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Posts Tagged ‘retirement’

People are always asking Bob what’s retirement like; do you miss doctoring, what do you do all day? For an old codger he remains pretty busy. He just started flying again, and will have to study and practice to get his instrument rating up to date. After all, who doesn’t want to fly through clouds? And he packed up a U-Haul truck with some of our furniture, drove it over 500 miles to Nashville, and is currently reupholstering some chairs!

Now, if you were to ask ME what his retirement is like, you might get another story. A therapist once told me that he explains it this way to the men he counsels: “Imagine you’re still working, and your wife comes into your office and sits down by your desk every day. And never leaves.”

Is that transparent enough?

The first time I heard the word transparent to describe people and not paper, or windows, was from my psychologist brother, Dr Jim’s lips. Years ago he was talking about people from California, because he’d married Anita in Big Sur and chose to live and work there among the tomato and wine vineyards. In general, he was describing  someone who is happy in their own skin, who is not guarded.

Think of Woody Allen movies, where the lighting is so scorchingly bright on the West Coast, and diffuse and dark on the East.

The next time I heard about transparency was while writing for The Berkshire Eagle. I learned that reporters could access any and all public records. You may not remember this, but back in the day when women had to be married to get birth control and credit cards, many records were sealed, including our own medical records! And then we the people passed “Sunshine Laws!”

Through sunshine laws, administrative agencies are required to do their work in public, and as a result, the process is sometimes called “government in the sunshine.” A law that requires open meetings ordinarily specifies the only instances when a meeting can be closed to the public and mandates that certain procedures be followed before a particular meeting is closed. The Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C.A. § 552) requires agencies to share information they have obtained with the public. Exceptions are permitted, in general, in the interest of national security or to safeguard the privacy of businesses. http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Sunshine+Law

The Freedom of Information Act was passed by Congress in 1966 and not surprisingly was spearheaded by California Congressman John Moss. If you’d like to look up a Citizen’s Guide to Using the Freedom of Information Act and the amended Privacy Act of 1974, you will find the following quote from our 4th President who lived right over the hill at Montpelier:

“A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.”  James Madison

So we should arm ourselves with knowledge. That. Bears. Repeating. I’ve been thinking alot lately about how this Russian thing is a “Prologue to a Farce,” or perhaps even a tragedy in the form of treason.

Now the third time I thought about transparency was after being elected to a school board. Because it really wasn’t until I found myself on the other side of the table, the side that held closed meetings to discuss policy and personnel, that I realized there is a Yin and Yang, a dark and a light side to everything. Of course we didn’t want to disclose “on the record” why a teacher wasn’t getting tenure, and of course that teacher’s union could appeal to an administrative law judge, but in reality Due Process takes time…

These are the times that try our souls. Mr T has been celebrating Bastille Day, which is like our Fourth of July, in Paris. He was parading around, shaking hands a little less forcefully, while still defending his dear boy Donald Jr from the “Witch Hunt” of “Fake News.” One glaringly inappropriate, if not sexist, remark to Brigette Macron, the First Lady of France, stands out. Looking her up and down he said:

“You’re in such great shape,” then Mr T turned to her husband Emmanuel Macron, nodding approval and delivered one word, “Beautiful.”

Maybe he hasn’t seen many 60+ year old women in his tower, after all he’s traded in trophy wives a few times. We have a lecherous ex-Miss Universe owner for a President who is running our country like a reality show. To quote Olivia, “Let’s get physical, let’s get into physical. Let me hear your body talk.” Is that transparent enough?

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Shaken or Stirred? Beatles or the Rolling Stones? Two cars or one?

Nelly Bly, my Foster Mother, didn’t drive. She was fifty when they “adopted” me and so my world was limited to her care on a hill in Victory Gardens, with the occasional sojourn to a swimming pond or a grocery store with Daddy Jim. And of course mass every Sunday followed by a sundae at Zanelli’s and later dinner at Dick’s Diner.

There were no after school activities for me, no Brownie troop. I know, cry me a river. But I didn’t miss what I didn’t know about because most moms didn’t drive. I was a pretty happy kid in this Leave it to Beaver black and white world. I would get on my bike and cruise the neighborhood. I learned how to stand up to bullies, how to navigate friendships, how to avoid peeping toms who would slow down in their cars, all by myself.

