July 29, 2012

The Cranky Old Man

What follows is a very unusual post for Satisfying Retirement. It is a poem. You may have read this before on different web sites. There are all sorts of stories about where it came from and who wrote it. But, before I get into that, please just read the following. It is written from the perspective of a very old man in a nursing home:

Cranky Old Man

What do you see nurses? . . .. . .What do you see?
What are you thinking .. . when you're looking at me?
A cranky old man, . . . . . .not very wise,
Uncertain of habit .. . . . . . . .. with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food .. . ... . . and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice . .'I do wish you'd try!'
Who seems not to notice . . .the things that you do.
And forever is losing . . . . . .. . . A sock or shoe?
Who, resisting or not . . . ... lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding . . . .The long day to fill?
Is that what you're thinking?. .Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse .you're not looking at me.
I'll tell you who I am . . . . .. As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, .. . . . as I eat at your will.
I'm a small child of Ten . .with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters .. . . .. . who love one another
A young boy of Sixteen . . . .. with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now . . .. . . a lover he'll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty . . . ..my heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows .. .. .that I promised to keep.
At Twenty-Five, now . . . . .I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide . . . And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty . .. . . . . My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other . . .. With ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons .. .have grown and are gone,
But my woman is beside me . . to see I don't mourn.
At Fifty, once more, .. ...Babies play 'round my knee,
Again, we know children . . . . My loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me . . . . My wife is now dead.
I look at the future ... . . . . I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing .. . . young of their own.
And I think of the years . . . And the love that I've known.
I'm now an old man . . . . . . .. and nature is cruel.
It's jest to make old age . . . . . . . look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles .. .. . grace and vigor, depart.
There is now a stone . . . where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass . A young man still dwells,
And now and again . . . . . my battered heart swells
I remember the joys . . . . .. . I remember the pain.
And I'm loving and living . . . . . . . life over again.
I think of the years, all too few . . .. gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact . . . that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people .. . . . .. . . open and see.
Not a cranky old man .
Look closer . . . . see .. .. . .. .... . ME!!

There are stories on the Internet that this was left behind by a man who died in a nursing home in Australia. The poem was discovered after his death by a nurse. Other sites claims that story is a hoax. They claim the poem was written by a youngish man who lives in Texas.

Frankly, I don't care where it came from. Whatever the source, this is a tremendously moving piece of writing, because it rings so true. Old people, especially those without the support system of a family, are left to a system that often treats them as simply numbers and no longer as people with stories and a history.

The impact of the message of Cranky Old Man will strike each of us differently. I for one, was deeply touched and ashamed that I have thought of too many very old people in exactly this manner. As I move through my sixth decade obviously all of this becomes more real to me. But, it isn't too late to change my mindset and try to see the whole person behind the wrinkles, pain, and loneliness. The physical decay of a body is inevitable. The decay of our respect for that person is not.

July 27, 2012

The Summer Slump

For many this is turning into the hottest summer ever. Pictures of folks baking on the East Coast or Mid West fill the evening news. Here in Arizona the summer monsoon rains have been too sporadic to green up the lawns or lessen the humidity for even a few hours. Summer is in full bloom (or full withering). My satisfying retirement is getting a little brown around the edges.

The heat doesn't bother me terribly because there is no point in complaining about something that is a fact of life. I suppose someone in Minot, North Dakota or Duluth, Minnesota feels the same about cold and snow. If you live there that's what you get. That being said, I will be spending a month next summer in Oregon. After 27 years it is time for a nice, long, summer break.

No, what puts me in a summer slump is the cessation of most activities I enjoy. It is not the time of year for picnics, long walks, or strolling the paths of the Desert Botanical Gardens. My back yard sits empty most of the time, except for playing with our dog Bailey for brief periods of time.

I miss several church-oriented activities that stop for the summer. Our small group is a made up of a dozen great people who enjoy each other's company. From September until May we get together twice a month. But, with many of our members gone on vacations on and off all summer, trying to keep it going now is impossible.

I take part in a weekly Bible study at a friend's home that also stops for the summer for the same reason. We are a handful of folks who are good friends and are willing to discuss and argue issues of importance. I miss those exchanges.

Betty and I enjoy seeing traveling Broadway theater performances and the occasional symphony concert. Both have shut down as the city empties out. The theater stages and orchestra seats will re-fill in September.

