What are you going to do when you retire? That was the cry of the 90's as we all madly planned for that round Australia trip, the downsizing to a smaller house now most of the kids were gone or finally getting that brand new house we had promised ourselves when we retired. None of those plans for me as I was finally working to save some of that money, busy starting our travelling again, a trip to England in 1994 and 1998 and in 1997 that big trip inland to do all the spots people had told us we had to see. Despite the fact that my husband had had one stroke and now had massive fatigue issues, at least he was mobile, cognitively bright and still had some sense of humour. The 90's went by in a flash and then boom! strokes number 2 and 3 in 1999 retired us both, me to look after him.
The period from 1999 - 2011 was the slippery slope as Ray became well again, well enough for us to travel, this time on coach trips, no longer alone and fancy free but at least seeing parts of Australia we had never seen before. We managed okay, although some days getting him up dressed and on the bus was too difficult and I ended up in tears. It was not exactly what you want on a holiday but we were out and about seeing Australia as planned. Then on one of the trips in 2006 I realised we were slower than the 80 year olds we were travelling with and quit. From then on it was visiting family and friends only but we still filled in some of the spaces on the map that we had never ventured to before. And our daughter had moved to Cairns so we finally had those mid-winter breaks in the much warmer Far North Queensland.
I think things would have been different if I was not retirement age when my husband died in September 2012 but I had some of our retirement income and had enough to live on. Which was just as well as I was totally exhausted from looking after him for 12 years and visiting daily in a nursing home for a year as well as visiting my mother in her nursing home (she died two months after Ray). Because of this I declared myself retired and stopped most of what I was doing to grieve. Looking back this was not a great idea but I needed to do it. Little by little I went back to what I was doing, got more involved in the church work, tried to pick up the pieces of my life. Now I could go down to my daughter's when I needed to and also went back to England to catch up on cousins as that had always been a part of my plan. Mind you in was strange times as I was still in deep mourning inside and trying to put on a smile and make my life look like fun on the outside.
It has been hard trying to rebuild my life and all here can probably say the same. At retirement all of those things you have put off because one or more of you are working should suddenly happen. That is what the planning was all about. But we had lived on a reduced income during his invalid years, not been able to maintain our savings so now, even though I had income there was not the money to do the things I had planned to do and anyway what was the point of trying to do the things that were OUR bucket list rather than my bucket list? I think that is the place I am at right now, finally ready to plan the next ten years of my life (G-d willing) and achieve some of what I want to achieve.
Some considerations - travel, by coach, train, plane, ship? What do I want to do, cruise the Pacific, go to Asia, explore Europe? I don't know. Resettlement - do I need to downsize ? Yes I do but I am ambivalent about how I want to live, retirement village, duplex, granny flat? Stay local? Yes, no sense at my age (68) in trying to resettle somewhere exotic and far, far away from my kids, no point in trying to live near one of them as they are so scattered either. So this decision could take a while. In the meantime start to declutter and off load those things that I am never going to use and do not need around me in my new setting.
Notice at this stage I am not contemplating getting a new partner? I am coming to the conclusion that I will likely be on my own for the rest of my life. I have had new friendships, a few dates, a few crushes, a few tentative relationships but nothing that will stand the test of time and that is my thinking right now. If there is to be someone for me they will have to be part of my present world. I think I am too old and set in my ways to make radical changes. I guess that is what Australian men my age are thinking too so it is unlikely that there will be a new partner in my life. Sad but true,
And so it is best to go back to the planning stage, planning for one, planning a future with just me in it, my family, my friends old and new and wherever that finishes up being it will be okay. I am not planning for boring days, I am planning to be active for as long as I can be so, to find new things to do and to make the most of the years I have left to me. It is the best I can do right now.