💫 My wife and I recently celebrated being in our retirement community for two years. It took us a few months to adjust to our new environment, but now the place seems like home. What’s not to like? They do the home maintenance, make necessary repairs (all I have to do is submit a work order), cut the grass, put mulch in our flower beds, clean the gutters, and much more. My wife hasn’t cooked a meal in two years, plus we can invite friends and family over to eat with us in the dining room. I get to spend my time doing whatever I want to do. This is precisely what retirement should look like. There are about 420 of us on a campus that is, perhaps, 45 acres of beautifully landscaped paradise. We are located close to I64 and a major street that will take us quickly to any store in town. If I need to go across town or to a nearby city, I jump on the interstate and hop off at the appropriate exit.
I want to say that we planned our retirement to include all these beautiful things, but unfortunately, we did not. We lived in our home in a nearby town for thirty years, were perfectly happy, and then started getting old. I was 80, and my wife was 79, and we knew our health would decline within the next decade, and we didn’t want our children to interrupt their lives to look after us. So, we moved to this retirement center (The Chesapeake) in Newport News, VA.
We knew about this retirement center because we selected it for my mother-in-law when my father-in-law passed away in 2001. She lived here for ten years before passing away, so we knew the place well. What surprised us the most was that it wasn’t all the amenities available here; the residents and staff make it so enjoyable. In our previous home, I knew about 8-10 people on our street. I have 80-90 friends here, and everyone I meet is friendly and outgoing. In addition, we have weekly entertainment, classes to attend if we choose, and an excellent fitness room and swimming pool. I never thought retirement would be this enjoyable. We still like to take monthly trips somewhere. Recently, we took a trip to Pigeon Forge, TN, on our community-owned bus, and then a few weeks later, we drove our truck to Lumberton, NC, to spend time with two long-time friends (Don/Louise).
My favorite time of each day is dinner in the dining room at 6 pm. There, we usually eat with two couples (Richard/Nancy & Tom/Betty). Still, we are occasionally asked to dine with other friends, which is always fun. For years, my wife and I ate alone at our former home, munching our food as we watched the evening news and Jeopardy. Our meals are filled with wonderful conversation, and laughter fills every nook and corner of our dining room. What a joy that time brings!
I would be remiss if I failed to mention that getting old also brings trips to the doctor’s office to prevent health problems and care for the already present ones. As we age, our hearing deteriorates, our eyes need more robust glasses, and sometimes our heart needs a pacemaker. We also lose the thing that keeps us upright, called balance. Many of my fellow residents have canes, walkers, and scooters to use as they navigate our compound’s different areas. Sometimes, we check into the healthcare unit of our compound for a short stint, then go back to our apartment/cottage to resume normal activities. That is how life travels in our small community.
All in all, a wonderful place to be. Northcote Parkinson said, “A luxury once enjoyed becomes a necessity.” Yup, that shoe fits me quite well!
💫 I did some online research, and at age 82, I’m older than 99% of the world’s population and older than 97% of all the people in the United States. There are 7.9 billion people younger than me but only 175,000 people older than me. By filling in some simple information, I was told that they projected me to die on April 10th, 2031. And I thought only God knew the date of my death! Of course, we all know that if you see it online, it has to be true 😊. I read an article by a fellow that is 93, and he said he thinks about death about every 15 minutes. I remember reading an article many years ago, when I was in my mid-thirties, that men think about sex every 15 minutes. I remember thinking that was probably true. I’m not sure about the thinking about death thing. I know that it’s much closer than it was, but it seldom enters my mind. I have too much going on in my life to think about dying. I cannot tell that any of my friends worry about the endgame either. Dolly Parton said, “I think you have to work at being happy, just like you have to work at being miserable.”. Amen to that!
💫 Recently, as I removed my glasses, the arm on the right side detached itself from the rest of the unit. I tried to put it back in place, but with reduced vision, it was impossible. Off I go to my local optometrist to get it fixed. The nice young man behind the counter looked at the detached arm and informed me he would return in a few minutes. Off he goes to his workshop and sure enough, returns with the arm reattached to the rest of my glasses. I shake his hand, tell him how much I appreciate what he has done, and leave. Lo-and-behold a few days later, the same thing happens again. Back I go to the same fellow, and he asked me, “How long have you had these glasses?” After some thought, I responded, “I think I bought them here in 2018.” He enters some information on his screen and says, “You have had these since 2013.” I was dumbfounded! How could I be that far off? That helped me decide quickly that it was time to replace them. He asked me if I had an old pair that I could use until he finds a frame my lens will fit into, and I informed him I do. I expected it would happen, so I had the old ones in my jacket. He cleaned them and put new nose pads on them, so I’m now walking around wearing the glasses I wore ten years ago.
They aren’t as comfortable as the ones being repaired, but then again, I don’t expect them to be. I advised the young man to be as frugal with my money as he would be with his own😊. He told me he would. Hopefully, my vision will be fully restored within a few days. Reminds me of the US Marine Corps motto, “Embrace the suck.” I’m tryin’.