I will be the first to admit I watch much too much Netflix in the summer. Yes, I have stopped watching regular TV, though the Olympics will draw me back. Except for the basic channels we had cable TV removed almost two years ago and haven't really missed it. But, watching a movie and a documentary on Netflix every night is really no different than cable TV is it? I am spending too many hours each night streaming something. It is too hot to have dinner outside, so there we sit, eating and watching.

How do I fill in the summer slump? On a positive note, I start guitar lessons this week. I have tried to teach myself using books and DVDs. But, I always get to a certain point, get frustrated at my progress and quit, only to restart a few months later. Regular reader, Chuck, convinced me that paying for lessons is the best way to get over that hump and really enjoy my playing. So, stand back, Eric Clapton. The new guitar star is tuning up.

Blogging helps tremendously. The need to produce three fresh posts a week keeps my mind active. As regular readers know, I am forming some really important friendships with fellow bloggers. There is always something to learn so I stay busy. And, I have begun my new book. That will occupy plenty of time between now and it's expected availability this fall.

Three blogging friends have produced (or will shortly) books. Sonia Marsh, Dave Bernard, and later this fall, Galen Pearl, are joining the ranks of published authors. Each has asked me to read and review their efforts. I love to do that, especially for friends. So, in addition to my three or four mysteries and current affairs books on my nightstand, I am adding the ones from Sonia, Dave, and Galen.

Betty and I are exploring different restaurants in the area this summer. We tend to get stuck going to the same handful of places. Now, we look for a  restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale or downtown Phoenix that serves a cuisine we haven't tried before. If it has happy hour prices on appetizers even better. It takes motivation to get a little dressed up and drive an extra distance. But, the results have been enjoyable.

We have switched to a mostly vegetarian menu for our evening meals. Posts from Sharon at Midlife Mom Musings blog have convinced me to give it a try. We will still have meat as the main course one time a week. But, we will give vegetable-based soups and main dishes a shot. 

That is how I handle the annual summer slump. What about you? In most of the country this is the time for all sorts of outdoor activities. Has the excessive heat put a damper in those plans or are you unaffected? Do you sort of shut down for the summer and gear back up after Labor Day? or, is this when you get all sorts of projects done?

Let me know. Maybe you'll have an idea or activity that gets my summer blood pumping and my satisfying retirement moving forward.

July 24, 2012

A New Mandate: Retirement Savings. Really?

Saying "mandate," as in the health care law, seems to be like throwing meat to an angry bear. Even though we have been under a mandate to pay taxes into Social Security and Medicare since 1937, the political turmoil over the mandate-tax definition for so-called Obamacare refuses to go away.

So, it was with more than a little little surprise that I was alerted to an article in the New York Times (thanks, Sonia!). A professor of economics outlines the failure of our present volunteer retirement system to provide a satisfying retirement for many.

She points out that 75% of Americans nearing retirment age have less than $30,000 in retirement savings. To her that emphasizes that human behavior does not lend itself to voluntarily giving up something today to have adequate resources in the future. She predicts a looming disaster as people enter retirement completely unprepared. She discounts the supposed solution, to keep working, as unrealistic due to the sky high unemployment rate for those over 50.

Her answer? She proposes a mandated retirement savings system in addition to Social Security. She argues that the only way we will be prepared to stop working is to be forced to set aside adequate resources. To read the full article click here:


I am well aware that many people play completely by the rules, work hard, save, and still get screwed by the failure of their employer to live up to its promises. Investments are decimated when greedy or risk-loving people take advantage of the system and get caught. Those are not the people she is writing about. Those folks are victims that are paying a price they should not have to confront.

I do agree with the author on one crucial point: too many people who aren't in the category noted above do a terrible job of preparing for their own retirement. I guess they assume the tooth fairy will make it all OK. They think they can keep working until their dying breath. These assumptions are the human equivelant of the ostrich sticking his head in the sand.

As regular readers know, I am a big believer in personal responsibility in most areas of life. Last fall I wrote that for retirement we are on our own. The days when we could depend on a company delivering a promised pension and health benefits until our death are over. Even government and public service pensions and benefits are under attack in many cities.

Social Security payments are an important part of most retirement plans. I, for one, am very glad it is there. Likewise, as someone who has never had a company-provided health plan, Medicare will be a life-saver for me when I reach 65.

But, the idea of adding another program to insure that my lack of planning for my future won't put me in a pickle strikes me as way out of line. Of course, her idea hasn't a prayer of even being discussed my those who could do something about it. But, the author is proposing a "get out of jail free" card: no personal sacrifice or planning would be required beyond another tax. "They" would take care of what we won't.

