But I can't help but feel like a deserter. I'm leaving behind my husband, dogs, brothers, friends, and colleagues to protect their persons and properties. Not that I seriously think I'm all that essential to their wellbeing, but I could stand in solidarity and share in the camaraderie. My trip has been planned for a while; it has been months since I have enveloped Maya in hugs and kisses. She is learning an average of five new words a day: she is obsessed with coloring and is blossoming into an artist (something I value considerably) before other people's, not mine, eyes; she is developing her own fashion taste and a sense of humor. I don't want to miss these milestones just because I live 700 miles away. That is why I'm abandoning ship. Please join with me in praying for the safety and protection of loved ones in harm's way.I'm anxious right now. It's Thursday October 6 @ 12:30 and I'm on a plan destined for Chicago and the awaiting arms of my children and an 18 month old granddaughter. I feel almost like a refugee fleeing the approach of Hurricane Mathew as it takes aim for the east coast of my state. Meteorologists are saying Florida hasn't seen the likes of a storm of this magnitude since Hurricane Andrew in 19. Even the three 2004 hurricanes hitting Central Florida did not look this ominous.
My husband and I have a pact not to give each other mother’s or father’s day gifts since we are not the parents of our respective adult kids. However, as I awakened to a pinkening sky this Sunday morning, I felt pangs of regret about that decision. I’m feeling so blessed by a man who has been such a good Dad to three people I care most about in the world during the course of what will be, in five days, 25 years of marriage. Fairy tales and movies have not been kind to step parents. As I contemplated remarriage, those images took up residence in my head. Stating the obvious to my future fiancé some 26 years ago I said, “You know I have children.” His immediate response was so tender and sweet as long as I have a memory, I’ll never for get them. “Don’t you know, they are the ribbons on the package?” Those words have defined the kind of Dad he has been to my Tracy and David. I can’t count all the deeds and needs he has fulfilled. But just to name a few… When they were younger, he was the one to change the sheets and clean up the throw-up while I stood by gagging. Being the math whiz, he was the one at the dining room table bent over algebraic equations and geometry formulas. He was the one my son once dubbed “the most generous person he knew”. And this was the easy stuff. The hard stuff came when the kids were figuring out how to be adults. He was the one who kept the faith when I was over-run with Mom anxiety about their safety or college calamities. Together we figured out money for college tuition, apartments, cars, and condo down payments. It was his idea to buy our two daughters-in-law their wedding gowns. As partners, we decided to encourage his entrepreneurial spirit when we helped Jamie start a business to build a family. Even recently, at 65 he proposed yet another family business to help our kids pay off strangling student loan debt. I thought I loved my husband because of the way he treated me. But it was the way he treated our children and now our grandchildren that strengthened this love. So..even though this is not my holiday, I’m feeling very blessed.
My new baby granddaughter came to visit over Memorial Day weekend (oh and yes, her parents came too). Maya Rose is now four and a half months old. That means she is able to:
- sit up with a great deal of propping and assistance (thanks to those foam Bumbo chairs)
- hold her head up albeit in a bobblehead fashion
- respond with such a wide mouthed smile your heart performs summersaults like a cartoon acrobat
- gurgle laugh when her neck is tickled or even when the dog barks
- flips over from tummy time
- talks to you in her husky cooing voice
In 2001, the first of the Baby Boomer generation reached what used to be known as retirement age. Between 8,000-10,000 baby boomers will be turning 65 every day for the next eighteen years. Rumor has it over half the Baby Boomers in America are going to celebrate their 100th birthday and beyond. The social and economic impact of this data makes me seriously question whether 65 will really be the magic retirement number for Boomers. Case in point -- my husband. Jim is turning 65 next May. He has headed up our market research firm for the past 35 years, conducting survey research for political campaigns, environmental initiatives, and corporate clients. This business provided well for our family up until the 2008 recession hit. Our previously steady clientele virtually became non-existent over the past few years. It was a shock to our wallets and our spirits to witness how rapidly our business dwindled. But, we are Boomers after all, and Boomers have resilience built into our very DNA. Jim decided to completely change careers. Within a few months, he has gone from being a Ph.D. expert in the field of communication and survey research, to being the owner of a property management franchise. He is now managing a staff of five and learning an entirely new industry. He has no illusions about retiring next May nor does he want to. The past four years have been a struggle, as has been the case for many families. Jim has reinvented himself at 64. He loves being productive and the mental stimulation of learning a new field.Harvard economist, Edward Glaeser suggested in a recent New York Times article that, "Retirement seems out of the question for increasing numbers of Americans who are saddled with debt and whose savings evaporated during the recent bust." This description applies to a lot of people in our generation. But all does not have to be bleak and scary. If we are going to live to be a hopefully healthy 100, let’s try something new. Entrepreneurship is exploding in areas like West Palm Beach, which have historically been retirement communities. So come on, this is your chance to try out that business concept you’ve thought about for years…. This is not your mother (or father’s) version of retirement. It’s all yours to define.