We finally retired. Something the Mr. has looked forward to doing for the past three years or so. We packed up everything we felt was important to keep with us, loaded up a big old moving truck and moved to our final home until we take up our plot in the cemetery near our son and my mom and day.
We lived in a pretty big place, just south of Memphis, Tennessee. Lots of traffic, loads of school buses and a constant hectic pace was normal for us. We lived there for twelve years, and it became the way we lived. The Mr. had his morning commute into Memphis from the neighborhood we chose to live in, and then would reverse the trek every evening. I hated it, he hated it, but it meant we had a pay check every pay day. And, like most folks, we got used to it and it became part of our life. But as time went by, we began to yearn for a life where we could spend time together and with our family without rushing anywhere.
We have been retired for about a month. Our new home is in a small town in Oklahoma. There are two stop lights, one at either end of town. The only fast food is a Sonic Drive-in, and there are two restaurants, one traditional southern food, the other Mexican. Both are quite good, but we had to learn the times they are open because the hours are erratic compared to some place like Chili’s. Mother Juggs breakfasts are great (bisquits and gravy are highly recommended.) The Mexican place has great fajitas. The only grocery in town is a very small family run place that always has a place to park and they even carry out your groceries for you if you are old like me.
Our house is in the ‘nice’ side of town. Read that the houses cost more that the average home in this town. The town was founded by the Black Seminole Indians after the Civil War. Their reservation runs right along the road that goes past our house. On our side is the Creek Reservation, on the South side of the road it is fully Seminole. One of the most asked questions is what tribe we belong to. Doesn’t really matter, the Mr. is a card carrying Creek, so he is more than welcome. We love our house, it is exactly like the kind we used to visit when we were first married. We never dreamed we would be able to afford one, but here we are, living in one, unpacking boxes, and slowly making it our home.
It is interesting the things we find, like a very fancy restaurant just out side of town with amazing food. It may be fancy, but we can afford to each there several times a month if we want. There is a museum about the Seminole Tribe in town, a library, and a genealogical society available to everyone. This is the county seat for Seminole County. The old part of down town and much of the old neighborhoods are run down and empty. But new growth in the county is making a difference. The folks in charge are welcoming and friendly. Looks like we might get a bit involved with the local activities.
Last night we went to Mother Juggs for supper. As I tried to get out of the booth to leave, my legs gave out and I nearly fell. The lady in the booth behind me got up and helped me stand. She didn’t know me, I had never seen her before. It didn’t matter, she just got up and helped. As I thanked her, embarrassed that I couldn’t just stand up and walk out, she just shrugged and said she would help anyone in need. She patted my hand and told me I would be better soon and to take care of myself. The Mr. came back from paying the check to see me and a strange lady holding hands. As I hobbled to the car, I told him what had transpired. He was pleased someone offered help. I realized that people in Oklahoma stand back and watch the new folks with a bit if suspicion, but if in they are truly in need they will step up and make a difference in their day.
We live in a small, quiet town filled with the under privileged and poor, but they have pride, traditions, and a sense of community that is admirable. We may only have two stop lights, but folks here have a lot of go.
As I was packing up the bookshelves, I found several Junior High and High School year books. I started looking through them, boy did we have ugly hair styles and uncomfortable clothes in Junior High, but by the time we were in High school, the hippie look of long hair, peasant blouses, and jeans were in style. It was definitely a solid change in how one style changed the way we dressed. In fact, I know many people my age who still live in jeans and peasant blouses. Guys still wear long hair and jeans and T-shirts too. Although I think any guy over forty needs to rethink the long hair and bald spot look.
One think that was clear in the yearbooks was who the popular crowd was. Their faces were plastered all over the books. Cheerleaders, class president, football players, all were involved in every sort of club and activity. Well, there were the nerdy groups like chess club and the motor heads (aka greasers) who were big in things like shop and band. But it was always the popular kids, those that were the favorites of the teachers and administration who were front and center, even in crowd photos.
I remember that there was one table in the cafeteria where they gathered and spent lunch putting down the rest of us pathetic losers who simply didn’t measure up to their beauty and power. And they did have power. One hint from them that someone in their group no longer belonged and that person was immediately personae non grata. The girls were much more vicious in this behavior than the boys. It was a sad thing to observe.
I wasn’t part of that group, I was a nerdy kid who stayed in the background and simply observed the world around me. I didn’t exist in their world, I was a total non person to them. Fine with me, I didn’t have to deal with their behavior and attitude. I wondered, as I flipped though the pages of the yearbook, what happened to the school leaders and popular crowd.