If my satisfying retirement depended on that, I'd be scared out of my mind.

What are your thoughts? Without this author's idea in place, she contends unprepared retirees could bankrupt us all. Or, will they? How far should we go to manage peoples' tendencies? Fill the comment page!

July 23, 2012

A Work in Progress

In late May I wrote about my next book on building your satisfying retirement.  After excellent suggestions from you, the BRITW (best readers in the world), I am going to the source: people how have retired or are close to that magic day. A series of questions will be answered by all those included in the book. As I noted in the May post, the book will feature the good, bad, and everyday nature of what makes up this journey. I have a target publication date of this fall.

So, inquiring minds want to know: what is going on with the project? A lot, actually. The first series of questions have been sent to those who originally accepted my invitation to participate. I have asked that those questions be answered and returned to me by early August.

At this point I am putting out a call for more folks wanting to be part of the project. I  know I will be a little short of responses from those who haven't retired yet, but are planning for it and have a tentative date in mind. Also, I could use another 6-10 folks who are already retired. So, if this description fits you and you'd like to be part of the project, now would be a great time to drop me an email with the following information:

When do you plan on retiring or how long ago you did retire 
What part of the country (or foreign country) you live in.

Everyone included in the project will get a free Kindle or PDF copy. All participants will be protected with an alias. If you have a blog or web site, that information will be listed in the appendix at the end of the book so your alias is protected.

Next, will be the editing job of pulling together all the information in a format that will give the questions a few pages each to showcase everyone's answers. After that is done, I will write a summary of the important similarities and differences the answers reveal.

Finally, will come the design of the cover and the conversion of the text into a format approved by Kindle and a PDF version. If you are wondering why I don't also produce one for the Nook or other readers, my agreement with Amazon is an exclusive one. Since any Kindle book can be download to any PC that shouldn't cause anyone major problems.

With Building a Satisfying Retirement well over 2,000 copies sold or given away for both editions, the time seems right to bring something fresh to the table. I am excited about the content of this new, as yet unnamed, book.

A sincere thanks for your support and participation. The book is definitely a work in progress!

Don't forget, if you'd like to be part of the book, send an email with the requested information today!

July 15, 2012

The Blogger Tour of Oregon Ends Much Too Soon

Many relationships today are virtual. We e-mail, text, IM, or even Skype without actually meeting the people we spend so much time with. As part of my satisfying retirement my wife, Betty, and I just returned from a fabulous 12 day trip to Oregon built around turning virtual friendships into real ones. I wrote about the first half of the vacation last week.

Before heading to the coast and then central Oregon, our last two days in the Portland area continued to add memories to an already very special trip. Galen owns a cabin within spitting distance of Mt. Hood. The weekend getaway home sits deep in the forest, just above a beautiful stream. Our 4th of July was spent sitting on the porch, staring at the water and sunlight streaming through the trees. 

Then, to top off a perfect day Galen took us to dinner at the Timberline Lodge, halfway up the mountain. With mounds of snow surrounding the parking lot and still coating the top of the mountain, we were as far away from the Arizona desert as it is possible to be.

In one of those experiences that seems to define the uniqueness of Portland, our dinner the next night concluded with a barbershop quartet serenade. An international competition was taking place the week we were in town. It just so happened that one of the competing groups from New York was dining at the same restaurant as we were. Suddenly, the sound of several male voices, in tight harmony, began to fill the room. Everyone stopped eating to enjoy the spontaneous concert. The men even invited their waitress to sit with them while they sang  "Sweet Gal of Mine"  to her. That 15 minutes of singing was the perfect conclusion to our stay in a magical city.

Our time with Galen Pearl and Barbara and Earl Torris ended way too soon but we had more of the state to see. A three night stay at a B&B on the coast just north of Newport was the quiet and solitary opposite of the hustle of Portland. The weather was cool and grey, the clam chowder was to die for, and the lighthouses a photographer's dream.

Then, on to see Bill and Wendy Birnbaum who live in the small central Oregon town of Sisters. Obviously, with a population of just over 2,000 folks, Sisters was a quiet place that had a relaxing pace built around coffee shops and wine bars, or so we thought. Our first night in town Wendy and Bill took us to a local bakery that had a backyard set up as a concert venue. Suddenly a Beatles tribute band, Abbey Road Live, took to the stage. For the next 2 hours at least 80 folks of all ages danced and sang along with music. Cinnamon rolls from Angeline's bakery, wine from the bar, and some of the friendliest people we had ever met invited us into their lives.

