Our Children, a Little Older and Wiser

kids

It was the traditional Memorial Weekend visit from my daughter who ever year escapes Miami which she says becomes infiltrated with riffraffs and assorted other undesirables. Why this becomes a yearly occurrence and why on happens on just this particular holiday is not clear. But this particular weekend was not traditional. My husband and I both retired. He from his career in print production and I as the navigator to my children’s destiny. I am their mother now in spirit and that is good.

I looked at all three of them in a different light. They are out in the world dealing with adversity in their own way. They have been for a while. I just hadn’t noticed.

This photo depicts each child as they are. My oldest son, Anthony is the nurturer. He took care of everyone and still does. This October he will become a father and I can see that he will raise his child with good care and sensible logic.

My daughter Christine is the sensitive one. She feels and cares for others maybe a little too much. I always felt I had to protect her more and worry about her more. She has been the one to take chances, not always with satisfying results but she tries. She has a story to tell and one day she will tell it her way.

And Thomas, the mischivous one. He moved into his apartment this weekend, setting up house with his girlfriend. He is the one who doesn’t reveal much and I found that sometimes to be frustrating. Then he comes around and surprises me with a decision that he figured out on his own. It is usually the right one. I just have to patient.

I still worry about them. It is hard not to but I’m finally realizing it is not for me to take on their weight. They can handle it. I’ll try not to offer advise unless they want it. I will always be there for them but it will be on their terms. I’m okay with that and will officially retire from that part of my life too.

 

Working Spontaneously

As much as I love the NY Times for its investigating reporting, it lies short on lifestyles articles particularly when they feature the privileged population that does not represent 90% of the world they pretend to focus on. Saturday’s NY Times included an article on retirement that talked about how retirees are finding fulfillment in working  as consultants and volunteering because they had no life except for work. They claim that most of the retirement community had no interests or hobbies except maybe to read the NY Times and Wall Street Journal as a form of entertainment. To that I say rubbish.

Having lived in this 55+ community for 9 months now, I have yet to hear anyone say they wish they were back at work. I disagree with the article’s position that retirees miss the structure and stimulation of their working life.  My definition of that life was called stress.

My husband will officially retire in two weeks. He has already planned three motorcycle trips this summer with his club that include Virginia, Lake George and Niagara Falls. We also have a trip planned together to Spain in June. We now travel during the week when rates are cheaper, without having to squeeze trips into the vacation time allotted and within our schedule not the company’s. Biggest dilemma, where to go next – Denver, Toronto, South of France? We aren’t thinking about how to fill up days. We worry we can’t fit it all in.

Friday, under a gorgeous sun at 4 pm, we had a community barbecue. Originally planned for Saturday, the weather forecast convinced us to change the plans and have it on Friday. Only in the retirement world can a last minute change be made and to a Friday resulting in a 90% turn out. The next day, the beer keg still had lots left so another gathering took place to attempt to empty its contents. After all, what else do we have to do but to be spontaneous. A great time was had by all.

 

The Accountant in me

Being an accountant has a bad reputation. You are usually viewed as a Bob Cratchit sitting in front of an oversized ledger book wearing a visor, cranking out numbers until the wee hours of the night. The aha moment comes when when you realize that being an accountant most likely means you will always have a job and the job can be fulfilling.

There is something rewarding working with numbers. It is an exact science without being subjectiveness. 2×2 always equals 4 and unless you do something terribly wrong on purpose, the numbers don’t lie.   I didn’t start out being a numbers person yet it is what I evolved into and grew to love.

I’m not sure now what my original ambition was but I do remember I didn’t reach for anything too glamorous. I wanted to work at a company whose product I understood (i.e. clothes, magazines, cars) with simple expectations – I wanted to make money. My first job was as a receptionist in New York’s garment center in a bathing suit company’s showroom. I typed, made appointments and tried to look pretty although being surrounded by swimsuit models, it was smarter to bury my head in work and call the sales people to greet their visitors. It was fun but fun jobs usually don’t pay well as this didn’t. Sometimes you got perks. For instance, if you were a sample size you would get clothes cheap. Back then, the sample size was 8 but rumor has it the new 8 is zero – really?!

As I progressed onward towards secretarial work in the production department of a magazine, I found I wasn’t bad at numbers when my boss asked me to estimate jobs. Escalating to a position in purchasing and facilities, I started to work on budgets. Now it was getting interesting. I should have started college then to become a true accountant, but I didn’t. But, that was a time when the degree wasn’t as important to have as it is now. Working up the ladder was a path paved with experience and common sense. It is too bad that things aren’t that way anymore.

