Tag Archives: aging

Eighth Decade, Here I Come!

During my activity against the War in Vietnam, as well as other Peace & Justice movement activities I was involved in, I really never thought I would see my thirties. I know now I was a dreamer and a bit too wrapped up in my view of what was happening in the country, but I thought we were ripe for a revolution and I thought I would be on the front lines. That was nearly fifty years ago and time has given me a new perspective on life, the universe, and everything (H/T to Douglas Adams R.I.P.).

Today, however, marks the mid-point in my seventieth journey around our home star, Sol. It’s my half-birthday! I know . . . aren’t I a little too old to be celebrating half birthdays? I suppose, but this day has some other significance for me. Today marks the thirty-seventh year since a man surprised me on my doorstep in Venice, California, where I was living with my soon-to-be wife. He held me at gunpoint*, threatening to blow my “fucking brains out.” I managed to escape when he went to get something with which to tie my hands behind my back, something I had no intention of allowing him to do. I was prepared to attempt attacking him as he tried, but I didn’t have to. I had been preparing by slowly getting my right foot behind the bedroom door. I was lying spread-eagled on the floor, and each time he looked away I inched my foot closer and closer to the position I wanted.

Fortunately, I was able to get away from him by slamming the bedroom door (well, almost. The landlord had installed new carpeting and neglected to plane the bottom of the door, so it was almost impossible to shut it without a lot of force) in his face, levitating myself from the floor (lots of adrenaline involved at this point), grabbing my Ithaca Riot Pump Shotgun from the closet where I had carefully hidden it and practiced this very thing, and suggested he leave before I killed him. The remainder of the story is a bit convoluted and involved numerous calls to three different police departments before the first one I called finally realized they were, indeed, the proper jurisdiction for where I lived; about 200 feet east of Carroll Canal, on Ocean Avenue. It was years before I was able to finally throw off the hyper-vigilance this episode generated in me.

Also, this coming April I will be ten years older than my father was when he shed his mortal coil. This past September marked thirty-two years since he died. If you’ve read some of my other posts, his death weighed on heavily on me for quite some time. I was always considered the spitting image of him and my mother used to say “You’re just like your father” so often I was convinced fifty-nine was the limit for me as well. I think it wasn’t until I passed the age where he had had his second heart attack, and I had nothing more than moderate hypertension to deal with, I finally convinced myself I would likely live longer than he had.

So, here I am on the downside of my seventieth year on the planet. I actually used Microsoft Project to determine exactly when I would begin the second half of the year, and it was midnight today. Now, in celebration of having made it this far, and because it’s “the season,” I’m sharing two pictures I just found of a couple of my earliest Christmases. Next year is going to be interesting, no doubt. Perhaps it’s been long enough, and I can fully retell the story of this episode some time soon. This was a start.

rickysanta

Not So Happy. Perhaps Wondering Why I’m Sitting on Santa’s Lap When I’m Jewish!

rickysanta2

Much Happier. I Must Have Decided I Was An Atheist By Now & It Didn’t Matter.

 


 

* The link “He held me at gunpoint,” above, is to the decision in a re-trial the defendant won on one count of murder he was found guilty of. I was required to appear as a witness and, since he had become a jailhouse lawyer in the interim, he represented himself, meaning he was the one who questioned me when I gave my testimony. Two things – He was partially victorious on several other charges and the case was remanded to the trial court for reconsideration. As far as I know, he’s still in prison. Second, although the appellate court states he took three guns from me, he only took one; a Ruger Blackhawk .357 Magnum, with which he shot and killed two people. I carried a fair amount of guilt around for quite some time before I could finally convince myself those deaths were not at least partially on me.


Is It Too Late For Me?

 

Guy on Bike

Got to Keep on Truckin’

Lately I’ve found myself wondering if it’s too late for me to have a mid-life crisis. Maybe, if 70 is the new 50, the time is just about nigh. I’ve never had one and I’m thinking I may have missed out.


Celebrating Over a Decade of Blogging

Haven’t had the time – or the inclination – to address it, but this past Tuesday marked my eight year anniversary as a blogger on WordPress. Since I had been blogging at The Cranky Curmudgeon on Blogger since July of 2004 prior to moving over here, I guess that means I’ve been blogging for over eleven and a half years.

