Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 430(266) Look Around

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery

The doctor said I had keratoconus.  I'd never heard of it. "The cornea of your eyes are pointed; sort of cone shaped," he said. "Normal corneas are softly rounded. Keratoconus usually happens when people are younger but it looks like yours is happening a little later in life". "There is no cure" he went on, "you will lose your sight". The darkened eye examining room just got much darker.

"How long?" I asked and the reply was that he couldn't tell but probably within 4 or 5 years.

I remember going home and looking out the window into the snow covered wood. It was beautiful. I didn't want to blink. l lingered on the white birch bark and green spruce. My eyes dived into the curled bark on the birch and the white snow on the green spruce. Then my gaze came inside and circled my study. Books were piled on books. The shelves were lined to overflowing. Photos with special meaning sat on the desk. My eyes stopped and I tried to memorize each.

This part of life would soon be over. It put a certain edge on the day. That was 37 years ago. The doctor was wrong. I still have my vision. But I still look closely.

Walking to a coffee shop two days ago I commented on a series of things - the white caps on the bay, the snow on the Canadian Cascades and the gorgeous cedar trees that stood by the trail. My wife looked up in each instance. She likes to walk with her head down. "I like to see where I'm going" she says.

Similar stories happen every time we are out. She has a way of focusing. I don't. I am always looking around. I'm a scanner.Sometimes too much. I run into things. I recall riding my bike on a bike trail in Alaska with a friend and two women were walking on the other side of the road. I noticed. I noticed a little to long. The bike trail made a turn and I didn't. There was quite a drop off. I thought my friend would die laughing. I have to admit it does still bring a little smile whenever I think of it.

That little story reminds me of the time I was ridding my bike and a big bald eagle flew towards me just off to my left; caught a updraft and started into turn out over the bay. I saw all of this right before I ran into a mailbox. As I lay in the road and the postman pulled up next to me in his truck. "You all right?" he asked. I was checking my body for injuries and responded, "Embarrassed. That's all".

Just today as we walked to a coffee shop in Vancouver my first comment out the door was to cross the street and walk in the sun. My wife commented, "You see everything." Probably another 5 or 6 incidents occurred on this twenty minute walk. The window display, the architecturally interesting building, the sign a street person was holding, the music from a busker, the height of heals a woman was wearing.

A friend of mine had a son of college age who got a summer job attaching people to a bungee chord before the jumped off a crane in Durango, Colorado. Bungee jumping was just becoming a big "thing". On his first day of work he thought it only reasonable if he was to hook himself up as a test to see if he really understood what he was doing. He didn't. His father told me that after his son's death he and his wife would walk around the neighborhood and everything looked different. Everything was so precious, so clear, the colors were more intense the shapes were more pronounced. He said that he has never looked at life again like he did before his son took that plunge. He sees things.

Retirement has that advantage. We can slow down. We can even stop. We can stare. We can dwell or spend our time in amazement. That is what my grandkids say about me, "Grandpa, you're amazed by everything". It doesn't take much to stop me in my tracks.  

I tell my wife that the reason I look around so much is genetic. I claim that it comes from our ancestors walking across the savanna and being on the look out for game to eat or threats to our safety. I have no scientific evidence for this; it just a hunch. I do remember standing on the Sarengetti Plain one evening as dark closed in and I heard the hyena howl. I was alone and had walked illegally out of camp to see the animals and plain in the sunset. It was magical. I saw baboons, giraffes, wildebeest and zebra. I even ran at the zebra heard on impulse and they galloped off a few yards across the plain. The dark comes quickly  near the equator. The sun is up and then - in just a few minutes- it's dark. It was so dark that I was surprised when a small flock of Egyptian geese flew over. It seemed too dark for birds to fly.

I knew that if I stayed there just a bit longer I would become the evening meal of some carnivore. Considering the absurdity of life I thought about it. Then I moved on. Hope is something else that is in our genes. All of our ancestors possessed that gene as well as the one that told them to look around.  

Vision is an amazing thing! I may keep bumping into things and occasionally  fall off my bike but part of my retirement has to include looking  around - constantly.

This is Retirement Talk with something to think about.

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