If you’re interested, I wrote a missive titled “Life’s New Chapter”, on April 10th, 2021, about our expected move to our retirement community. You can read it here. I think you’ll enjoy it.
Twenty Years… by JoAnn
I heard someone complain the other day that they were turning 40. I laughed inside my head at what a silly statement that was. I thought how nice it would be to be 40 again! That got me thinking back to when I was 40, twenty years ago.
Twenty years can hold an enormous amount of experiences and memories. I had many experiences that were incredibly challenging in my early 40s. The first being a painful divorce. Which then led to being a single mother to my youngest daughter. Moving out of our home, a house I had dreamed of my whole life. Downsizing into a rental that was literally one-eighth the size of the home we left behind. I had a tough time dealing with this change. Then followed the loss of my only remaining parent, my Daddy. I became lost in the grieving of both my parents and had no choice but to leave behind the life I once had with them. Depression set in, and there were many days I did not believe I could continue on. And my early 40s were only the tip of the iceberg of heartache! But from ashes comes beauty, and all of the sorrows were not what God had planned for me.
I began counting some of the blessings that I have received in the past 20 years. All of the joyous occasions I would have missed had I not been around. I saw with great pride all three of my grandchildren being born, and I have gotten to know and love each one as their own unique individual. I have watched their mother, my oldest daughter, become the mother and wife I had always dreamed of being. I have watched her marriage with my son-in-law become a relationship my heart had always hoped for. They continue to amaze me with their love 20 years after their marriage. A marriage everyone thought they were too young for. I saw my youngest daughter graduate high school and become one of the most beautiful young women I have ever known, both inside and out. I saw her marry the love of her life, and the two of them make a stable home they are proud of. I’ve watched them go from teenagers to adults and am amazed at how much they have grown into amazing people. I watched my middle daughter graduate from college with honors. Only to keep going in her education till she reached doctorate status. The things that girl has accomplished in her life truly boggles my mind. All with marrying the love of her life, a young man I considered family long before their ring exchange. I could not be more pleased. My heart has become swollen with pride for all of my children.
In 20 years, I have done a lot of growing myself. After my children were grown and had their lives going strong, I moved around from place to place. But with each move came an opportunity that I could only grow from. God used each and every success and failure to make me a much stronger woman than I ever thought I could be. And because of this, I was left with a broader understanding of myself and life. Not to mention the new friends and family I picked up along the way.
I am happy to say that over the past 20 years, every relationship that is important to me has grown by leaps and bounds. I feel closer to those I hold dear to my heart than I ever thought possible. All in all, the past 20 have been a success. The good vastly outweighs the bad, and I consider myself blessed! Now the question is, will there be another 20 years to experience? Well, I have almost one year down and 19 to go. I’ll let you know in another 20 years how it all turned out.
Taylor’s Birthday!!! by JoAnn
Today(Jan 17th), my youngest granddaughter Taylor, turned 17 years old!!! As I browsed through the many photos I have of her, my mind raced back and forth over the years of her beautiful young life. I’m still pinching myself that she is actually that old already.
Taylor has always been a ray of sunshine. I even nick-named her my Little Miss Sunshine when she was three years old. She has always entered a room with a smile on her face and a look of love in her eye. She has always been sassy, smart, helpful, and kind. She’s an extraordinary young lady. I feel blessed to call her my granddaughter.
As proud as I am of Taylor’s accomplishments, good grades, and the inevitable bright future she has before her, I’m not looking forward to her growing up. With that comes growing away as well. This time next year, she will be planning her senior prom and high school graduation. By then, she will also have plans for where she will attend college. My hopes are that she won’t be far away. Selfish, I know, but the thought of her not being near is more than my heart wants to take. Maybe I’ll get used to it in another year and a half.
Looking back on when I was 17, I remember feeling grown already. I always had a job, paid for many of my own needs, and couldn’t wait to graduate high school and venture out into the world as an individual. So then, why is it that I feel my granddaughters are too young to be doing those things? I am sure they are ready to move forward in their individual lives, just as every other teenager that takes that walk in their cap and gown and hears their name called in recognition.
It could be because I have already lived through it and know so many of the experiences my granddaughters have yet to have. Maybe it’s because I watched my three daughters go through so much. Perhaps I want to keep them small for just a little longer. Home safe with family where the evils of this world can be kept at bay. But then they would miss out on all the wonderful things the world has to offer them. So we must grin and bare it and hope for the best. Simply guide them in the direction we think is right, knowing they may go the opposite instead.
I hope that Taylor and her older sister Randi will continue to grow, learn, and enjoy life in every phase they go through. That they will be able to make it through all of the storms that life will definitely force upon them. That they will always come out the other side stronger and wiser. And that the good times will always outweigh the bad.
Here’s to another happy birthday in the books. May there be many more!