While I’ve always attempted to be somewhat relevant, I’ve never even considered being commercial, which should be quite evident given the rank amateur effort I’ve stood up. I know WP tacks on advertisements to my blog, though that might have gone away now that I’ve purchased their premium pack. I never saw them, so I’m not sure if they’re still there or not.

At any rate, I begin my 70th orbit around the Sun a little later this year. I’m hopeful I’ve got at least another decade of blogging to do; maybe even some seriously focused writing as well. We’ll see how that goes.


Shake, Rattle, and Rolling Along

 I’m beginning to see the effects of aging on my proficiency in much of my work; not just the slow and inexorable deterioration of mental acuity, but the slight discomfort I sometimes experience when either writing or typing. Due to my essential tremors, and the loss of flexibility and dexterity that can’t be avoided with aging, I frequently find there are times when I can barely do either. I have experienced instances when the shaking has been so bad I had to stop, stand up, and walk away until the shaking subsides.

For many years I’ve believed as long as I had the ability to type and use a computer, I would be able to communicate and, more importantly, work and earn at least a bit of income to supplement what retirement income I have. Now I’m faced with the possibility a time will come – perhaps not for another decade – when I will not easily be able to do so. I’ve experimented over the years with apps like Dragon Dictate, but I’m so much more comfortable actually having my fingers on a keyboard. If I am forced to do it, I suppose I’ll adapt. The prospect isn’t terribly exciting though.


Six Ways To Avoid Using Lists

Does Retirement Mean "Used Up"?

Does Retirement Mean “Used Up”?

OK — I’m lying about the six ways and the lists. I couldn’t help myself. I had just been perusing the Pulse articles available on LinkedIn and was amused by how many of them contain lists, e.g. “7 Ways Leaders Fail”, “The 8 Simple Rules Of Expert Negotiation”, “3 Traits Shared By Companies And Hoarders”, “The four types of clients you should fire immediately”, “12 Email Marketing Credibility Boosters”, etc., etc., etc. I could go on for some time, but I won’t bore you as much as I was. I know I’ve read somewhere that lists are a great way to create posts and get people to read them. Nevertheless, I tend to shy away from using that strategy because it seems so formulaic to me, and I’m not interested in taking that route.

I know I should have written this earlier today but, as I’ve noted numerous times before, I’m not a journalist and I don’t do this as a business, so I have never been all that interested in an editorial calendar or lining up my posts perfectly with anything in particular. Nevertheless, today is a bit of a milestone and I thought I should mark it with a bit of possibly rational blather.

It’s been exactly — datewise — four and one-half years since I retired from Rocketdyne, where I labored for approximately 23 years. My last day (though, to tell the truth, I had been working at home and nobody expected much from me for the final two weeks I was officially “there”) was May 14, 2010. I can still vividly recall my final moments; being walked to the guard at the front reception area, handing in my badge, saying goodbye and shaking hands with my Manager, and walking out the door knowing I could not walk back in beyond the reception area without an escort.

I felt both elation and sadness. I threw my arms up in the air, but had tears in my eyes. Both emotions were warranted, as the last four and a half years have made quite clear. It’s not an easy thing walking away from a large group of people who you’ve come to think of as almost family and, make no mistake about it, once the main thing you have in common with them is gone, most people essentially disappear from your life forever.

Blogging on the beach

Blogging on the beach, something I’ve never actually done

For me, this has been the hardest part of retirement. While I’ve stayed in touch with a few of my former colleagues, some of whom remained and others who became casualties of our nation’s decision to essentially forget about space exploration (at least manned space exploration) for what still seems like forever, the majority of people I saw on a regular basis I have not heard from again. There’s also a sort of mid-range group who I’ve connected with via Facebook and LinkedIn, but I’ve had little contact with most of them.

I think this is a big problem with our entire concept of retirement. In our culture it seems once you retire, you might as well be dead. The place you worked at has no use for you and, since we are also a culture that celebrates youth and fears old age and death, nobody really wants to know what you’re doing. A possible exception is made for those people who worked at one company all, or almost all, of their life and, consequently, retire with enough money to not have to do anything to supplement their income. Remaining employees do seem to enjoy receiving the occasional postcard from an exotic location, or another reminder of what they, someday, may be able to do as well.

