For years the thoughts of growing old were as far from my mind as the terminology that goes along with the ‘golden years.’ Yes, people around me became old, got sick even died. I was sad, contemplated the cycle of life, nodded my head in all the right places, but never until the last few years did I see myself as part of this inevitable process. Perhaps it is universal, the false notion that we can avoid somehow what happens to everyone around us.
At age fifty, I opted to take early retirement, and the transition went without any significant obstacles. I managed to avoid the need to stop working, my health was excellent, and the plans many. By the time I reached Social Security age, a few years later, I was self-employed as I still am, without plans to stop working anytime soon.
Over the years, my husband and I stopped now and then to discuss our retirement years. We agreed that as responsible adults, we should plant some seeds for those years when retirement will become unavoidable.
These discussions were always a bit somber, somewhat depressing, and we were happy to pretend that all issues were discussed and resume our daily life.
With each passing year, though, the ‘what ifs’ become harder and harder to push down. I began to realize a new thought pattern when three years ago, we reclaimed our private home a few hours to the south and turned it into our winter residence.
“Closer to the kids, ” was the official reason, but the truth was that the winters in our motel became harder and harder.
“We like town living with all the amenities,” was another sentence we used frequently. Less snow shoveling and the closeness of several area hospitals was what we said to ourselves when we got ‘real.’
We rehabbed the house to meet our future needs. That meant relocating the bedroom to the first floor (next to the bathroom) to create a one-floor living. The next move will be to move the washer and dryer from the basement to the main floor to complete this arrangement.
We planned the second floor now used only for guests, so it will become an independent unit with private entrance because “who knows, one day we might need a living aid.”
In the middle of the night, sleep often evades me. Instead of counting sheep, I run in my head all the extra resources we put aside for the days that we will need to live entirely on social security. These thoughts are far from calming.
The other day I said to my husband, “We should do it now, as long as we still can,” and at that moment, I knew, this is it, the seeds of retirement have germinated, and they are in full bloom.
Ariela Zucker was born in Israel. She and her husband left sixteen years ago and now reside in Ellsworth Maine where they run a Mom and Pop motel. Ariela blogs regularly and this post first appeared at Paper Dragon.