Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 759 Watch Your Step

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

Falling in love can be the most wonderful thing in the world. Falling down the stairs can be one of the worst. We can't ascribe good or bad to falling. It just depends. Musicians fall in love with their instruments. Artists fall in love with their creations. Kids fall down and skin their knees. Football players fall down and break their necks. My mother fell down at age 89 and never regained her health. Her fall led to surgery and then the nursing home and then the grave. We need to be a bit more careful about falling as we grow older.

We just returned from a holiday in Alaska. A chinook came through while we were there and melting snow covered the icy roads with water. There is nothing more treacherous. After living in Alaska for twenty years I am very familiar with it. We used to take hex headed screws and drive them into the bottom of a pair of our shoes for just such conditions. Alas, I no longer live there and I have no studded shoes.

One day I could stay inside no longer and pulled on regular walking shoes and headed out the door. My son and his daughter protested. I laughed off the warning and continued. I had barely made it down the slippery drive when my granddaughter shouted "Wait for me grandpa. I'll go with you." She continued, "What if you fall and end up lying by the side of the road?"

Well, I didn't fall. Then again, I didn't go more than just a few more feet before I realized my mistake. l relented and we headed back a few steps to the level and dry floors of the great indoors. I have a feeling it was a good move.

My age came up often in a humorous way. Seventy seems to be some sort of milestone in the acceptance of others that we are getting old. When we suggested cross-country skiing our first day there (before the chinook) we were cautiously encouraged. We chose to ski at Russian Jack Springs, the easiest course in the city. Our son kept a close eye on us as we maneuvered our way around the winter wonderland. Brenda and I each fell once. No damage done. We were set on a more challenging course but the warm wind ended all possibilities.

In the not too distant past I fell down some stairs at our condo in Vancouver which is on the fourth floor. I always take the stairs on my first trip of the day. On that particular day I was pulling a sweatshirt up over my head as I neared the bottom of the little used stairs. I lost track of the last step and pitched head first into the wall at the end of the landing. I even left a little dent in the sheetrock with my head. I'm not sure why I didn't break my neck or at least crack a few vertebrae but I didn't. I have approached the stairs differently since that incident. I was lucky. I now approach all stairs with a sense of purpose and attention. I know how quickly life can be changed by one false step.

I have a friend who suffered a broken foot after descending some stairs in front of her friend. She had just reached the bottom of the stairs when he fell. He landed right on top of her. She was in a cast and on crutches for a long time. Two years have now passed and she is just now starting to jog thirty second intervals. Her health and general well being really suffered.

As we were headed to the airport in Alaska my granddaughter led the way to the car in the garage. I said, "It is really dark in here". She looked over her shoulder and said, "There is a light switch right there", pointing behind me. It was bad timing. There are three steps leading down into the garage. She missed a step. Down she went. Today she is on crutches. She is seventeen. Falling isn't reserved for the retired. It distributes opportunity on an equal basis.

My granddaughter will heal rather quickly - I assume. We retired folks may react a bit differently. We don't heal like teenagers. We need to be even more careful. Maybe we should tie a string around our finger to remind ourselves to pay attention to what we are doing - especially when it involves the possibility of falling. We do, in fact, need to "watch our step."

This is Retirement Talk.

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