Christmas Differences

Seems like this close to a year, I should be updating Retirement Diaries. On the other hand, isn’t everyone doing the same thing? Staying home? Lots of people dying every day. It’s depressing. We’ve lost several in our Michigan community. Out of 100 or so people, five died within a few weeks. I’ve had to make an effort to stay upbeat, not let fear or depression swamp me. It’s hard. I think it is for most of us.

Al and I have always thought differently about Christmas. It was so difficult in the early years of our marriage. My mother made our Christmas mornings magical so I enjoyed everything about it and Al didn’t share my enthusiasm. He didn’t like the commercial aspects of the holidays. But he never woke up to a living room filled with toys not just under the tree but set up like little scenes. For me, there was the little table and chairs, with a doll in one of the chairs and the Easy Bake oven on the table. Everything sparkled. One year there was a guitar for one of my brothers and a drum kit for the other one.

I didn’t know that having a special Christmas with lots of toys was commercial. I didn’t think about that. But now I see what Al means and it doesn’t matter to me that we don’t give each other loads of gifts. But it mattered to me when my boys were little. Al and I had very different childhoods and it took a few years to understand each other and all the various family traditions. We got to know each other better just by talking it out over the course of ten or twenty years. LOL I’m not even kidding. But we’re fine now and I don’t expect him to have loads of presents for me under the tree.

Many years we’ll think of one big item that we both want and we’ll buy that. Some years he surprises me with a special piece of jewelry. This year, trying to declutter the house before putting it up for sale in the spring, my mind has been hammering home to me that I have way too much stuff. It wasn’t always that way, but somehow I have about twenty boxes of Christmas decorations. I’ve sorted them into donate/trash/keep piles. Then I had to do two piles, one for Christmas in Florida this year and one for Christmas in Florida when we buy our new home. Because our condo is cute, but it’s little.

We are leaving in a week and I’m excited despite Covid. I still love Christmas. So far we have donated two large loads of Christmas things, including a tree and ornaments. I used to shop at thrift shops and Salvation Army so I’m always happy to donate things I can’t use anymore, thinking “someone will like this tree.” I tell myself a little story about how there’s a person or a couple or a family who don’t have money for a tree and they happen to spot my donated tree for $5 or whatever the price. And they’re thrilled to take it home and hang ornaments on it, wondering what kind of person gives away such nice things.

Very early in our marriage I would say to Al “I can’t believe you don’t like Christmas! Who doesn’t like Christmas?” and he’d say “I like Christmas, but I don’t like the commercial aspects of it.” And I would roll my eyes, thinking he was Scrooge. But now that our life overflows with so much stuff, I see his point.

Finance For Retired People

Al starts his morning by looking at the market. The stock market. You might have heard: today the news is not good. It has not been good for awhile. Al has been managing our financial portfolio, and since he retired, when there’s a bump and stocks go high for a day or an hour, he sells. We’re lucky. He’s sewn a cushion to blunt this blow for however long it lasts.

The television is on and we are watching the free fall. The market has closed! It’s going to open again in thirty seconds. I almost can’t write. I could go into the bedroom and write this post but I have a feeling I will keep watching the havoc on the television.

This is not a great time for retirees who have been keeping up with inflation by holding some of their funds in the stock market. The thing that caused it, COVID-19, is not good for us old people, either. At first I was sad, okay, we can’t take that Alaskan cruise. Then yesterday, we figured we probably shouldn’t stop in Dollywood on our way back to Michigan. In our car.

The television is talking about the government “saving the airlines” and I don’t understand it. Is this like the Wall Street bail out? And this morning, I wonder if COVID-19 will stop the kids from flying in for their scheduled visit in April. Mom was coming, too. Will my mother want to get on the plane at 81 years old? She’s not fond of planes in good times.

These are not good times.

Everything All At Once

In my peaceful yoga class, a phone rang. Twice. I was happy I’d remembered to turn mine off, until class was over and my friend showed me the two calls she’d gotten…from people trying to reach me. My father had been calling all over town looking for me, as he needed a ride to the doctor. Right that minute.

I managed to rush home to shower and get him to his appointment on time. He was in a bit of a panic, so I didn’t understand what he meant after I asked him why he hadn’t told me he had a doctor appointment. I’d seen him just the other day. We’d talked for hours! He said something like “they call me last minute.”

I didn’t get it, he’d said the other day he had a doctor’s appointment Friday and he’d arranged to have an open MRI. He’d been so relieved. But this was Thursday and he was going into a closed MRI machine (Dad is claustrophobic). He needed a ride because he’d be taking a larger dose of anti-anxiety medication than he was used to and wouldn’t be able to drive.

I didn’t want to ask him anything else because he was panicky. It’s hard to talk sensibly when you’re having an anxiety attack. I just said soothing things and acted like everything was normal. He kept saying I was going the wrong way, but I had my GPS on it said we were five minutes away. I knew exactly how my dad was feeling because I’ve been there many times. We share the claustrophobia gene.

We got to the doctor and three hours later he was done. How did it go? I asked him. “It was horrible! They put something over my face. I slept almost the entire time.” That didn’t make a lot of sense, but I didn’t press him. I could tell his meds had kicked in big time.