The internet is an amazing thing when it comes to finding people. A few stokes of the keyboard keys and low and behold, they are found on various sites. Interestingly enough, most of them had their glory days in High School and haven’t really done a great deal since then. Thye mostly still live in the same area, working regular jobs, married with kids. Some went to college and hold white collar jobs doing the mundane white collar things. Not a one of them has burst out of the shell around them and become an outstanding policeman or woman, a military hero, or a political leader in their home town or state. What a waste of potential and ability. Not that I am all that different.
However, I have met most of my dreams and items on my bucket list. A college education, living abroad, traveling the world, raising children, and staying married to the love of my life. I’ve written two books and published them on Amazon (under the name Jo Calhoun). I have lived every day to the fullest, and in my aging days I am still trying to learn, grow, and make a difference in my world. When I look at folks who never tried to fulfill their potential, it makes me sad and a bit frustrated.
Not that there is anything inherently wrong with staying home and raising kids, I did that for years. Not that there is anything wrong with being a hands on kind of guy or woman who stays at the same job for years. It is a comfortable way of life. But there is so much more to see and experience in the world. Sometimes, all it takes is one step out of the comfort zone and the power of discovery takes over.
Now that most of the folks my age are retiring, it is a great opportunity to step out of that zone and step into discovery of a whole new world. Maybe I will see you there, Mr. or Miss Popularity, and this nerdy girl will be able to enhance your life too.
Today, according to government stats., I am officially old. I am 65 and yesterday I was not old at 64. Statistics do not always add up to a happy ending when everything changes over night, I didn’t think it would bother me, but it does. Just like turning 31 made me upset because I was over 30.
I never expected to be this old, and I have one burning question, How the HELL did it happen so fast? Seems like a few days ago I was living in Harrison, Arkansas raising my boys and going on hikes with my friend Candace Lovelady and hanging out with scouts and the kids from Church. And now I hang out with folks at the dialysis center and the farthest I can hike is the limit of my oxygen hose. This was not what I had planned for my retirement.
But my plans and God’s plan aren’t always the same. There is a lesson in all of this illness and aging thing. I don’t know what it is yet, but God always has a plan, and I just need to figure out what he wants me to learn or needs me to understand. I have always been a bit slow in letting go and letting God lead me. It’s the stubborn Neanderthal genes in me that causes me to be so bossy.
So Happy Birthday to me, and everyone else turning 65. Now we can take our opinionated selves down to the senior center and gossip, argue, and debate with all the other old farts – while we get a free lunch. For today, however, I am going to dialysis then out to dinner with the love of my life. It isn’t exciting, but it is what it is and I am thankful for that much. Still, I want to know how I got this old so darned fast!
I stopped growing at the age of fourteen. For the past fifty years, I have been exactly five feet three inches tall. I took pride in the fact that I was taller than my sisters. I wasn’t tall, but I was secure in my place in the family. Until last week. The Home Health Nurse measured me for the first time in years. I was, to my shock and disbelief, five feet, two and a half inches. I was so astounded, I could only gasp out, “What?” Then resorted to deep slow breaths to calm my nerves.
Not that I have anything against short folks. It is just that I already had enough trouble reaching things at 5’3”. Counters, cupboards, the top shelf in a grocery store were already out of reach. Now they are half an inch higher, so unless I have a step ladder, I will never reach the last bottle of Diet Doctor Pepper on the top shelf of the grocery. Not without asking for help.
Not that I won’t ask for help, but when I do the taller person acts like her or she wants to pat me on the head and pinch my cheeks because I am so cute. Cute is for bunny rabbits, not old women with an attitude and bad temper. But it happens all the time now. I can hear the carefully suppressed, “Aww, she is so cute,” every time I need someone to hand me something I can’t reach. It makes me clinch my teeth when I tell them thanks for helping. I may be old, and I may be short, but I am not cute.
I can’t change what is, even if I don’t understand how this happened. I am old, truth in that. Can’t change it either. There are so many frustrations that come with being short. Ever try to buy a pair of sweats? They come in one length, generally, and unless I get the trousers with elastic in the legs, they are always two inches too long or longer. So I have to hem them, or resort to wearing high heel tennis shoes. The shoes don’t work too well in a gym, or even for walking far. Vastly vexing. Even more so is the shirt sleeve issue. Just because I am short does not mean I have arms like an orangutan. Finding a long sleeve shirt that fits in the arms is very rare. I have to resort to rolling up the sleeve, or pushing it up on my arm to be able to use my hands. Short arms, short legs, short person. How hard is that for manufacturers to understand?