For the next three days we became a part of Sisters. Wendy and Bill took us on hikes past incredible waterfalls and roaring streams. We saw lakes so clear that boats seemed to be floating on air. We were welcomed into their amazing home, perched on the edge of a canyon, several miles out of town to enjoy breakfast on the deck, dinners by the grill, and gazing at stars without the interference of any human-generated light. 

Sahalie Falls
Wendy, Bill, Betty, and me

We spent one afternoon in a local wine bar, talking about books and authors, politics and the economy with people who just drifted in, recognized Bill and became our friends, too. We were absolutely blown away by the incredible photography of Wendy. Her work is on display at a local gallery and on the walls of their home. She taught Betty more about using our point and shoot camera in two days than we had learned in 6 months. Bill and I shared stories of our past careers (both management consultants) and playfully disagreed about political issues.

A couple from our church spend the summer in the Bend area, too. So we had the chance to meet Al & Patti for a fabulous lunch on the banks of the Deschutes River the afternoon before heading home.

Finally, it was time to get on the plane at the Redmond airport and fly back to the heat and home. We packed as well as we could but got home and discovered we had left one thing behind: our hearts. Taking the chance of meeting new people and turning virtual friends into lifelong companions had been one of the most enjoyable and important trips of our life. I did promise more photos of Oregon wine country southwest of Portland, so here are a few pictures to make Napa California jealous!

Earl & Barbara Torris

Galen & Betty
Thank you, Galen, Barbara, Earl, Bill and Wendy, plus all the incredible people of Portland and Sisters. You haven't seen the last of us.

How to cross a street in Sisters..use a flag!

July 13, 2012

The Top Posts of 2012 (so far)...Why?

Out of the nearly 90 posts I have written so far this year, several have really stood out by generating strong readership and lots of comments. I thought it might be helpful to look at the most popular ones so far this year and attempt to figure out why each resonated with so many.

If you missed one or more of these posts, click the title and see what  all the buzz was about. I encourage you to add your thoughts at the end of this post. Why were these the most-read? Is there a common theme or some reason one or more made the list? Maybe you see some common thread I have missed.

Top Posts through First Half of 2012 (in order)

1. We Lost How Much Net Worth?

2. When Will I Stop Blogging?

3. Volunteering During Retirement: What To Do?

4. What Does Living a Satisfying Retirement Mean To You?

5. Where Are The Good Repair People?

6. Retirement Vacation Ideas

7. How Did We Grow Up So Deprived?

8. How To Mess Up A Retirement

9. What Are You Doing Now That Excites You?

The first thing that jumps off the page is that 7 of the top 9 are questions. Obviously, asking for participation and your thoughts are important in developing a strong exchange. That seems like common sense, but is a different direction than the blog originally was taking. If I look back a year, more of the posts were giving information, providing guidelines, and passing on my experiences than asking for your input.

As the readership has grown I have felt more comfortable in asking for comments. And, I would guess you have felt better about leaving your thoughts as you have spent a bit more time on this blog. Both writer and reader must develop a certain level of trust and comfort before talking about certain things.

One fact I find encouraging is the nice spread throughout the months of these well-received posts. Two are from June, one from May, two from April, two from March, and one each from February and January. To me that says the quality has been consistent and they have been well spaced.

In terms of topics, there is one that is strictly financial, four that deal with your passions and interests, one focused on vacations, one gripe (repair people!), one about blogging, and one with my tongue in my check (being deprived).

I notice that relationship posts aren't in the top 9. That may mean the ones on that topic don't lend themselves to as many comments and interaction, or the ones I wrote were more "instructional" and didn't prompt feedback. I know it is a very important subject to retirement happiness, so I'll have to work on finding an approach that is more "active." 

Over all, guest posts also don't work well. Primarily, I think that is because they tend to be "here's how you do something" or "here's how to save money." I also assume you are used to my particular style of writing and a guest writer just comes across as different....not better or worse....just different.

One very recent change that I guess is a good thing in an odd way: I have had to start comment moderation. The number of "anonymous" comments that are poor attempts at getting a link on this blog have increased from one every few weeks to at least two or three a day. Some mornings, I'll find half a dozen sitting in the spam filter. This means the blog has become seen by more people and is an attractive spammer target. But, it means I must check every comment before it goes live on the blog. I was hoping to not take that step, but the Internet is a nasty place.