Still, somehow I knew Nell wasn’t happy being isolated so far from town and later I realized she actually suffered from agorophobia. Jim had never wanted her to work, and even at such a young age I understood an essential part of the 50s female experience. You did what you were told.  A paternalistic system needs to be fed, go along to get along… Today, I see how hard it is for Great Grandpa Hudson’s generation of men to stop driving. Taking the car keys away from an octogenarian+ can be an effort in futility.

FDR promised a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. One car.

And for the past month Bob and I have been living with just one car. We drove my CRV to Nashville, where Bob signed up for city bikes and used Uber if I was at the Bride’s house and he’d been waiting for a plumber at ours. No problem. We walked everywhere else, the walkability score for our area is in the 90s!

Then as soon as we got back to the Blue Ridge, his Acura with a hefty 300,000+ miles on it, had to see its trusty mechanic, again. So we’ve been a one car family in the country for the past week too, surprisingly without incident. Which is to say, we schedule my car individually when we have errands, and drive everywhere else together.

When Bob was working this didn’t always work out. I was once stranded here, on 14 acres in the forest, for over a week in a snowstorm; talk about cabin fever.

But for now, we’re actually considering having only one car. It’s better for our planet and for our budget. I’m all in, but Bob’s on the fence. Either he’s really attached to that old car of his, or he’s dreaming about a sport’s car in his future?

Last night we took my solo car for a spin to see Wonder Woman. When I heard her say the Amazons had figured out what men were useful for (procreation) I laughed and reached for Bob’s hand. We all know men are better drivers, right Danica Patrick?

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The Summer Solstice as we contemplate big changes.

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“Do we have any plans?”

A simple question yes, but I’ve been hearing it alot lately. At the end of this month my husband Bob will retire. You heard me correctly, he will hang up his stethoscope for maybe the last time. And like most American housewives of the newly retired, I am beginning to wonder what the rest of my life will be like.

Our cousin Anita tells me that men who golf do much better in retirement. Her friends are not complaining so much. They don’t require lunch, they make dates with their friends and get their manly fix swinging sword-like putters on the golf course, returning home from their natural habitat conquering (or quivering) heroes.

Bob doesn’t golf. But he does fly.

Unfortunately, someone is flying up from Florida this weekend (we shall see how Hurricane Matthew affects this plan) to buy his little Arrow four-seater. It’s been on the market since his surgery last year; so hanging in the hangar so to speak will be off the table.

Our friend MJ tells me that when her husband retired, at about the same time her daughter’s family moved out of her second floor and into their new newly built home, she was trepidatious. After all, her husband was a businessman who travelled the world frequently. But men in the business world can remain as consultants, and that is exactly what her husband has done. Plus, he can drop in on his grand daughter anytime he wants.

Bob’s always been the leader of his pack, the director, the owner.

Bob’s grandkids are in Nashville with my grandkids and doctors rarely consult after retirement. When we visited his UVA doctor this past year for a check-up – a man about the same age who is cutting back on patients and teaching more – he swiveled away from his computer and looked Bob right in the eye, saying bluntly.

“What are you going to do? You’re not the kind of guy who goes to Lowe’s every day.”

True. And do doctors ever really retire? I’ve known some to work right up into their 80s, but these are usually Internists, GPs who sit and swivel mostly. Not ER docs who run around the clock moving all sorts of serious and semi-serious emergencies in and out the doors like a Roadrunner…24/7 every day of the year…

It’s hard to imagine my husband doing nothing, literally. And to be honest, there are a few new things he can dabble with in medicine. After all, he’s been doing telemedicine his whole life with our family and friends. Rashes are sent via text, foreign objects in the eye are discussed. But the cord to a hospital will be cut for good.

He doesn’t do laundry, even though he likes folding. He is an excellent sous chef in the kitchen, when asked. And strangely enough, I didn’t think this whole retirement phase would bother me. After all, he never worked a 9 to 5 job and often works weekends and holidays; I am used to him puttering around the house, mowing the lawn on good ole John Deere, editing medical journals in his office and catching up with charts. Once upon a time he would cut down trees for firewood and tend a garden…

Long ago I put my foot down – I don’t do lunch. So when Bob’s home during the day, we often go out to lunch, or just “pick.” That’s one of those generational things, like Ada makes lunch for the world should they stop by. That greatest generation would leave a cooked dinner covered in the fridge for the hubby if they happened to be out one night. Millennials order food online and cook it together.

