A little more than four years ago I finished my 7th decade and embarked on the first year of my eighth. I seem to have come to a greater intimate in-common friendship with more folks ahead of me than behind me. In fact, most folks behind me with whom I share something of an intimate relationship are family members. Most of those ahead of me are social friends connected with online social networks and in this age of Covid 19 self-quarantine, not much else.
It’s us older ones who concern me; not just because we are older and more frail, but because for the most part we struggle to remain enthused and animated about many of our life activities. I admit, I don’t know what goes on when others are not on a public “stage” and act without a public script in the privacy of their homes or marriages.
I guess that is what I do too. I have a public persona with which I inform most people of what I want them to believe me to be. However, only my dear Lietta knows what I’m really like in the intimate privacy of our home and marriage. I suppose that for the most part such things will remain private through our coming end times.
We’ve had a major transition in process going back to the time of my retirement now almost then years back. She used to ask me what I saw myself doing after retirement and insisted that I get used to the new mode by being off the clock and off the agenda for at least six months.
How did that work out?
Depends on how it is defined. Not having to go to work every day was wonderful and my most initial reaction was that each day felt like Saturday did when I was working.
Coping with the reality of fixed income and uncertainties of our future health was meaner. This proved to be more provocative and stressful than I anticipated. Almost immediately I commenced awakening in the middle of the night and became conscious of the fact that I seemed to be counting money in my head in anticipation of meeting bills and making all the ends meet. It would be almost four years before I achieved an internal state that allowed me to get away from my thoughts … and that not necessarily completely.
Then of course the curse of awakening out of habit at 4:30 or 5:00 am – something I began doing years before retirement because for me the most creative and alive time of my mind was early in the morning. I would leave for work at 7:30 but by 8:30 my mind had essentially gone to the dull side as I labored in the public assistance office, from which I’d arrive home grateful to be with my wife but mentally exhausted.
That was in 2011.
By the end of 2012 we had moved out of our 120-year-old home in Pacific County which had proven to be too much for us to repair and maintain on fixed income. We were renting in Spokane. We eventually moved into a condominium that has proven to be totally more enjoyable than we’d anticipated and in a small urban setting that totally elevated our community life as compared to retirement in a fishing village of 200 souls in Pacific County.
There have been ups and downs, wonderful experiences in the city and traveling about – especially camping and yurting during the summer months. We’ve driven back and forth to the West side of the state for family activities and to relatives in Idaho and Montana and have encountered interesting alternative locations that remain tempting and inviting.
Since moving to the Idaho Panhandle, I feel that I have in a way returned to the environment related to my cultural and regional roots. Lietta and I speak of this feeling often as we live in a somewhat secluded location surrounded by mountains, fir trees and the marvelous lakes.
However … back to a 70-year old body, mind and spirit. My health is quite good for my age. My dear one persuaded me to enter into a diabetes-aware diet by which I have lost a lot of pounds, lowered my blood pressure significantly and have subsequently felt more “lubricated” as in a well-oiled functioning machine even if it is 7 decades old. My most recent VA physical was without concern on any level so long as I stick to my BP and gout medications.
In this pandemic reality, I often awaken in the mornings with a sense of dread that seems to originate in the context of whatever I was doing in my dreams. It’s as if I woke up and suddenly remember that someone near and dear to me had passed on or that I would be going in that day for a root canal. Some sense of unease without having something specific about which to worry.
Actually, beyond a vague sense of dread or uneasiness, I’m more aware of losing interest in all the things I used to be driven about and planned on doing when my career wasn’t competing for my time and attention.
What’s with that?
Is this what aging is about?
I still love to read and write, blog on line, but other activities like sports don’t do for me what they once did. I used to gorge myself on fantasy baseball and basketball and in some years maintained upwards of 20 separate teams at sites like Yahoo Fantasy and ESPN Fantasy Sport. Now except for reading Yahoo sports, there’s not much real or fantasy participation going on.
The most consistent interest that seems self-sustaining in my love of music and enjoyment of playing the piano. Lietta gifted me with that marvelous Clavinova. With some motivation from my siblings (Randy and Adrian Ruger) a few years ago, I recorded my first CD. Following that signature moment when Adrian told me to throw my piano and hymn books away, I’ve upgraded my piano-playing and find myself serenading my sweetheart with a bunch of new songs as well as all the old pieces I’ve played for her for years.
I composed a piece for her as part of our wedding gifts to each other in 1996 and am of a mind to compose more.
19 years ago while on vacation, I began writing poetry using what for me was a mystical device combining two separate phrases from my collections of thoughts and quotes. My poetry is mostly lyrical and I’m drifting more to writing poetry as competition to my not-running-down desire to write.
I’ve authored two historical novels and an assortment of blog articles and that writing personality has not faded much, although definitely weary of politics and the recent election, I find that political posting and the copy-and-paste mentality has left me bored and dissatisfied. I still want to write on spiritual matters and opine about what’s going on in the world but having been someone who has always resented the tendency to be critical in myself and others, I feel the urge to advocate for goodness over morality and for civic harmony over partisan silliness.
I’ve come to think of aging as an awareness and experience of my body and mind getting older and possessing the right to slow down, get rusty, start aching and creaking along. Arthritis is my daily companion but it is not now and does not seem to be on a path to debilitating pain, discomfort and ability.
A few years ago I thought I’d lost my hearing in one ear. However, a visit to the VA medical center corrected that with a cleaning of a large wax deposit that had accumulated with my constant abusive use of Q-tips. I had concluded that as I got older, my hearing was disappearing.
Energy and stamina aren’t what they used to be. There seems to be a side effect to one of my medications that leaves me more fatigued and sleepy than I used to be. Lietta and I know I will never single-handedly move us from one location to another again.
So I still get up early, sometimes in a bad or sad mood, warm up as soon as my sweetheart awakens, comes downstairs smiles and me and resets my mood as I start her coffee brewing while we read our electronic devices and play the online games that have no end but seem to continue endlessly. I have been into Blossom Blast Saga and Candy Crush Saga mostly.
I’ll get chores done during the day, cook a meal or two, and fall asleep in the afternoon in my recliner and again in the evening while watching a TV program before bedtime.
Growing Old Ain’t What I Thought It Would Be. But Lietta and I have a long list of reflective memories with which to sustain us in our family loneliness and our spiritual journey to find wholeness from all the people and forces that have touched our lives.
For example, two years ago my daughter Cheri gifted us something marvelous that she had been planning to do for years. When she was ready she dared me to say no and I couldn’t. We flew to Europe where I had a chance with Lietta to visit a few places I had only dreamed about. I climbed a mountain in the Pyrenee foothills in fog and rain to see something that had obsessed me for over twenty years.
But the highlight of our trip was a reconnection with my own family roots in the presence of my dear companion, Lietta. We actually climbed another small hill to a Swiss Reform Church on the small hill overlooking the birthplace of my Great Grandfather, Adrian Ruger … and where we had a surprise encounter with a Swiss relative, Hans Ruger who ran the museum in Wilchingen.
I wrote this line as the dedication for my first novel, And Should We Die.
For all who came before us
whose stories touch our lives
the blood of our ancestors tells us who we really are.
One thought on “Growing Old Ain’t What I Thought”
For me, it’s bass guitar and baritone ukulele; worrying that each physical symptom is a precursor to a stroke, heart attack or cancer; continuing to get up early because that’s my best time to think,; curling, skating and swimming; avoiding going to people’s houses to eat; and enjoying every second of not being part of a bureaucracy!; blogging and creative writing is part of my philosophy that if I ever did get a pension I was going to do something that I never got the chance to do before because I needed to work to make a living.