Thank you, the BRITW, for such a great first half of 2012. let's see what the next six months bring us.

I'd  appreciate a click of the G+ Google button on the top left sidebar if you enjoyed any of these posts. It helps this blog tremendously.

July 6, 2012

Our New Oregon Friends

Earl, me, Betty, Barbara, Galen
As I mentioned last Friday, as part of our satisfying retirement Betty and I flew to Portland to begin a vacation to meet some  blogging friends - folks who live in Oregon that I had met on-line but have never spent time with in person. We were "virtual" friends who were anxious to take the next step and spend time together. I can report it has been a fabulous experience so far.

Galen Pearl and Barbara and Earl Torris have been absolute delights. We are talking, laughing, and sharing as if we had known each other for years. Betty and I have fallen in love with Portland, not just for the delightfully cool weather, but the eclectic neighborhoods, the flowers, the amazing public parks and enough restaurants to keep us trying a different one each night for the rest of our life. 

Galen is every bit as fun and charming, intelligent and inspiring as she seems to be in her blog. She has shown us The Lan Su Chinese gardens, The International Rose gardens and the Japanese Gardens. She introduced us to one of the most interesting dining establishments we have ever been to: The Kennedy School. Her love of Portland is infectious and she seems tickled that we are liking as much as she. She treated the group to a first class dinner at Salty's, a tremendous restaurant overlooking the Columbia River.

Barbara Torris has boundless energy and enthusiasm and is an amazing conversationalist. She makes you feel instantly comfortable. As natives of Oregon, both she and husband Earl know all the background of the area. Earl is a walking history book and our designated driver. They took Betty and me to wineries and an olive oil mill south of Portland where we sampled wine, cheese, and fruit on a patio overlooking fields of lavender. We, along with Galen, enjoyed a tremendous Salmon BBQ dinner at their home. Since Barbara and Earl live in Tucson for half of the year, we expect to make the 90 minute drive to their home several times when they return to the desert to keep the friendship alive.

I am so happy I took the step to turn this on-line friendship into a real one. We have found people who we truly enjoy spending time with. Yes, we share blogging as a common interest, but this trip showed we share so much more than that. Making good friends is never easy, but even more difficult as we age. Maybe it is because we become too set in our ways or aren't willing to put in the effort required. From this experience I can tell you all that doesn't need to be true. The world is full of delightful people just waiting to welcome you into their life. Galen, Barbara, and Earl are proof.

In a few days we are off to spend three days with Bill and Wendy Birnbaum in Sisters, Oregon, about 3 hours from Portland. After having spent a few hours together last April in Phoenix, we already know Bill and Wendy are every bit as warm and fascinating as our new Portland friends. But, to be welcomed into their home is a special treat. I am really looking forward to learning about the Birnbaum's 2 month RV trip and explore a new part Oregon. Bill and I share a background of spending our working life as consultants. We will have plenty of stories to swap.

Betty and I are making plans to come back to Oregon next summer. We'd love to spend at least a month in a place that is already beginning to feel like a second home. But now, it is time to enjoy some of Betty's photos of Portland:

Waterfall at Chinese Garden

Chinese Garden

Street Scene: NW section of Portland

Typical home with beautiful planting

International Rose Gardens

Japanese Gardens

Japanese Gardens

Random couple we saw

Oregon Wine Country SW of Portland

After we return home I'll be sharing more about our Oregon adventure, including additional photos of the area's tremendous wineries, Galen's fabulously relaxing mountain cabin, our time along the coast, and our visit with Bill and Wendy Birnbaum. It has been a very memorable vacation during our very satisfying retirement.

July 4, 2012

Betty's Photo Magic

About a year and a half ago I featured the photographic creativity of my wife, Betty. She had taken pictures of water drops, then distorted them and added colors to create unique works of art. 

Recently she has been going through thousands of photos of flowers. We are going to print some for our upstairs hallway to add color and a needed change to paintings that have been there since we moved in 11 years ago. While watching her work on all these photos I thought I'd like to share some with you. Obviously, the smaller size and limitations of a blog don't show them in their full spender. Even so, I hope you like them and they brighten your day.

That should give you an idea of her work. What is most amazing is all these photos were done with a simple point and shoot camera with only basic adjustments to the exposure or shutter settings. All the final tweaking occurred with Photo Shop. Out of the 2,000 choices whichever ones we pick for the hallway will look great.

By the way, Happy 4th of July!

Note: I've had to turn on comment moderation due to a huge increase in spam-type comments. I hope you understand.

