January – Crossing the Bridge
February – Colds
March – The White Album
April – Broken Watches
July — Old Time Medicine
August — What Retirees Should Know about Equity Lines
September — Another Passing
October — Naps
November — Grieving Lost Possibilities
December — Mistaken Fear
Word came to me from my friend’s ex-wife: another buddy gone. I had to call the new wife for the details. What I was looking for was when the memorial service would be. What I got was her story about what happened. “He simply went out to mow the yard and never came back.” Not much of an epitaph.
He and I had been friends back in the day, hitch hiking around on the bum. We were the kind of friends who didn’t keep in touch, but always felt connected. The kind of friends that, when I heard about the heart attack on the lawn, I had to go on line and check out the weather that day. 95 degrees, and he had to mow the lawn. “What an idiot,” I thought. “He never did wise up. Always set to do the dumbest thing.” That’s the kind of friends we were, friends who didn’t pull punches and helped each other to see the worst in ourselves.
So, for the last few days, I’ve put on some old records and listened to the memories we shared. What crazy kids! What ridiculous music. We were going to change the world. Peace and love. He retired an accountant from a big firm with an unsavory reputation for helping big corporations hide money and avoid taxes. I’m a mortgage banker. Save the world. We didn’t even save enough for a long, comfortable retirement.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining here. He had a great life, and I’m having one still. It is just at times like these, I often end up thinking about how much we leave undone. We went years barely even talking. About the only time we saw each other was at funerals. Maybe that is just how growing older is. Eventually, you have your neighbors, your funeral friends, and what’s left of your family. Eventually, the Obituaries become a daily read.
The trend is for Obits more nearer my age. In fact, there has been an alarming upswing in those younger than me. The pictures can be confusing. A ninety-year old guy with his WW2 uniform or someone in their eighties with their prom picture — well, ya gotta wonder. In all those years, there wasn’t a more recent happy or nice picture?
Of course, that can send me into my collection of pictures. Which one do I want? Well, it usually turns out after an hour of sorting I come up with the same one. It’s of me in a cowboy hat with a moustache and bushy sideburns. A self-portrait I took back in the 60’s.
If he were still alive to see that in the obits, I can imagine what my old bud would say, “That picture! Is that the best he could do? Lived another 50 years and no one ever photographed him again. Well, he was pretty ugly.”
Aging in Place, in doesn’t happen by accident and it comes with a lot of good byes.
The Golden Age of Naps is behind us. The great nappers of the past are gone. There will never be another President who can nap like Calvin Coolidge (apologies to Ronald Regan). There will never be another man so great he saved Western Civilization, yet managed to get his naps. I’m speaking here, of course, of Sir Winston Churchill.
Churchill was a practitioner of what I call the full emersion method. That is stripped down to the buff, back in bed under the covers, to sleep until when you wake up, it seems like a new fresh day. Nothing else is quite as refreshing. Naps in chairs just won’t do.
And there is the problem. The field is crowded with amateurs. Folks unwilling or incapable of a full commitment to the craft. Nodding off in front of the television, in a chair with a book for a few minutes, or at the beach while boiling in the sun is not real napping.
Of course, multi-tasking is to blame. People are in the habit having too much to do; they keep busy and feel they simply can’t afford the time to rest up and start again, clear-headed. You can’t nap while doing anything else effectively. This alone proves just how hard getting a good nap is. It requires singular commitment and concentration.
It was my daughter who introduced me to napping. As an infant, she regularly ran out of steam around 1 PM and needed a nice lay down for a couple of hours. At first, I tried to use this break to do housework, but that invariably woke her up early with disruptive consequences for the remainder of the day. So, I succumbed to her excellent example and went back to bed myself.
Now she is an adult, gone away and living a life of her own without time for naps. I continue to run out of steam at about the same hour, but because of work, it is only on weekends and holidays I get to really nap. The rest of the time, I slog through as best I can.
When I do get to nap, it is done in the classic style. Back to bed and off for a deep sleep. The dog has learned to recognize the signs and is usually up in her sleeping chair, ready to join me for our ritual. Usually an hour is enough and I awaken punctually, without an alarm clock. If I oversleep an extra half hour, the dog is sure to wake me and get me going again. She gets up, too, and goes back downstairs to sleep on the coach or in front of the fireplace.