My generation was stuck in the middle, fledgling feminists feeling the need to hunt and supply a “home-cooked” meal every night. Last night I made bangers and mash. WHY? Because sausages were on sale at Whole Foods, and I was thinking about those beer gardens in Eastern Europe since a friend is posting her travel pix on Facebook! Thank God I didn’t Instagram it.

Last night I politely asked Bob to stop asking me about plans. He said he thinks maybe he should get another job! Will we travel more? Take long walks on the beach? Talk? Make more vegetable soup? To quote Disney’s Chef Gusteau:   793759230-f6b3178ce351ee8f3901fe91febe95fb

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This morning I slept late. I woke from another nightmare. This is the only time in my life where I’ve been having back to back nightmares. I can get pretty Freudian about my dream life; when something unusual like this happens, I pay attention. My unconscious mind is telling me it’s time to change the rules of the game.

“Everyone I know is in transition,” Great Grandma Ada said. We’ve been trying to convince her it’s time to become a Snow Bird, and she is finally ready. She is ready to end the virtual search and start scouting out the places her friends have landed on the beautiful FL coastline. Of course, anyone who knows her can tell you she never met a stranger. Whatever community that is just quirky enough to tickle her fancy, she will become the ruling Queen Bee in a matter of days! Still, it won’t be easy leaving the house you called home for fifty years.

The Bride and Groom are buying their first home together. Yes, it kills them to see how prices have gone through the roof in Nashville over the past five years, but they thought by this time they would have been headed home to VA – a place for lovers and two sets of loving grandparents! But life being what it is, and their careers just starting to take off, they decided to stay put. I know in my head it was the right decision, but my heart is just catching up with my head.

They made an offer on a perfect house today. Fingers crossed please.

The Rocker and Ms Cait have acclimated to the West Coast. It fits them to a T, I would love to see more of them, but they are happy in the hills of LA. Both creative types, doing well in their fields; my son is in his perfect place. And lucky for me, he has been staying out of my nightmares!

And us? Well we sold the tiny town house to the parents of one of the tenants, almost too easily, while we were on vacation. We never went to market. The father is actually a physician too, and his wife loved the house from the moment their daughter moved into an upstairs bedroom. No more urgent emails and calls in the early morning – “The smoke detector isn’t turning off;” “The kitchen faucet is broken;” “There’s a squirrel in the chimney!” I loved that charming hundred year old house. And it’s strange to think we don’t have our future charted. We won’t be living in town, so where will we be living? Someplace warm for Bob, someplace near the grandbabies for me. My North Star is hiding.

These are the dark and scary things of my 3 am night life, the feeling of being uprooted, of being immobilized, of not belonging. There is death, and public humiliation. Oh yes, Jung gets into my free-wheeling interpretations. Traveling back and forth over the Delaware River Water Gap as a child, to visit my birth family, left me always seeking a safe harbor, a port in the storm.

Retirement looms large as the big unknown future unfolds at its own pace. Bob worries he might be bored no longer working. I personally don’t think boredom is an option for him. He is a nomad, and would love to travel the world, footloose and fancy free. Not me, a home base is essential to my quiet dream life. But wherever I land, I will keep writing so long as my fingers, and my mind, keep working. I just sat down in front of a blank piece of paper and drew a clock, so all is not lost! http://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/384949524/the-unknown-brain?showDate=2016-03-25

I read that our generation, the Baby Boomers, will redefine our golden years in the same way we created a cultural revolution in the 60s and 70s. I suppose that is true. Aging in place, maybe. Co-housing, why not? Didn’t Bob go to Woodstock! No dressing for dinner in a retirement home for us, with Frank Sinatra playing in the background. Does the AARP print a rule book? We really never wanted to play by the rules, so why would we now?