I was not clear on what he was getting an MRI for…I thought it was for his knee? So why would a neurologist be doing that MRI? Shouldn’t an ortho guy do that? And then the prescription we stopped to have filled. He’d shown me six new prescriptions (!) the other day. I asked the pharmacist what this new one was for and he said restless leg syndrome. I didn’t know my dad had that.

I am worried about my dad’s doctor visits, his prescription use, his health. I want to do more to help him, like sit in with him on doctor visits and ask questions, take notes. Check his medication and make sure he takes the right pills every day. But I fear his reaction. What if he thinks I’m invading his privacy? Or treating him as if he is incompetent? Still, I’m going to talk to him about all this tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I also need to mail in my absentee ballot plus sign up for Medicare and Social Security. I need to do laundry and shop for groceries. Friends are coming over on Tuesday and staying the night, so I’ll be making another frittata. I just made one when we had overnight friends a few days ago. Then next weekend we are going out of town for a night and in two weeks we’re meeting up with friends in Savannah, Georgia for a long weekend. I’m looking forward to all of it, okay maybe not signing up for Medicare.

Retirement is not what I imagined. In my mind, I thought it would be relaxed and easy. It is not. It is hectic. Maybe someday things will slow down, but not yet. I am so happy to have Al to help and to lean on. I don’t know how I ever did this without him. He golfs with my dad twice a week, something I for sure could not do.

Oh, and my prescription coverage changed today. I’ve only had the new one for retirees two months. But the government put me on the Medicare one. Because it’s my birthday this month. Which is why I have to immediately sign up for Medicare. Yesterday the drugstore wanted $130 to refill a prescription that used to be $3.

If all this sounds a little scattered and confused, it’s because that’s how I feel right now. Like I need a list. Or maybe three or four lists. But I am also happy to be in Florida, to see a lot more of my friends, and to have early dinners with my dad in the warm sunshine. It really is good to be alive.


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Xanax & Chill

Al’s retirement, sweet as it has been thus far, often triggers anxiety. I woke up from a nightmare in complete panic mode last night. Al said this morning that he heard a prolonged squeak from me, which I remembered was me trying to scream when a hand grabbed me in a dark room. The usual sleep paralysis didn’t allow me to move or scream out loud, but luckily I woke up. Not so lucky, I found myself in a full blown panic attack. This is not unusual, and I was able to control the panic with deep breathing instead of jumping out of bed and popping a Xanax. I fell back asleep without nightmares within minutes.

When I’m triggered by Al in the light of day, it’s different. I cope with his darker moods by taking .5 mg of Xanax. Before Al retired, my doctor and I talked about a likely increase in triggers. I would be traveling, and that’s a trigger. As much as I love travel, being a passenger makes me anxious. Then there was the unknown factor of how Al would behave in retirement. My doc suspected I’d have some bumps, because I’ve been in a smooth routine for so long.

I love my routines. What has not been a part of my routine for a long time is Al showing even a glimpse of annoyance or anger or talking for too long about taxes or insurance or the budget. He’s only human, and he does love finance. I promised I’d talk more about money with him when he retired. And I have been. I just need to pop a tiny dose of Xanax first.

For a few years now, I’ve been very gradually decreasing my Xanax dose from 4 mg a day to a current .5 mg with the goal of using Xanax only when necessary for panic attacks. So, in a way, Al’s retirement has been a bit of a setback. My doctor doesn’t want me to worry about it. She wrote a stronger script, knowing I’d need more like 1 mg a day, at least for awhile.

Anxiety is so stupid. But it’s real and I have to deal with it, because for me, anxiety is a precursor to panic. Anxiety almost always leads to panic if I don’t medicate. Or, have a martini.

I’d feel better about increasing my meds if there wasn’t a nasty side effect. Cognitive decline. Since increasing my medication I have noticed that oh boy do I forget things. My friends say stuff like “you mentioned that yesterday” and I can’t remember ever bringing “it” up. Al will say “we already talked about this” and I can’t remember. So, naturally, now I’m anxious about the cognitive decline. Which has been brought about by a really effective anxiety medication.

And so it goes. I hope to get a better handle on my mental health in the near future, but today I need to take a pill. We’re driving over a bridge across Tampa Bay to see friends. And bridges, especially over water, are always trouble for me. I feel sorry for Al, I really do. Neither one of us knew what he was taking on when we married. Which may be what’s making me anxious about his retirement. He will see a lot more of me, panic and all.

Everything is Different

As I await my editor’s comments on the manuscript of Jane in St. Pete, my website and my life are undergoing some renovations. Life has a way of moving smooth and slow for a long time and then all at once everything is different. It’s kind of that way on the blog now. And for sure that way with Al in retirement. We are still getting alongs swimmingly here on the sunny and warm Gulf Coast. I have some great people helping me make this website more reflective of where I’m at in life now. I am determined to do the messy work of cleaning up my archives and slimming down my categories! I’m excited for all the changes, although there are bound to be some behind-the-scenes growing pains. I will do my best to be totally upfront with the trials of this complete life makeover. In the meantime, if you can’t find me here for a week or two due to the dust, I’ll still be posting to all my other usual social media: Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook. ❤