Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 352

Time Reminder

How much time do we have? Time to live is what I am talking about. Phone call today about a sudden stroke that visited a member of my family. Healthy and competent one day. Not healthy and dependent the next. When is that going to pay me a personal visit?

We just returned from a great road trip in the American west. Could we have waited another year or two? Not sure. I told my daughter that we might get a small RV when we got older. Her response, "Don't wait to long". There is probably more wisdom there than I like to admit.

We retired folks keep getting these reminders. We are moving into that zone where our own personal life keeps being notified of our limits.

The medical establishment becomes more and more part of our lives. We go to the doctor more often. Our brothers and sisters and there spouses call from some hospital. Our friends visit less often and sometimes take up temporary residence in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. The ways of the elderly take on personal meaning - if we are lucky enough to get this far.

I recently talked to an old friend who just subscribed to meals on wheels. I remember my mother talking about this program perhaps forty years ago. It seemed so remote, but it doesn't any more.

What to do? Our course of action seems very limited. We can pull the shades and hold up. Be careful when and where we walk, what we eat and drink, turn on the TV and -  you fill in the blank: sit back and smell the roses, play cards, etc.

Or we can take the other road and keep on keeping on as long as possible. The choice seems relatively clear to me. That is one of the beauties of life. We can choose as long as we are able if we don't just throw in the towel before we are forced. Various circumstances visit us all eventually. The key seems to lie in not rushing it.

All of this is based on having a good measure of luck blessing us:  having the right genes, living at the right time, experiencing neither war nor famine, car crashes or flu epidemics, the economy shifting away from our means of livelihood. The list is endless. An old cliche pops into my mind about luck meaning having the bullet hit the guy next to you.

I am a big believer in the role luck plays in our lives. I have a long running difference of opinion about this with a sibling. She believes that to a very large degree we make our own luck. We do this by making good choices. We put ourselves into position to capitalize on opportunity. Certainly I agree with this position but I place much more emphasize on the luck coming first. Sometimes opportunities just do not appear.

But to stay closer to reminders and our limited time, it is good to keep life's limits in mind.  We might want to not put off until tomorrow. We might want to make sure every day is lived as we wish. We may want to take that walk today. We may want to make that lifetime dream come true sooner rather than later.

One suggestion of which I recently read concerned our medical directives. We need to make sure we have one. Then we need to make sure that is available when we might need it. We should make sure our doctor has a copy, also a neurologist, heart surgeon, hospital, etc. We might also make sure our spouse and children have one. And it might be a good idea to give one to our good friends that might be present in case of an emergency.

"It is pancreatic cancer" a doctor recently told a fellow watercolorist who is a email friend of my wife. He is a fairly famous watercolorist and has a blog that is well read. "One year" followed the announcement of pancreatic cancer. One year. How would it feel to get that kind of prognosis? It can happen. It can happen tomorrow.


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