My psychologist brother, Dr Jim, just sent me this article about nursing homes; fair warning, it’s not pretty. http://www.vox.com/2015/12/2/9826772/life-lessons-nursing-home?mc_cid=042158e728&mc_eid=e134d96057

Here’s my theory: If for most of your life you are concerned with the mundane (which, think about it, always involves personal comfort) then when you get old and feel a lot of pain, that’s going to be the only thing you’re going to think about. It’s like a muscle — you developed the mundane muscle and not the other one.

So I’m working on my creativity and compassion muscles, how about you? Here is our high school reunion picture from 1996 – this year will be our 50th! Bob is front and center, can you find me next to Bess? Hint, third row from bottom on the right. 10366217_974001499278561_5244274030678340288_n

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“We’re gonna have a good time!” Even though it’s not a “special” birthday, marking a decade or anything, it’s nice to know I’ve made it through another year on the mountain. As Bob would always say, “It’s better than the alternative,” meaning I could have had a funeral. Nothing like an ER doctor to put things into perspective.

According to Native American culture, I was born during the Duck Fly Moon. And last night, unfortunately, we missed seeing the total eclipse of the moon in VA due to a stack of clouds. Amazing pictures have been scrolling across my Facebook feed, along with birthday greetings from friends near and far. Sometimes I just shake my head at political commentary, or shrug about people sharing TMI, but sometimes you just gotta love social media!

Today we plan on going to the movies to see Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway in “The Intern.” People are raving about it, even my brother, Dr Jim, told us it’s a good take on aging. He said when some HR person asks DeNiro, the new intern, where he sees himself in ten years, and the answer is, “You mean when I’m 80?” his expression is priceless.

We could use a good laugh. And to be honest, I don’t see myself on this mountain for another ten years. I reluctantly moved South to be closer to the Bride, but she’s working on her career in Nashville while the Groom’s interviewing all over the country. Who knows where they will settle; and the Rocker and Ms Cait? I’m pretty sure they will be West Coasters for the foreseeable future. It’s time Bob really thought about retirement, and it’s time we thought about our Golden Years.

When we are no longer driving, I’d like to live in a walkable neighborhood. We know only too well how circumstances can change. And as much as I’ve enjoyed the serenity and the views from my aviary, I know we have another move left in us. But for today, I’ll eat some cake and think about all that tomorrow.

Sunset on the Porch

Sunset on the Porch

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…or determination?

Yesterday, I got up early and drove North to attend the public opening of a community hospital’s new ED. Yes folks, it’s a “department” not a “room,” one of the many changes I’ve witnessed tagging along with Bob over the years. “I can’t run a room,” was his constant semantic complaint. But it seems he can run a department.

When we first settled in the Blue Ridge, I thought it would be like old times. Bob would do some shift work at the local hospital, and we’d slide into a comfortable retirement; plenty of time together to visit grandbabies and pursue some new hobbies, maybe  keep a few alpacas? Or donkeys, or chickens? Then one year in, the Emergency Department Director just up and quits, asking Bob if he’d like the honor!

And just when I thought his directing days were over, he not only took over the reins, he became Chief of Staff and sat on the Board for many years. We had plans to go to Australia for a sabbatical that were put on hold, but we did manage to build our little house with a view. And one day he presented a plan to that Board for a new Emergency Department – they were bursting at the seams and the population was growing. He wanted a state-of-the-art facility and he managed to persuade the leaders and shakers with his constant optimism and tenacity.

Yesterday, the ribbon was cut joining the new building with the renovated old department, virtually tripling the space of the old ED. Twelve million dollars and five years later, the CEO introduced Bob and kindly said this project was his baby, and without his “persistence” we wouldn’t be here. Everyone nodded their heads, because everyone who works with my husband knows he can be pretty determined to achieve excellence in emergency medicine. He wrote the book on managing an ED and he served as President of ACEP in MA when we were young and just starting out in the Berkshires.

Unlike lots of physicians his age, he never gave up on medicine and he taught our daughter to love the profession too. To never forget the sacred trust a patient shares with them.

I was pretty proud of Bob yesterday, but we couldn’t celebrate yet. He had a lunch meeting with a colleague and then he was scheduled to work the 8 hour evening shift. Kudos to Bob, his assistant director Harvey, who followed him here from the Berkshires, and all the nurses and administrators who helped to make this remarkable transformation possible.

Maybe someday he’ll slow down, just a little? 19114_10152801541071943_7135939311025461658_n

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