This is long. You don’t have to read it if that bothers you. Quit anytime. I needed to write it to remember a crazy year – it’s for me.
I think there is future value in looking back. I’m examining whether I was the person I wanted to be in the past year. I usually ask myself, as opportunities come up, if I’m making the decisions that are consistent with my goals, but I actually anticipate this exercise of looking at those decisions in bulk at the end of the year. The bigger picture is helpful to me. It places me in time, and feeds into the resolutions for the new year. Especially as aging takes place, the things that did or did not happen can inform my ambitions for 2018.
I started 2017 in Seattle with Esther, my daughter. I heard the compline service at St. Marks cathedral for the first time and was impressed with simplicity, with introspection while listening to sacred music with others who were also responding with respect and appreciation. Last January was also the introduction to eating differently as we searched for answers to health problems. I am keeping a lot of what I learned about food and will continue to eat differently in 2018.
While I was out west, my mom and husband were keeping things together at home in Florida. After my return in January there were pressing issues – the renter who could not pay, the friend who broke his hip, therapy for a hand injury, and the endless yard work. There was also fun doing things with Mom. We visited her old haunts in Brooksville. Another time, we joined brother Ron and his family in River Ranch for an outing.
Early in February, Mom was scheduled to make her way back to Wisconsin. We combined the trip with a visit to daughter Julie in Greensboro, NC. She had moved there in December and none of us had seen her new abode. Brother Bob came down from Wisconsin to help with travel. At the end of our time in North Carolina, we visited the fabulous Biltmore House in Asheville. Mom and Bob went from there to Wisconsin while Julie and I drove back to Greensboro. I spent a week with Julie, meeting her coworkers and seeing what everyday life was like for her. I flew back to Florida and in one week February was gone.
I stayed close to home in March. Brother Dennis and his family spent time in Orlando and we did join them there for an overnight and another visit to River Ranch. Some friends parked their RV in our yard for a week and I was able to do some fun entertaining with them. We finally got free from the tenant who was several months delinquent in her rent. Always on my mind was the need to simplify our lives, pare down our possessions, and work toward the sale of our house and a move. No date was attached to this, but it had been our prayer that we would live closer to family in the future. My focus was to move toward readiness. I fixed things, painted things, cleaned out and donated things.
April, the month of Esther’s birthday, and mine, left me feeling sad. I went on a solo kayak outing just to feel that I had marked the day. Sitting out in the middle of Lake Manatee, talking on the phone with Esther and later with Julie is how I will remember celebrating. My writing life has been marked by the number of years I’ve been able to do the April A to Z Challenge – this year was the third. Later in the month Julie flew down to do some veterinary work for a friend. We wanted to spend more time with her, so we rented a car and drove her back to Greensboro. And it was May.
We spent that first week in North Carolina and it was eventful. One night we were in a violent windstorm that wreaked havoc on the property where Julie lives. Julie and I did a day hike at Hanging Rock and I’m hoping we’ll have many more days like that one. We spent a long day working at a horse auction and I’m hoping there won’t be a lot of days like that for her. Dennis and I did some touring. The sad part of our trip was finding Julie’s cat Rodgey, killed on the road. I don’t know if it’s easier to go through sad times together, but it is bonding.
The last half of May seemed dominated with doctor’s appointments, watching the news about terrorism, and dealing with the discovery of termites in our house. On the 27th, we left our abode while it was tented, and stayed at a friend’s house on Longboat Key for two nights.
It was June. After the tenting I spent a week working in the part of our house that we don’t live in. It has been rented out for several years without us being over there to fix and maintain, so it needed work. We are tired of being landlords of our three properties. I think God heard me thinking that. We had listed our rental condo with a realtor and got an offer to buy. That was so exciting!
The second week I left for my fourth trip to Cambodia, the first solo flight for me. Julie came also and we shared accommodations. We had a wonderful time with our Cambodian friends and the rest of the team, doing some of our usual activities and a few new things too. I actually took a hike in a jungle! I didn’t feel well on my return flight on the 17th, so it was an ordeal. While I was traveling the offer on our condo fell through and it went back on the market.
July was marked by a trip to Knoxville and Pigeon Forge for Dennis and I. Okay, so we had to listen to a sales presentation for a vacation rental, which we resisted. Julie drove over to meet us and we had another Appalachian mountain hike and an interesting weekend in a hotel room with Tess, the dog. The next week I had a new therapy done on my painful thumb joint. I had read a lot about stem cell therapy, which I couldn’t afford, and platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy, which I could afford – barely. I can’t say that it has helped but in the process I discovered a new brace which has enabled me to continue using my thumb.
Other tasks in July included talking with a realtor about selling the house, two more offers on the condo, doctors and dentists visits, reading, and writing. In anticipation of a move I have been going through all my photos and condensing, keeping only ones that have people and places that I recognize (where do all those others come from?! I don’t know…) I also returned to the project of converting my parents video cassettes to digital form. I finished the month by having some broken cement in our driveway removed and replaced with gravel. I only mention that because it caused such a fuss.
In August, Dennis and I tried really hard to walk on a regular basis. I also did a lot of biking in our neighborhood – sometimes 10 to 15 miles at a time, which I tracked on my health app. We notice that it is harder to keep active. I had a lovely time getting reacquainted with my gastroenterologist (liver ultrasound and colonoscopy) and also had a good report from my retinal specialist. After a lifetime of very little doctoring, I can finally thank Medicare for all the new professionals I’ve met recently. The aging process has started to make a difference in our lives, yes it has.