I’m sure there are those who thoroughly enjoy hanging out and doing whatever they want, or nothing at all. I’m not one of them. Bottom line, I guess, is this. I have managed to survive relatively well, though I have yet to find a way to supplement my income such that we’ll be reasonably comfortable for the foreseeable future. I do worry about what might happen in a few years when our income suffers from inflation or some disease or unfortunate turn of events depletes what little savings and investments remain.

I also worry about my physical and mental ability to generate income. At 67 years old, it’s difficult to not notice I’m gaining speed on that inevitable slide down life’s rollercoaster. Nevertheless, I’m not one for fretting too much about choices I’ve made. I’ve been characterized by others as a survivor; one who will find a way to make things happen. Especially when push comes to shove and I’m backed into a corner. I don’t actually want to reach that point, so I’m working on quite a few prospects and avenues.

In another six months it will have been half a decade since I left the place I had been at longer than anywhere save this planet. I’m looking forward to celebrating that occasion a little more energetically. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to afford throwing a little party for some of those former colleagues who remain friends. That would be a hoot.


Living Out Loud

Lanterns afloat

My intent is for the act of sharing to be liberating for me . . . and informative for others.

I decided to celebrate my birthday this year by doing something I may regret. No, I’m not taking off to Vegas with $5k and a desire to lose my inhibitions completely, nor am I going to see if I can find some Window Pane or Orange Owsley and relive the late sixties. I’m going to delve a little deeper into what I see as a corollary of something I’ve been writing a little bit more about lately . . . working out loud. The corollary is . . . living out loud. Let me explain.

Working out loud is about finding ways to work where not merely the fruits, but also the cultivation, planting, and meticulous care and grooming of those fruits are conducted in a manner that allows others to follow along, perhaps contribute somewhere along the way. It involves activities such as moving conversations away from email and into other forms of internal communication; e.g. micro-blogging, wikis, other types of social networking/communicating/collaborating tools, etc. I have found from experience it is not an easy thing to do, even when you are a wholehearted supporter of the idea. The entire ethos of our work culture militates against it and, for some, it’s downright dangerous and heretical.

Living out loud, however, is something a little bit different. I’ve never had to do an activity report though, come to think of it, as a kid I did have to face my father’s wrath when I forgot to do one of my chores. Now, however, I’ve retired from the last place I had a regular job at, so nobody much requires me to report to them. I do have some activities I’m involved in where I keep people apprised of my efforts and progress, but it’s not the same as when I worked at Rocketdyne. Anyway, in an effort to share a little more of me, here’s my first formal attempt. I posted the following on Facebook first.

This is the first birthday I haven’t much looked forward to. Although it seems not to mean all that much, since some time in April I am seven years older than my father was when he died. I think about it, because I grew up being told I was “exactly like your father”, especially when I did something untoward or displeasing to my mother. Medically, although my experience is not like my father’s, I am nonetheless in uncharted waters. It’s a situation both my daughters will likely have to deal with their entire lives.

Also, this year I will be closer to 70 than to 65. I am entering my dotage and, frankly, my worry isn’t for me. If it was just me and Linda, I think we’d be fine. We’d get along OK. However, we have two young girls to care for and see into adulthood and sometimes I fear I won’t be there for them much longer. I’m not yet losing any sleep over it and I surely don’t plan to, but the thought I could be gone any day has a little more power than it would have even 10 years ago.

I also think the feeling was somewhat exacerbated by the sudden loss a couple of weeks ago of a long-time friend who was a half a decade or so younger than me. I was deeply affected by her loss and I’m quite certain it’s still haunting me a bit, though I don’t consciously think about it that much.

I know a few of my friends are older than I am. If you’re reading this and you’re older than me, please take pity on me.  I’m a relatively new old man. It takes some getting used to and I’ve also kind of determined this is one hell of a good place to leave some stuff for my kids. It’s why I welcomed the Timeline when it was introduced, and why I’ve uploaded some pictures I have that were taken before digital pics existed.

Sorry if I’m bothering or boring anyone. I’m experimenting with living out loud. Your mileage may vary.

 


Say What? When Did That Happen?

The Long Slide

Don’t get me wrong. Most of the time it’s like this.

Aging is an interesting subject to write about. After all, it happens to all of us and, as a Baby Boomer, my cohort is a rather large one. My experiences aren’t exactly unique . . . at least not in the grand scheme of things. However, I do bring a few wrinkles to the table. Perhaps the thing that stands out for me the most is the fact I still have rather young children.

