these folks had never bothered to get married. True story. I’m also reminded of the L. A. disc jockey who each year would call up people named Heisman, Nobel, etc., and ask them to send him a signed “award.” And poor old Charlie Sheen. It’s truly like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Big “downs” for me.

Back to the upside of life, while I hadn’t had the opportunity to go fishing for some time, last week my friend John (aka Capt. Sky) took me out on his new fishing boat. It was a beautiful day and while we had no trouble hooking fish, getting them on board was another story. The good news is we did accomplish our task and it was fish for dinner. Many thanks to the good Captain for a great day out on the Florida Straits. A definite huge “up.”

Life is definitely a collection of ups and downs. When you reach retirement age, it becomes even more important to pursue as many “up” days and experiences as you can. Make tomorrow an “up” day.

www.TheBestofOurLives.com