The Storyteller

I am reading Dave Grohl’s autobiography and it is good. I asked myself in my journal this morning why I would read it. I’m not a Foo Fighters fan. But he was in another band before that…My very first connection to writing came through song lyrics, that’s why I read songwriter’s stories. And while I was getting on in rock years by the time Nirvana came along, I still found new bands, mostly by watching endless MTV. I’d moved on from writing poetry (and song lyrics) by this time but I never forget those early dreams, the first word stories that captivated me. Also, STORYTELLER. What a great title for a rock star to claim.

I finished up my Jane pages for the week and sent them to the critique group. I have no idea how this chapter fits into the scheme of things but I’ll figure it out. I got a new phone and it doesn’t save my photos to JPG anymore but HEIC. Word Press does not upload HEIC yet. I messed around with that for awhile but of course could not convert it so then just used an old picture. Julia is a lot bigger now! The pic I took today was of our living room in the little condo. I wanted to show the two rocking chairs side by side facing the television. I only just realized we are literally in our rocking chairs much of the time. Not necessarily watching TV.

We finally checked off the last of our to-do list before we hire a real estate agent. This is not a good time to buy a house. You might know this. Houses are in short supply and they are super expensive. But the thing is they are not getting cheaper anytime soon. And interest rates are low, so that’s good. We have been here a few months and I really believed I could stay a year if I needed to…but it’s hard. No washer, dryer, dishwasher. Second floor. Small space. I’m a spoiled brat but I’m old and I have been saving my entire adult life for this perfect Florida retirement in my dream ranch house and damn it, we’re going to do it. Also I always believe I can do things that in reality are much more difficult. Like living with my husband in a 1200 sq ft condo with no garage for a year. No! It’s too hard!

Every day something goes wrong. My dad lost his wallet so I ferried him around replacing all his paperwork instead of doing my own. I was glad to be here to help him, even though a car dealer told us it’s legal to drive without a license in Florida. The DMV said it ain’t so. Dad’s squared away now and I’m living on faith. I cannot imagine why WP does not accept HEIC. Soon, maybe. Like everything else in my life right now.

Three’s Company

Al, me and Dad

My dad is only 18 years older than I am and we are the only two of our family who live in Florida. Dad just got home from an extended visit to my mom and brothers in Michigan; Al and I are glad to have him back. It seems natural that I start to think, when I notice he’s not moving so fast these days, “this is me in 18 years.” I’ve always been interested to see how it feels to become older. It is mostly full of surprises, both good and not so great. Dad’s still got his health and his mind is sharp. He drives a cool sports car, lives in a condo a few blocks away that’s a step up from ours. We all love the weather here. My dad’s mother was born here and so was her mother, Mama Q, who lived in Leesburg her whole life. She died at 99, but not before she’d met my sons, her great-great grandsons.

It’s official now: Al and I are Florida residents. We recently received our new driver’s licenses and registered to vote. Dad has been a Florida resident for many years. He’s still married to Mom, they love each other, but they prefer things as they are. She loves the cold; he doesn’t. They are in their 80s but still visit back and forth. I got a text from my brother yesterday Don’t worry about Ma, we’ll take care of her. I knew that. And he knows I’ll help Dad if he needs me. In a way, we all grew up together.

Remember the “sandwich generation”? Caught between their children and their aging parents? Trying to raise kids and take care of Mom and Dad? I could never relate to that. It’s only lately my folks have been slowing down (a little bit) and my boys are both married with little ones of their own. My boys don’t need my help and my folks don’t either. But there is another guy I turn to all the time now that he’s retired…Al.

Since Al retired not quite two years ago, I notice I have become more dependent on him. Not life or death, just open the pickle jar. Watch the finances. Handle the real estate. Even sometimes…wash the dishes. Al is easy to lean on, but I probably do too much of it. He doesn’t complain.

Al and Dad usually golf together but they have not started yet. It’s a bit warm for Al still and Dad’s hip has been bothering him. We did take Dad to his favorite place for a waterside lunch on the Intracoastal after picking him up at the airport. It was getting cold in Michigan. 60 degrees some days! We knew he’d appreciate the heat and the band. It reminds him of better times, when his friends were all alive and they’d party the afternoons away.

I got a tiny sun blush. We all ate local-catch fish. My sandwich-free life may seem odd, our family might look strange, but we are a family and we’re all doing good.

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.


Thanks for stopping by today. Have you subscribed to my blog? If so, thank you. If not, enter your email address in the form below. I’m offering a free writing manual – Your Words, Your Story – to all who subscribe. Click here to download your copy today.

Join 6,401 other followers