I know, dear readers, that I have been M.I.A. for awhile. What happened to Zoe?, you may ask. The answer is LIFE intervened.
After having spinal surgery in January, I needed a second surgery in late March to revise an issue from the first. Don’t ask! While recovering, we were preparing for two major life changes: my husband’s retirement and a subsequent move. It was the height of bad timing.
Some major changes after 50 are voluntary; others sneak up on us and some just hit us like an oncoming train. We got ourselves through the rigors of packing up and then the day of the move, I had a rather spectacular, banana peel type fall on the mover’s ramp, landing right on my lower back. Within days, I was squarely back where I started pre-surgery in terms of pain. And in the past few weeks, I have been too busy, too uncomfortable and too bummed to write. But I’m attempting to make a mental and physical comeback with a new cadre of medical professionals.
The day after we moved in, exhausted, surrounded by boxes, and overwhelmed by all that needed to be done, that train slammed into our world. Richard’s sister had a massive stroke in Arizona and within 12 hours, he was on a plane there. We were reminded in tragic fashion that life turns on a dime. Now we are adjusting to this new reality and how it will impact us.
With Richard suddenly gone, I was overwhelmed by being alone in a new house and new place with so much on my head. But I rallied, determined to have the house looking like a home by the time Richard returned. I threw myself into the task, having truly nothing better to do, and whipped the place into shape.
The other aspect of the life change was retirement. Although I walked away from a 25 year career in real estate 5 years ago with a huge sigh of relief, Richard loved the practice of dentistry and mourned the loss of clinical practice and the many generations of patients he served happily and with tremendous gratification.
Doubtless, adding a physical move to the equation doubled the impact. Both events are way up there on the trauma scale. One involves redefining your life, the other creating a new life. I faced that head-on when we moved back to Connecticut from Santa Fe and can’t stress how difficult and depressing it was, leaving a job that filled all my hours and a large social circle of great, supportive friends. Now Richard was squarely in the same situation.
So preparing for the move was anxiety producing for both of us. How would he adjust to not having patients to serve? How would we, as individuals and a couple transition to this next phase of our life and relationship? Leaving good friends behind is always difficult. Would we easily make new friends in our new community? Would we like small town New England, an essentially rural life, better than the bustling and populous area we were leaving behind? How would it feel being closer to Richard’s daughter and family yet further from my two sons? These were/are all potential issues of a retirement move. Yet we jumped into our new house with a spontaneity that can only come with a gut feeling of being in the right place at the right time. Sort of like we jumped into each other’s lives in the first place, and a little like jumping off a cliff hoping for a safe landing.
So at 67 and 73 respectively we are starting over. Having lived in MY house and HIS house, we now have OUR house and it feels good to be shaping it, and our new life together. However, I deal with physical change far more easily than my husband. While he spent his entire life in Connecticut with the exception of our four years together in Santa Fe and a stint in the army, Massachusetts is my 8th state of residence! I’m like that plant with legs that creep everywhere, a literal wandering Jew. I’ve live in a duplex, split level, lots of apartments, a Dutch colonial, tract colonial, English Cotswold, adobe hacienda, water view condo and now a Nantucket style cottage. Stylistically, I’ve covered a lot of ground. And I admit it; I get bored and welcome change. At least this kind of change. Am I done? Who knows. In 10 years, our infatuation with Santa Barbara may beckon us to a Grand Finale in the Golden State. Never say never.
Physical change has impacted us to0. I was a mere 59 when we met and he, 64. Since then, I’ve seen him through two major heart procedures and he’s nursed me through five orthopedic surgeries. So are we still the same couple that met and had a fairy tale romance in late life? Not hardly. Too much of real life has intruded: the loss of both my parents, the passing of several friends from devastating disease, financial ups and downs, and now two moves. That’s in less than 7 years of marriage.
Yes, aging is NOT for sissies.
So the ONLY constant after 50 is that life as you knew it will change. And the best you can do is roll with the punches and keep your sense of humor. Take care of yourself. Communicate; share your anxieties (and your Xanax) with your partner or trusted friends so they don’t overwhelm you. Focus on your priorities for a gratifying last act. Get to the Bucket List while you still can.
Once we are done feathering our nest, we will be focusing on our new life, opening ourselves to new people, places and experiences.
I look forward to growing, not just growing old, together. With whatever that brings.