Something should also be said here about hammocks. It is hard to argue against a few hours in a hammock whether for reading, birdwatching, or napping. It is equally restorative and has the added benefit of counting as an outdoor activity.
Aging in Place, it doesn’t happen by accident. Be sure to get your rest. Aging is a long journey.
Grieving Lost Possibilities
The first was realizing I’d aged out of joining the military. It was something I’d always kept as an option. It had its attractions. I could simply join the Navy and go see the world,except a day came when it was no longer possible: I was too old.
That was a long time ago and had nearly been forgotten, until last week. While watching a British mystery set in a country house built before the American Revolution, I thought, “Guess I’ll probably never visit a place like that”.
Yes, I could stand in line, pay for my ticket, and go on a tour, but that is not what I had hoped for. Back in the recesses of youthful dreams, I’d always wanted to be invited to such a place, to belong there as a guest, not a tourist.
Over the next few days, other expectations bubbled up to the surface of my consciousness and reminded me of more that once seemed possible, but is no longer. I’ve got a couple of great books in me, and that is where they are most likely to stay. A romance with a foreign heiress is not in my future, nor was she in my past. I’ll never bum around Europe. I won’t deliver a monologue on late night TV. There will be no round-the-world cruise and I will probably never get to the North Pole.
The list goes on and on. These unrealized dreams do not diminish the wonderfully adventurous life I am enjoying. They are just skeletons from my “Maybe Closet” — things I hoped to do, that other things have crowded to the back, and time has passed them by.
Rather than causing regrets, this Grieving Lost Possibilities has been liberating. It has eased my load of things left undone. Acknowledging and setting them aside has been a lightening of my soul. A few carried me back to the energetic youth I once was. Mostly, though, they were simply dismissed with a few fond thoughts and a sense of relief.
I have other possibilities now, or blessings as I have come to call them: a loving wife, a marvelous home, a job I still enjoy doing and can continue at as long as I am able. Now, the possibilities are close to home and reflect who I am, rather than who I might become. They include the many books on the shelves in my study which I’ve yet to read, a lifelong dream of driving across the country and back with someone I love . . . yes, this list goes on and on, too.
So, I have cleared out the dustiest items in my “Maybe Closet”. Sad to throw out some of the old things, but great to let in a little fresh air and room for more.
Aging in Place, it doesn’t happen by accident and it sometimes requires doing a little house cleaning.
We all make mistakes. Some are as simple as showing up at a friend’s for dinner on the wrong day, forgetting an important birthday, or missing a plane while sitting, watching it board and depart. All kinds of mistakes are made by people at all ages, but as you get older, mistakes seem to carry more significance. “Wow, Dad’s losing it. We were going to meet for coffee and he went to the wrong Starbucks.”
As we age, there is an overlay of concern when we get things wrong. “Am I losing it?” becomes the big question. It happened to me a few weeks ago and it was surprisingly scary.
I keep a busy calendar in my business and am used to booking and managing appointments, so it was no big deal to arrange for tickets to a Broadway show over the phone. When the tickets came, they were for the day after we were scheduled to be back home in Vermont. The wrong day.
When I called the ticket agency, they pointed out the no exchange or refund policy. After speaking to the manager, I got the process rolling for an exchange in spite of the policy, but the mistake really ate at me. “How could I have booked the tickets for the wrong day?”
My wife assured me she had heard the conversation and I repeatedly asked for the correct day. The confusion was on the other side. I had to keep correcting the ticket agent, who was getting the day wrong.
Still, that night I couldn’t let it go and barely slept. The questions just kept coming. Was I no longer reliable to book tickets? If I couldn’t do that, how could I schedule things in my business? Is this how it happens, one day you are sharp and the next one you’re standing in an elevator trying to remember what floor you were going to and why?
We all know people who are about our ages, some a little older, some a little younger, but wham, one day they start to seem a lot older in spite of the number of years. All of a sudden, they appear to be bumbling along, half-confused and sort of disconnected.
In the back of our minds, that’s the image. That’s the big fear. It happens to other people; it can happen to us. So we watch for it, secretly. Privately, we keep track and worry in silence.
It turned out I was able to exchange the tickets and we got to see the show as planned. That helped make me feel better, but not completely. For self-doubt causes a wound. It leaves an emotional scar. That means we have to fight back, move on, and keep putting ourselves out there.
Aging in Place, it doesn’t happen by accident. Sometimes we even have to overcome ourselves.