The hardest thing about being short is being in a crowd of people. Folks who are taller than me fall into two groups, those whose elbows hit me in the chest and those whose elbows hit me in the face. I am always dodging an elbow because people simply don’t see me, just like they don’t see a child in a crowd. No one remembers to look down when checking out a crowd. It is all about looking ahead at shoulder height. Not only am I over looked, I am totally dismissed by the tall as I fight my way through the chaos. No wonder I hate Christmas shopping so much. In fact, I hate crowds and will only face one for something like an Elton John concert. (Brilliant performance by the way.)
So here I am, unable to change being old and short (and cute apparently). I have few choices left in this mess. I can be hateful and mean to those around me, or I can use the situation to my advantage by being the helpless little old lady that inspires the young and tall to want to pat me on the head, pinch my cheeks, and think of me as (gag) cute. Meanwhile, I am going to go educate my cussing corner with a few choice words it has never heard before. Cute being one of them.
One of the downsides to being sick is that people are constantly poking at me, taking my blood pressure, and asking me personal questions about my body functions that I find embarrassing and none of their business. Quite frankly, I just want to tell them to leave me alone!
I have a home health nurse, who is really nice and funny. I like her, but I don’t like all the questions and the exam she is required to do every time I see her. I would rather sit down with her and have a cuppa tea and enjoy a good chat.
I also have a physical therapist who comes to torture me twice a week. I have discovered my lower body is very strong, but my upper body is weak enough that a five pound weight is agony if I have to lift it twenty times in a row. One – crap that hurts. Two – who ever came up with this is a sadist.
Three- Really? I have to keep going to twenty? . . . ect. I was not a happy camper. But I got it all done. Now my arms want to fall off. But I didn’t get really breathless either. I would have preferred we skip the exercise and have a nice cuppa and a chat too.
This is all supposed to help me heal and get back on my feet. But until I can breathe on my own, my life is limited to the length of my oxygen tube and that really sucks. I have to drag along one of those smaller tanks if I want to go out, that means I have to find a way to keep it out of the way of other people, and deal with either looks of disgust or pity from others. I can deal with it, but it bugs me to be an object of pity.
At least little kids are honest, they ask me flat out what is wrong with me and what my tank is all about. I even let one feel the air flowing from the breathing tube. He thought it was cool, but his embarrassed mother dragged the kid off before we could talk more. I am more than my tank, people.
At least I am out of the wheelchair. When in one of those, no one sees you. They look over, past, and around you because they are either uncomfortable with seeing some one in a wheelchair, or they are afraid they will have to deal with a sick person or disabled person and they aren’t prepared to do that. However, here in the South, men will hold the door open for the Mr. and I to get through. Even if I am just walking with my cane and he is pulling the tank, folks will hold the door for us. That’s nice. So I tell each one thank you for being a blessing today. It makes them smile, even if they feel a bit flustered.
Each day I try to improve. I follow the rules, take my medication, do my exercises, and obey all the regulations on food and drink. So, why am I still sick? I guess the doctor will tell me on Thursday. If I didn’t have doctor appointments, I would have no social life at all. We all need to sit down for a cuppa tea and a nice chat about anything but my body functions and how well I breathe. Really, we do.
Every time I get two steps ahead, I get knocked back one. We went to our new home to drop off the first load of things. And wouldn’t you know, I had a heart attack, without warning, and ended up having two stents placed in the back of my heart. That lead to a week long stay in the hospital in Oklahoma.
As we drove back to Mississippi, my hand began to hurt more and more until I was in agony. I knew the graft in my arm was causing the “Steal Syndrome” but what I didn’t know was that it had collapsed when I had the heart attack, and my blood pressure dropped very low.
We went straight to the hospital in Mississippi. We were blessed to have Dr. Wright on duty in the Emergency Room. He took one look, realized it had little to no blood flow and immediately went to work to track down the surgeon who put in the graft. I was transferred to Memphis to the Methodist University Hospital where the surgeon stopped the graft from working and restored the blood flow to my hand. Three more days in the hospital followed. And the news that it will take up to six months for the nerves in my hand to heal. The pain is horrific. Mind you, the trip down to Oklahoma was a four day event, originally. See, I was feeling great, and one huge step backward screwed up everything.
I did learn some things while dealing with all of this:
First of all, I am married to a saint, who put work and everything else on hold to take care of me. He is still taking care of me while I am getting my strength back and weaning off of oxygen. He cooks for me, or brings me take out. He keeps track of all my appointments and medication, and he nags me to take care of myself. I am worried he is going to get sick himself because he worries too much.
