Sunday, October 20, 2013

Temporarily Out of Full Retirement

Late afternoon light on Sequim Bay beaches...
I used to joke with my other retired friends that if we ever needed - or wanted - a job, we could go and become greeters at the local Whereyoufindeverything Store... but that really is not something I enjoy, where writing and editing truly is.

Since May I have been caring, on a part-time basis, for an elderly lady who has become a dear friend. Cooking and keeping up with her household affairs was an enjoyable duty and starting a routine for the two of us to have tea at 4 p.m. was something we both came to enjoy. Sadly, several weeks ago her family decided to place her in an assisted living facility. Although I was paid to spend afternoons with her during a transitional time, it is clear that her level of awareness and ability to move around has been degrading daily.

Last cutting for the fall hay season is done.
The joy of conversation and laughter is disappearing as well. She sleeps a lot, is in a tremendous amount of pain from spinal stenosis and arthritis, and her motivation to get up dwindles like the afternoon sunshine in fall. She mused aloud recently, "I wonder when I will get out of this place." What could I say? At 92, with her ailments, she doesn't have the motivation or physical resources to do necessary therapies to maintain muscle tone and strength. The inevitable slide downward is hard to watch.

As we age, it becomes more and more important to stay active, and to drink water that is 'good,' not just  processed. One month of not doing certain physical exercises will have a negative effect. Strength training, walking, and eating fresh foods are essential. I tried to get Mrs. R to walk with me, but every step was painful. I encouraged her to do some weight lifting but she soon tired of the effort. I cooked fresh foods every day, but with less and less activity there was less and less appetite. Clearly everything NOT done was affecting everything else. And when I had to leave for several weeks to close out my affairs in Colombia, I was pretty certain no one else would push her to make some effort. When I returned, I could see that I had been right.
I'm not a mushroom specialist, but the shape of this one
was intriguing. The Elks Lodge had a show this weekend.

Someone piled up stones on Rialto
Beach, like the Tibetans prayer piles.
While this end-of-life process is sad, there is a certain hopefulness in my friend's eyes as she tells me she is looking forward to being reunited with her beloved husband.

And as her cognitive life wanes, she cares less and less about the world around her, resulting in a sort of peaceful place where napping means no pain and no concerns. She awoke from just such a nap the other day and said to me, "It gives me such pleasure to wake up and see you sitting there, being here for me." I am grateful I can do that much for her now.

But I recently learned of a part-time job on a newspaper, and like the aging dalmatian fire dog who is accustomed to jumping up at the ringing of the fire bell, I was drawn to apply.

My part-time job will still allow me to have some time with Mrs. R, but more importantly I will be continuing to keep my own mind active as well as affording time for the gym and weekend journeys. If I have a couple of decades ahead of me, I certainly want them to be healthy ones.


  1. Mrs. R. is certainly fortunate to have you in her life, honey. You're a good soul. Enjoy your new venture!

    1. Thank you for saying so, Nan... I got all nervous driving into work, but once there I slid back into the routine of a daily newspaper so easily it was like a greased pig going down a water slide, squealing with delight! I'm glad it's only part-time, though... gives me long weekends to go exploring.

  2. I was so happy to read about the recent update to your life but not happy to read about the decline of your elderly friend. Still this new venture will give you time to continue to visit. It is difficult sometimes to get motivated, living alone makes it far too easy to plan what I call 'easy days'. The weather looks awful so there is no need to rush, that kind of thing. I could make a list of reasons why I should not attend the Gym, the cost of petrol, I'm sure I have a pain in a limb, is that a cold I'm starting to get? I would so much prefer to sit and write or continue with my good book etc but deep down I know this will be the beginning of the end if I start to become lazy now and I am much too young for that!!! Still my garden keeps me busy so that is good exercise I suppose. My days do always seem busy. I am not looking forward to the cold of the Winter months that is something I really don't enjoy these days.
    I am thrilled that you have a nice part-time job, how exciting that must be. I think of you often and wish you well. Sorry if I have rambled here a bit. All very best wishes Susie

  3. With your skill in writing and photography, along with your enthusiasm, you should never retire. You are needed to help others see the joy in life how ever long, how ever short. That is how you shall finally be fulfilled and joyful as well.
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