I had a vision of what life in retirement would be like. Terry and I as healthy vigorous senior adults. There would be travel, I could see us in Africa, Europe, Australia; there would be dancing; there would be life on mountain tops and life with our toes in the sand. The two of us, together with all the energy of our youth. Just Terry and I enjoying our children and their families, but in a way that did not intrude. Ah! I had a dream!
And then there was 2010! My unmarried brother who had taken care of my mother for many years had a debilitating stroke in late 2009, that robbed him of some cognitive function. He came to live with us for what we thought would be a temporary time, but has become permanent. My mom went to be with my older son. We were blessed that he would do that. In July 2010, Terry was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, which required aggressive chemotherapy and radiation, leaving him without cancer (Thank you, Lord) but changed physically, mentally and spiritually…in many ways better but in other ways not so much.
I continued to work through this time postponing retirement until January 2012. We lost both of our remaining parents in 2011 and my brother was diagnosed with cancer which required radiation treatment.
Still, in my head I still held MY VISION of what we would be like in retirement, even though evidence stacked up suggesting the need for a new plan. We were discovering as I am sure other senior adults do that our bodies and minds were not fully cooperating.
It took a while but I have gradually turned loose of the idea of climbing mountains and traveling the world. We have settled a bit in two places, Kentucky and Florida. Our explorations of the world have become more manageable. We still are active. Terry still plays tennis. We enjoy making new friends in our two communities. My brother has settled into our lives. We have two dogs, who are great furry companions.
Folks often think older adults are “set in their ways” and perhaps we are a bit, but I am finding that the key to not being discouraged by physical and mental decline is flexibility and determination not to give in, plop down on the sofa, and wither away alone. Isolation and rigidity lead to misery and eventually suck all the life out of how ever many years one has here on planet earth. So I am glad for family, old friends, new friends, my husband, my brother and these two little dogs.
Gotta keep moving and it is more fun with others along for the ride!
Happy New Year!
*Elisabeth Barrett Browning