And I probably won’t ever forget the huge wasp nest on a tree in front of our house that grew and grew until we had to get an exterminator to take care of it. Interesting.
On August 21st Dennis and I flew to Seattle. Back in June, Esther had suggested that it was time for us to meet Ryan’s parents. We were glad to know more about Ryan since he has become important in Esther’s life. The week went by way too fast, but we had a memorable and productive time visiting the Bruels on San Juan Island in Puget Sound. We went whale watching among other things.
On August 31st we closed on the sale of that condo! Relief.
September was pretty much taken up with having a hurricane. Irma kept us nervously watching and preparing for days. When it finally hit, we weathered it on mattresses on the floor in the safest part of our house (bathroom) with my cousin Mark and his wife Kathy. Again, bonding through adversity.
Another interesting development in September – we invited a homeless young man to temporary shelter in our house. With the hurricane, one of his friends needed a place to be safe and also came to stay. Is it true that things happen in threes? Another young man we had known for years was also homeless and in desperate circumstances so we also gave him a place. Three guys, in their 30’s, struggling to get/keep jobs, living in their cars – the beginning of a learning experience for us.
Clean up after the hurricane was exhausting – the debris, the mud, on our property and the property I oversee for a friend – and expensive. On the 17th I took Kathy and Mark to the airport in Tampa and continued on to a needed vacation with Julie in Greensboro. I got there in time to help her host a visit from Dennis’s brother and sister in law, Ron and Deanna. It was also Julie’s birthday week so I got to help her celebrate. And it was a rest for me to get away from the mess at my beloved “oneacrewoods”.
On October 1, my brother Ron came up from Lake Worth with his bobcat on a trailer. He cut up and removed the huge kapok tree that had blocked our drive since the hurricane. After a month, we were finally able to see a possible end to the disorder. It made a big difference and I was so thankful for his expertise.
For the next couple of weeks we dealt with the ups and downs of our three house guests. I could probably write a whole book about that, so it obviously won’t fit in here. We were also anticipating a visit from Esther and Ryan. They came that last week of October, during which we kayaked on the Rainbow River , toured downtown Sarasota, and had interesting conversations about Esther’s Airstream which had mysteriously gone missing from her driveway a couple days before they left.
November. Pressure washing our house, it took weeks with only hired help Joe and myself. Selling furniture – our couches disappeared from the living room. The thought that we might move became more real. House guest drama – we all thought they would be “on their feet” after six weeks but they had nowhere to go, so we extended their stay. We even decided that they could stay alone while we went up to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving. Dennis and I flew to Minneapolis on the 22nd. Julie also flew there that night and we met and rented a car for the drive to Hayward. It was a good gathering but maybe a little smaller than other years. We left on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving to fly back to Florida.
November 29th I got a call from brother Dennis, the one who owns an award business in Wisconsin. We had just been with him for Thanksgiving. He had an emergency. A large shipment of awards needed to be picked up in Memphis TN and delivered to Orlando FL in the next two days. I had nothing else planned so was on a flight to Memphis the next day, and by Friday night I had accomplished the mission. I felt really good that I was still able, not just to consider doing it, but to get it done. I can still drive and I am still up for adventure.
In December I spent a week washing clothes, getting the house in order, and continuing to prepare for the need to move. All the while I was getting the impression that winter was beginning to wear on my Mom. We had seen it during our Thanksgiving visit, and communication afterwards made it even clearer. Mom was having to decide about trying out an assisted living apartment. It would be a huge move emotionally and I felt she needed support and help. My husband felt he wasn’t ready to fully retire and spend the winter in Wisconsin but I was able.
On the 13th of December I flew back to Minneapolis and took the shuttle to Hayward. I have relearned the things I had forgotten about Wisconsin winters – snow, below zero temps, driving hazards, skiing, the whole Northwoods vibe.
Mom has decided she owes it to herself to see what assisted living is like. She looks forward to not having to cook for one, not having to clean, having a warm place to walk and not having to be alone if she doesn’t want to be. I want to help her find furnishings for the new apartment and get moved in before I go back to Florida. December ended last night.
I look back on the year and about the only thing that is clear is that life, as we have known it, is going to change. It will probably change a lot in 2018. There are a lot of uncertainties as to where we will be and when we will go there. I am so glad we have put uncertainties in God’s hands instead of insisting on trying to figure it all out. If we can resist the temptation to worry and do what becomes possible and necessary day by day, we will get through another year just fine. One of the best things Dennis and I have done in the last few years is to remind ourselves of how much we depend on our relationship with the one who knows the future, Jesus Christ. We do it by talking with each other and to God – kind of like a daily conference session – in prayer.
It is additional benefit that what we say to God teaches us a lot about each other. One striking aspect about aging is that we are changing a lot in a short period of time. We are suddenly adjusting to empty households, physical limitations, changes in how we are valued at work, changes in how we spend our time, changes in how we relate to all the important people in our lives. It is an important time to find common ground again – something that we may have lost in the busy years before retirement. Our prayer time does that for us. God knows that, we feel his pleasure, and we feel peace because of it.