July 1, 2012

Memories of A Difficult Kind

Over the last few weeks I have had posts that have celebrated some of the fond memories of vacationing with our kids and my history of moving while growing up. It was fun to look back and remember as part of my satisfying retirement.

Unfortunately, there is another type of memory that is part of life. For many of us one of the most traumatic events in life is the eventual death of our parents. There have been countless books written and movies made about the long-lasting effect of that loss. No matter how old we are or how long our parents live, we are never ready for that sense of being alone.

Probably just as difficult is watching the mental and physical decline that usually precedes death. If I could ask God to change one thing in his master plan, it would probably be to change how human beings decay away. Wouldn't it be better to simply drop by the side of the road or not wake up after a nap without having to endure our minds and bodies failing us? Since that change isn't likely to happen, we have to prepare ourselves for our parents or relatives to endure the ravages of time.

A few years ago I wrote about this process as my mom was declining in ways that would eventually claim her life in December of 2010. I am reusing some of those thoughts along with additions that come from looking back over the 19 months since her passing. 

Watching the physical and mental decline is not an easy thing to accept. In many societies the norm is for one or both parents to live with one of the children and their family. While there can be tremendous positives in a multi-generational household, it does come with major risks and headaches.

In America it is much more likely that a nursing home or long-term care facility will be the end destination. There are probably many reasons why this is our standard way of dealing with aging parents. But, even that scenario certainly doesn't promise a stress-free period.

My mom was in one of the finer facilities in the area. It provided three-level care, though mom moved directly from independent living to the nursing center without a stop at assisted living. She and dad tried to stay in their apartment as long as possible but it finally became too dangerous for both of them. The transition was smooth and the nurses in the health center were as gracious and compassionate as one could hope for. All of her physical needs were met, and then some.

But, no matter how nice the facility or how caring the staff, to watch your parent end up in a 12 x 15 foot room, with a bed, TV, dresser, nightstand and chair is tough. Mom's life had shrunk to a space with no more room than a freshman in a college dorm. As she deteriorated she couldn't even use the chair or see the TV.

Dad spent most of his days, in the chair, in the room with his wife. For the most part his life started to shut down along with hers. He skipped many choir practices and church services so his wife of 63 years wouldn't be left alone. His back became a constant source of pain after mom fell on him at one point and he hurt himself trying to pick her up. Of course, sitting in a chair 6 hours a day near her bed didn't help. He refused to see a doctor since that would mean worrying her and not being in the room.

Since her death, he has resumed singing and going to church, but has never consented to dealing with his back pain. Most of his days are now spent reading paperback novels he grabs by the handful from the local library. The weekly lunch visits by Betty and me, an occasional haircut, and the days he does his laundry are the highlights of his life. His purpose for 63 years was mom. With her gone he has lost the wind beneath his wings and is simply marking time. It is sad to think of him simply existing, not living. But, he resists every single attempt to add something back into his life.

What do I miss most about mom in the nearly two years when she was too sick or infirmed to be my mom? It is the little things that pop into my head. She was the person I could always ask for the answer to a tricky grammar question. Is it lay or lie? Is it who or whom? I could pick up the phone and have the answer. This blog certainly contains grammatical mistakes she would have corrected.

She was the one wanting all the details of our vacation plans, or what has been going on the girls' lives. She loved sitting in our backyard and enjoying the flowers and stillness. She called it her private resort. Bring her a cup of coffee and she was completely satisfied. She wanted to know what books I was reading and what I thought of the authors. She would make sure everyone had sent thank you notes after Christmas.

She was interested in what we were interested in...because it was important to us. She had that ability to both empathize and relate based on the other person's needs, not her own.

In his own way Dad is teaching me lessons. Certainly a dedication to your partner, regardless of health or hassles, is part of the deal. It is what you do without questions or complaints.

He is also teaching me, without knowing it, the importance of having individual interests and passions. If someone lives his entire adult life just being a support for someone else, when that support is removed there is nothing to continue to prop that person up except basic survival. I don't want that to be my end game if Betty goes before me.

Parents teach us many things in life, starting from the day we are born. The lessons, both direct and indirect continue as long as we live. Even with mom gone and dad existing in his easy chair, there are lessons being transferred.

Is this part of a satisfying retirement? Of course. It is part of life. Learning to accept it for what it is part of the bargain.

Note: I've had to turn on comment moderation due to a huge increase in spam-type comments. I hope you understand.