If you read my blog or follow me elsewhere you should know by now my wife and I adopted our oldest child shortly after I turned 55. Not finding that enough of a challenge, we went and did it again when I was 59. I should point out my wife is younger than I am; not by a huge number of years, but the difference isn’t insignificant. It means when my oldest graduates high school I will be in my early seventies. Not unheard of, but surely a bit unusual.

Lately, I’ve found myself wondering if our journey wasn’t a little selfish. It’s all related to aging and my fear I will soon leave my children without a father, which will be the third (and probably most traumatic) time it’s happened to them. The first was losing their biological parents; the second their foster parents. I realize most of their memories of those two losses are pre-verbal and visceral, but I don’t think that makes them any less real and I don’t want to leave them until they’re full-grown and capable of taking care of themselves. I owe that to them.

Right now there is a confluence of events that’s causing me to think about my mortality a little more than I normally do. My retirement is far more devastating to my self-esteem than I anticipated. I’ve written about the separation I’ve felt and it hasn’t become any easier in the interim. It’s a bit difficult to feel competent when you don’t have the opportunity to test your skills and, given my propensity to continuously question my capabilities, I find myself struggling to find relevance.

Then there are the physical things. Oy! When I was a young man the only thing I was really interested in was wisdom. I wished to one day be seen as a wise person. I knew that would take time and that I would not be the one to determine when I had reached whatever level that might be. You don’t, after all, hang out a shingle advertising “Wise One Here”! For that reason I looked forward to getting older. Not that I wanted to rush anything, but the aging process was a necessary precondition to attaining my goal.

When I hit about forty it suddenly dawned on me I had not considered the physical consequences of aging. I was not pleased with knowing how naive I had been. Clearly, wisdom was still a long way off. Each year now brings new challenges: Essential tremors, deteriorating vision, and a host of other areas in which I experience physical deterioration, the inexorable acceleration of my downhill slide. They all seem to be converging on the next big milestone – my 65th birthday, now a mere four weeks away.

I’m not sure it would affect me as much as it has were it not for the end of my COBRA health insurance six weeks prior to Medicare kicking in. Actually, I planned on it and I’m not really all that worried about bridging the gap. However, I don’t recall ever being uninsured in my life . . . so it’s a bit weird to realize I am totally uncovered right now. I’ve suggested to my friends I might spend the six week transition entirely in bed, but I’m sure that would just give me a heart attack.

I’m not entirely certain what I’m writing now is all that coherent, as I sometimes feel I’ve lost a few of my cognitive faculties. Normal driving can be cause for concern on occasion, as I don’t seem capable of anticipating three steps ahead like I used to do so effortlessly. I suspect, at times, it’s all relative and what I’m experiencing isn’t objectively as bad as I feel it is, but how do I know? Again – Oy!

So . . . I promised I would write a little about how I’m dealing with the aging process. This is it. I believe I’ll have more to say but, in the interest of getting something out there (a skill I am still struggling mightily with) I want to post this. Please don’t hold me to anything. Clearly, these are the ravings of an old man who, having awakened one morning to find his youth behind him, is seeking to understand what the fuck just happened.

Tomorrow I’m going to address why I chose to incorporate professional and personal posts into the same blog. TTFN🙂


A Less Than Auspicious Anniversary

I have an interesting anniversary arriving in about a week. Actually, it arrives in precisely a week; seven days, that is. May 14, 2012 will be two years since I retired from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. Two years. It hardly seems that long ago I decided to accept an offer to retire early and strike out on my own. To be honest, I’m still not sure I made the right choice, but I did make it and I thought I would spend the next week recounting my “adventures” since then.

Does Retirement Have to Mean "Used Up"?

Does Retirement Have to Mean “Used Up”?

I should point out my retirement wasn’t entirely voluntary, though the choice was mine. I had no intention of retiring . . . ever. All the men I grew up with, including my father, worked until they dropped dead and, unfortunately, many of them – including my father – dropped awfully early. This was not my plan. The way I looked at it, work is what defines us and I expected to have something interesting to do for many a year to come. I though I would work at Rocketdyne well into my eighties.

It didn’t work out quite like I had contemplated, but it has made for an interesting two years and, I trust, will continue to provide challenges for years to come. However, it hasn’t exactly been easy . . . for many reasons. First, there’s the reality that my income has dropped considerably and we’ve been moving backward a bit each month as expenses slightly outpace income. Savings are really helpful, but they’ll be gone at the rate we’re going before the kids make it to college. This I find intolerable.