Second, I am no longer in charge of my life. Doctor’s offices call and say they have me down for an appointment without checking with me first. REALLY ticks me off when they do that. Especially since I have dialysis from 2-6 pm on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I have home health people who call every day, and come see me on Tuesday and Thursday, not to mention the Physical Therapy lady – and they just decide to come right on over. At least they call a day ahead.
Third, nothing annoys me more than to be treated like an invalid. I can get around, as far as my oxygen hose allows. I can wash, dress, and take care of myself on a personal level. And as I heal, I get more grumpy by the day.
Fourth, I have wonderful friends here in Mississippi (Thanks Damian for stepping up when we needed you, and Thanks Vickie Dye for helping when we needed it). And I have loving and caring friends on line who pray for me, worry for me, and cheer me up. Thank you all from the bottom of my grumpy heart.
Fifth, I am determined to get back to where I was. The first step is getting off the oxygen by October 30th. I have tickets to see Elton John at the FedEx Forum that night. I am NOT going to miss it if I have to go with the oxygen and in a wheelchair. But I want to walk to my seat and enjoy the concert. The second step is getting my strength back. The physical therapist will start the process, but I am going to change it all up and get back on my feet. My heart isn’t damaged, and I only need the oxygen because I was short of breath and I am dealing with bronchitis. Third, I am going to get to all the appointments, listen to what the doctors say, and make my own decisions on the next step. They are all ganging up on me about early stages COPD. I have never smoked, I don’t understand that at all.
Fourth, I am going to Oklahoma for Thanksgiving, and hauling our biggest load of stuff down. Damian is stepping up again and driving the truck for us. But my goal is to cook Thanksgiving dinner with the help of the women in my family. A simple meal, but damn it, it is tradition that I cook on the holidays and I am not letting my family down. Most importantly of all, I am going to spend every minute I can with our Addie Rose, because when we move, we will only get her on school breaks. It tears me up to think of how much we will miss her.
I will take three steps forward from now on so one step back won’t mean all that much. And I will heal.
In the first thirty-six years we were married, we moved, on average, every two years. We lived in Arkansas, Oklahoma (multiple times), California (also multiple times), Nottingham and Debden in the UK, Hong Kong, Karori and Pukekohe in New Zealand, Virginia, Missouri, and the last twelve years in Mississippi so it doesn’t count in the averages. Now we are retiring and moving one last time to our final home. We are moving to a small town (read that, blink and you miss it) in Oklahoma. Our home backs on to a golf course, which means a small yard to care for but a great view of rolling hills, grass, and trees. It is ironic we will live next to a golf course because neither the Mr. nor I care at all for the game. But the house is exactly what we want, so we are off on a new adventure.
After all the years of moving, I had it down to a science and lists of how to do it. Now, I have to start all over because it is shocking how much stuff, read that junk, a family can collect in twelve years living in one place. Over the past few weeks, I have said over and over, “What is this? Where did we get it? Who bought it? Why do we have it? Keep it, dump it, or sell it?” Honestly, we have stuff that we have no clue concerning any of that. On the other hand, I have things that mean the world to me, things that mean little in monetary value, but I simply can’t part with them. Baby blankets for kids who are now in their 40’s. Art, music, books, and trinkets that my children and grandchildren have given me, easily replaceable, but not if they gave it to me. And I collected things, from all over the world, not giving those up either. Decisions, decisions, a royal pain in the backside.
In all the years we have lived here, I have made very few friends. I could count them on one hand, but they are the kind of friends who will still be friends in twenty years from now. The new term for this kind of friendship is bonded. I just call it true friendship. I made many of those kinds of friends over the years and all over the world. I will miss my friends here, even though we will keep in touch. But, I will get to see my forever friends in Oklahoma, some of whom I have known since junior high school. (For you youngsters, that means middle school.) And that is a good thing. I will also be closer to grandchildren and my mother.
On the one hand, I am not upset about moving since it will bring us closer to family. On the other, I am still not excited about all the work involved. I have no idea how long we have left to live our lives, I have to wonder if we will get bored living in the same place for years like we did here in Mississippi. The only way to know is to suck it up and do what has to be done. Back to sorting and packing. Grumble.
Old people complain about how things have changed all the time. I used to let it go in one ear and out the other, never really registering what they were really complaining about. That is simply this, the loss of manners, traditions, and common sense values.
It used to be, when we got a chance to take a bathroom break, as soon as we sat down the darned phone would ring. Back in the day, the phone was on the wall in another room, so we figured whoever it was would call back if it was important. Then we got the phones we could carry around in the house and yard, and it would still ring on our bathroom break but it would have the phone number of the caller and we could call them back at our leisure.
