The Journey Home

Trail walking at Lake Macbride State Park on Oct. 25, 2021.

By the end of the year I will be seventy years old. More than anything, I’m glad to have lived this long. The plan is to go on living.

My work life ended last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. I would like a new source of income to supplement our pensions, yet there is only slight financial pressure to locate one. I am not ready to return to retail or any public-facing job as I’m not convinced it would be good for me. Each day without work outside home seems a little weird. I’m trying to adjust to a new path. It isn’t going well.

There is no bucket list because I did most of what I intended going through my days. The list of things I want to accomplish isn’t long: organize and write an autobiography; maintain good health and a decent quality of life. I need to be here for those who depend upon me.

How childcare was handled during my life helped me become who I am. Mother stayed home with us while Father worked at the meat packing plant. She was there for most of the important moments of my life. I don’t know how they made it on less than $100 per week yet we had a good quality of life even after Dad died and as I left home for college. When our daughter was born, I earned enough for my spouse to provide full time childcare while I worked outside home. It freed me for jobs that demanded time and energy. I was able to travel much of the country and see things of which I had no idea. My life would have been different had these childcare arrangements not existed. Now my concern is who will care for me as I become infirm.

Having taken a course on aging in America in graduate school, I feel ready for what is ahead. Coping with sadness and loss is here. So is dealing with physical limitations. I can sense the isolation and loneliness coming. With turbulence in society there is concern for our physical security. Most of all, changes in the environment, in our neighborhood, and in myself will require attention I hadn’t anticipated. For the time being I feel hope these changes can be adequately addressed.

Today it feels comfortable to get in the car and go on a couple hundred mile trip. That won’t always be the case and I’m ready to let go of driving when the time comes. For the moment, our 2002 Subaru won’t last another five years so it will need to be replaced. I did a study of how much we can afford to spend on big purchases over the next ten years based on our income. It is not as much as I would have liked. Fingers crossed, it will be enough.

What I’ll do with my remaining time is unknown. The framework is two stages: the next ten years, and those afterward. If I maintain my health and avoid common diseases (cardio-respiratory, cancer, diabetes, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and depression) the septuagenarian years will be a time of getting bigger projects done: writing, home repair and refurbishing, and gardening. After age eighty, should I live so long, the pace of things is expected to slow down. Both my mother and maternal grandmother were mentally alert and active until age 90 so I’m hopeful.

Time goes so fast!

I walk on the trail as often as I can. It is exercise. It is a chance to reflect on my life. It is an opportunity to consider the future. Mostly, though, it is walking. As long as I’m doing it I feel I’ll live forever, even if I know differently. It is always a journey home.