To remedy this I’ve tried, admittedly somewhat halfheartedly, a couple of different approaches I will attempt to chronicle in the next couple of days. My first attempt was to provide consulting services to small businesses seeking to use social media to market themselves and teach them how to engage with their target – and current – markets. Not only did the economic conditions militate against my being able to find success in the market I plunged into, but the very conservative nature of this town ensured people were not going to be easily convinced of the efficacy of a social media strategy. I was not prepared for their skepticism and reluctance to push the outside of the envelope. My bad.

One of the adjustments I have made is to lower my expectations considerably and work from there. This includes, of course, adjusting the rate I can charge for my services. I’m working at finding the sweet spot for that part of my endeavors.

Another major aspect of this milestone is that I will be 65 years old in less than a month. As prepared as I’ve been to accept, and even embrace, the inevitability of aging, I am still struggling with aspects I had not anticipated. I will try to go further in depth regarding these aspects in the next week. Suffice it to say that ageism is, I’m pretty sure, still very much a part our culture. The combination of reality and myth is very powerful and impinges on most everything I do. I’ll try and discuss my approach to aging and what has changed for me in the past several years tomorrow.

 


Can I See You Now?

Reading Glasses

Life Savers for a Bibliophile

A little while ago I wrote about one of the “interesting” challenges I’m facing as I grow older. I was reminded the other day of another challenge; one that’s been around for a while but is taking on a slightly new dimension.

I have been wearing bifocals since I was about 40. Many people need glasses early in life, but almost everyone eventually suffers from Myopia as they age and need reading glasses. At the beginning I really didn’t need much more correction but, since reading was so important to me and an exercise I indulged in quite frequently, I decided to forego them in favor of full size spectacles. I did have a very slight astigmatism, which my lenses corrected for, but I would have been fine without them. This way, however, I didn’t have to wear something around my neck or have to continuously reach for a case to take out – and replace – my glasses in order to read.

As the years went by, I reached a point where my astigmatism was such that I needed the regular lenses as well and by then I was used to wearing glasses all day long; had been for years. I never even considered contact lenses as I didn’t think the extra work was worth it for whatever convenience (and vanity) it might afford. I even had a special pair of glasses made specifically with only my regular prescription, which I used exclusively for practicing and playing golf.

About a year or two ago, while I was driving (a car, not a golf ball) I happened to look at what I thought were a couple of birds flying in an amazingly tight formation. I remarked to my wife about the incredible closeness in which those two birds were flying. She looked at me like I was a bit nuts and pointed out there was only one bird. It wasn’t long before I realized my vision had finally begun to deteriorate a little more.

Unfortunately, by then I no longer had vision insurance and I just wasn’t prepared to spend a lot of money on a new prescription and new glasses. I resolved to deal with it for as long as I could, but I’m getting tired of seeing every star and planet in the night sky with a small companion to its lower left. The Moon is now a somewhat featureless circle too. The other day, while driving to pick up my daughter from gymnastics, I noticed two women jogging closely together as I glanced down a side street I was passing. I knew there was really only one person, as they were both wearing the same exact clothing. I guess it’s about time to fix this before I become dangerous.

Photo via Flickr by Mr. T in DC


Shake, Rattle, & Roll

Shaken, not stirred

The Mmmoon and Vvvenus!

Mmmoving Dddown the Rrroad

It’s incredibly disconcerting to raise a forkful of food to one’s mouth, only to have most of it fall off due to the shaking brought on by essential tremors. Not actually complaining. After all, I’ve had a pretty damn good life, and this is really more like a speed bump.

Still, I’m really beginning to understand – viscerally – the phrase “Growing old is not for the faint-of-heart”. Neither am I asking for sympathy. I’m merely sharing something that comes to mind almost every time I eat, shave, or hold a glass of liquid. I recall it happening to my mother; now it’s happening to me.

As I round the last turn and head into the home stretch, the changes are fascinating and, as a Baby Boomer (born in 1947), soon many of you will be following along. So get your whip ready. The race is getting interesting and it’s going to take all you can muster to finish respectably. Thanks for listening to me bitch and moan. http://amplify.com/u/a1j8xd


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