My last job before retirement was as the accountant for a marketing department of a car company. It was the job I liked the most but only spent two years in before the company moved. Like Bob Cratchit, I worked late nights, pouring over the ledger in my computer, cranking out the numbers. No visor, please. I loved it and have to admit, my supervisors and managers thought I was the smartest person in the room. I wasn’t but they thought so and that is all that matters. I miss those days and the time I spent on the excel programs I have no reason to use anymore. My older son is an accountant and with the degree. At times, I talk to him about his work and live vicariously through him. I hope it doesn’t take him a lifetime to like what he does.

The Other Mother

It is commonly known that most moms of the 1950s were stayed-at- home housewives that somehow filled up a day with taking care of a family. Not my mom. She was a working mom. A dressmaker with a full time job at a local dress shop and with clients on the side. She was very busy not just with her business but with cooking meals and taking care of me, my brother and my father.

But I was lucky. I had a surrogate mom and it was Aunt Alice. She was my mother’s first cousin but like many family relations who needed a title, she was the aunt. Unmarried and without her own children, Alice became the mother who did the fun things a mother would have done if she wasn’t busy being a mom. While my mother worked to make a life for us, Alice took us to movies, introduced us to New York City and even took me to my first rock concert at Shea Stadium – yes, the Beatles.

Aunt Alice would stand up for us against all odds. She argued with my strict father to loosen the chain and allow us to go to the movies. Our first time out was to see the Sound of Music. Not exactly the R or X rated stuff you might think would send a parent to a state of anger but my father had his own logic. Her defiance made her more likable.

She took us to Radio City to see the Christmas show. A yearly experience that started with lunch at Horn and Hardart’s. She again disobeyed my father’s instructions to hold our hands throughout. Giving us our nickels and dimes, we raced to the vending machines and out came the sandwich.

And then came the Beatles. Aunt Alice took me to Shea Stadium to see their first concert. She didn’t drive so I think the trip was longer than the concert. I could hardly make them out from where I was sitting and I didn’t hear a thing amongst all the screaming. Yet, I was in heaven just to be there and Alice made it happen.

In adolescence my arguments with my  mother drove me closer to  Alice as my confidant. When I had no one, I had Alice. She understood when no one else did.

In her later years, Alice had to go to a nursing home. I visited her as often as I could but not as often as I wish I did. When I did, she was again my confidant. There were times when raising kids, working and life in general would get the better of me. But I had Alice to visit and to pour my heart out to. I cried to her once that I felt unloved. Her response was, “I love you but I guess it isn’t enough”. I’d like to think she knew I loved her too.

I have fond memories of Alice and her ability to believe in me and make sense of what I couldn’t understand. I can only wish that every child has an Alice who can fill in the gaps.

Alice as she appeared on a book cover

 

Fear of Riding

There are three things I regretted in my life. Not graduating college, not knowing how to swim and unable to ride a bicycle. The first I fixed (see this post) . The second I got past after realizing that being at the ocean doesn’t require more than just getting wet and going to a pool is a social event meant for chatting or reading and not doing laps.

The third, however is a regret I am still trying to overcome.  As I sit on the couch writing this week’s post, I confess to have an ice pack secured to my buttox and a dose of Naproxen in me. This pain and suffering was caused by my attempt to ride a bicycle. As far as exercise is concerned, I walk at least four miles a week with a friend and go to the gym. The most stimulating part of this endeavour is to hear the latest gossip. So for the sake of diversity, we have planned a bike ride on what I am promised is a harmless and doable path. I pulled out the beach cruiser my husband bought me one Christmas whose length of activity has been mostly to relocate it from one side of the garage to another.

The line “you never forget how to ride” assumes one knew how to ride in the first place. I am approaching 65 and fear is overcoming any instinct of balance. Broken bones do not heal quickly and I keep imagining a hip replacement. Clearly learning to ride a bike is a challenge at my age but it isn’t skydiving. The idea of bicycling  is somehow pulling at me.

Almost ready to give up, this morning’s NYTimes included a reassuring article called Better Aging through Practice, Practice, Practice. The author convinced me that learning a new skill or practicing a skill you haven’t used in a while stimulates the aging brain and makes you feel good physcially. Of course the same paper had a first page feature on Alzheimer’s . I read the former.

Consequently, my expectations of a bike tour around the Amalfi Coast have been reduced to riding the local path. If I disembarking in the same condition as when I started I will feel accomplished. If I relax enough to enjoy the ride, I will keep riding. If not, maybe golf.