Now we have cell phones. When they first came out, we didn’t take them into the bathroom, it was rude and tacky to talk on the phone while doing our business. We weren’t attached to the phone at the hip and many of us could actually not rush to answer it day and night as if our life depended on it. It was a tool, a convenient tool, but nothing more than that.
At this point, we have a second and third generation who grew up with cell phones in their hands. And God forbid they miss one second of phone activity. It is no longer unusual to hear a phone go off in a bathroom, even in a public place, and someone answer it. And the tacky part, they tell the caller they re in the bathroom. Instead of getting off the phone, they carry on a conversation as if they are sitting in the car or in their home. What the hell happened to manners and common sense values on phone etiquette? Since when is it imperative that the phone be answered or a text be sent immediately, no matter where we are or what we are doing?
Back in my day, (there is that awful phrase that makes the younger generations stop listening) no one wanted anyone to be aware they were in the bathroom, let alone what they were doing. It was rude, immodest, and well, gross. Those of us who were raised in that era of modesty and morals generally will not answer the phone while in the bathroom. Generally, because there are always exceptions to the rule. I won’t even answer my house phone while in the bathroom, nope, not happening.
Other than technology, what has changed to make even the most old fashioned manner driven people do something so low class? Is life so hectic and busy that the only time to talk on the phone is while you are in a compromising situation.? Is that the only time folks have time to simply talk on the phone? I don’t understand that sort of behavior.
It used to be that if we wanted privacy on the phone, we would stretch the cord as far as it would go and sit in a place with a door we could close. Generally it was a closet or a small room next to the phone, but it was never the bathroom while we were using it. I still spend more time searching for the house phone that I left in an obscure place when I need to answer it then I do talking on it. But you won’t see me running to answer any phone, I am not a good study for Pavlov’s theory. ( Go look it up kids, I imagine there is an App for that somewhere on your phone.)
A phone, to me, is a convenience, nothing more. I am not a slave to the darn thing, and most of the time they annoy me with all the ringing and such – especially phones with irritating songs as ring tones. To many of today’s younger people and to some old folks like me, they are a life line of some sort, like oxygen is to heart patients. Life cannot go on without their phones attached at the hand. And as such, folks are becoming slaves to the technology around them. I expect we will soon have tech built into our bodies from birth. But I still want to know why common sense is gone when it comes to private things like bathroom breaks. I don’t like how things have changed in this area. Not one bit. It makes me feel old and cranky about things.
Ever have one of those days when you have a list of things to do, but by the time the day is over, nothing has been accomplished on the list?
Ever wish that things in your household chores acted like cartoon characters and did things like dishes jump in the dishwasher on their own, and books would pack themselves into the boxes, tape would run around the box with abandoned joy, and the pen would dance across the box and write on it for you? Then, just to top off the moment, the clothing would wash, dry, hang up and fold then put themselves away all the while singing and dancing in happiness.
Ever wonder why the pets just have to walk right where you need to be, or simply stand in front of you then get all huffy and offended when you tell them to move in an exasperated voice?
Ever wonder why you have to tell a kid the same thing, five times in a row with an even louder voice to get them to respond while they are watching television or on their phone– oh and that goes for the husband too?
Ever wonder why you can cook the same dish a million times and no one says a word about it, but you make it for the million and one time and everyone has a complaint?
Ever wonder why your favorite pair of jeans changes sizes on a regular basis even if you haven’t?
Ever wonder why your shoes move themselves in the night, just so you have to get on your hands and knees to look under the bed for them, then you find them sitting in the middle of the bathroom floor. (I know mine laugh at me every time I look under the bed.)
Ever wonder why you can see the last close in parking spot from across the entire parking lot, but in the twenty seconds it takes you to get there, five other cars are there first and the drivers are fighting for the spot?
Ever wonder why you can see an empty check out lane, but by the time you get there five seconds later, there is a line of ten other people with baskets filled to the brim and the only other check out lane has the slowest checker on earth with the most gossipy customers in their line?
Ever wonder why you always end up at the gas pump that always, always, ALWAYS takes the longest to fill up the car when it is either raining like mad, the wind is freezing cold, or it is so hot your shoes start sticking to the pavement?
Ever wonder why you always get the last of the ice cream and it has ice in it, but the person in front of you gets the good stuff?
Ever wonder why, when you have a complaint at the store, or want to return something, you always get the worker who doesn’t give a rat’s pattootie about it and makes you jump through hoops to do it. Then when you ask for the manager, they get all huffy and snarky?
Ever have those days when it is better just to go back to bed and say to heck with everything and find it better just to read a book instead?
Yeah, me too. Later people, the bed is calling my name.