Satchell of Memories
💫 I have a large drawing of the coal camp I grew up in (Page) hanging over my desk. An old friend (Reese) gave it to me, and I cherish the memories it triggers. It looks exactly as I remember it. When I make the yearly trek back home to visit family and friends, I always drive up to where that camp was (it was torn down in the late 1950s) and think about the people who lived there. My aunt Beulah is the only adult from that camp still living, and most of the children from there have lost touch with each other or passed away. I still stay in touch with many of my high school classmates, but very few from the coal camp I spent my childhood in. We were stuck between two mountains that only let the sunlight in for about 6-7 hours each day. Our fathers went to the coal mine each morning, and our mothers cleaned the house, washed clothes, and read a lot. We, kids, were always looking for a game to play or something naughty to do. Life, at least to us children, was simple: find someone to play with. My mother would send my brother and me out of the house after breakfast (during the summer) and instruct us not to return until lunch. She was cleaning the house and wanted it to remain that way until dad got home. If we wanted a snack, we snuck in the back door, grabbed a biscuit, and then dashed outside before being discovered.
I recall how slowly time passed during those summers and how eager I was for school to resume. I was also keen to become an adult and make my own decisions. Adulthood arrived quickly. I remember boarding the bus in front of our home in southwest Virginia, headed for San Antonio, Texas, and basic training in the US Air Force (1959). I remember looking out the window of that bus as it drove away and thinking that part of my life was over and a new life was beginning.
Now, I’m sitting here at my desk, looking at the drawing of the Page Coal Camp and reminiscing about my life of long ago. I see myself as a nine-year-old boy with a bag of coal slung over his shoulder, struggling up the hill to our house so there would be fuel for the furnace to keep us warm. That was back when all kids had work assignments, and no one was excluded from contributing to the family’s survival. Those assignments were always in addition to schoolwork and were accepted without protest. I never remember protesting to my parents about a task I was assigned. It would have had a minor effect and likely resulted in a severe tongue-lashing.
I recall telling my dad that I wanted to play high school football (9th grade), and his automatic answer (continually) was, “No!”. I immediately walked down the hall to the kitchen and implored mom to convince him to change his mind. In a few minutes, he called me back to the living room and said that I could play football, but “It damn sure better not interfere with your chores!”. I hastily assured him it would not. On a lot of nights, they were finished at 10 pm. No, I didn’t feel sorry for myself, that was just the way life was. I felt my father was justified in expecting me to carry my part of the family load.
So, I’m left wondering why I choose to think about “the good old days?” Maybe, it’s not because they were better than my life as an adult, but because of an inner need to believe that my core values were derived from that period in my life, that morals were better back then, people were more honest, friendships more lasting, religion more ingrained, and happiness was always just around the corner?
That certainly begs the question, would I want to return to that life? After all, moving back to my hometown has always been within my power. Why haven’t I done so if my life back then was much better than it is now? Of course, the answer has to be that life wasn’t really better; it was only so in my memories of that time.
Janet Malcolm said it eloquently, “The past is a country that issues no visas.” I agree with Janet, except to say that it issues large satchels of memories 😊.
💫 I was watching “Yellowstone” on TV the other night, and one character, a cowboy, told another cowboy, “We’ve all been thru things that other people will never understand.” That’s a pretty astute observation for a cowboy. I understand he was only repeating a line of the script, but someone thought that cowboy was up to making a point in that way. Most of us are guilty of thinking anyone with a cowboy hat and a horse is a genuine cowboy. Probably, some people walking around with just a cowboy hat on, never having ridden a horse in their life, think they are the real McCoy. The same could apply to a young man that drives a pickup truck, wears jeans, and speaks profanely, thinks he’s a “Redneck.”
Many of us go thru life wanting to be what we’re not. It could be the aforementioned cowboy/redneck, a sports coach, or the most essential, hard-working person in your office. Then the time for a layoff comes, and you are one of those included to receive the dreaded “pink slip.” If you’ve ever received that piece of paper telling you your company no longer needs your services or tells you the college you wanted to attend has rejected your application, then you’ve been thru something many people will never understand. If you call your father to wish him a happy 89th birthday and he says the doctor told him he has two months to live (that actually happened to my wife), you know he’s going thru something you will probably never really understand, unless something similar happens to you. That’s when you know you’re in over your heart. That’s when you feel guilty about acting like a nice person instead of being one, knowing you should get in your car and drive the eight hours to be with him during his time of need.
Thomas Wolfe said in “You Can’t Go Home Again,” “Something has spoken to me in the night… and told me I shall die, I know not where. Saying: Death is to lose the earth you know, for greater knowing; to lose the life, you have for the greater life; to leave the friends you loved for greater loving; to find a land more kind than home, more large than earth.”
Many of us go through life wanting to be important, achieving great things at work, being a good spouse or friend, and helping those in our lives who need us. Eventually, as we travel through life, we reach the age where we look back and recognize the folly of life’s many stages. Wanting to be a “Redneck” or “Cowboy” is undoubtedly a prime example of immaturity.
C. Adichie said it best, “I think you travel to search, and come back home to find yourself there.”
Life Moments… by Larry Fields
May 11, 2023
Guest Missives 2023, Guest WoW
June 7, 1960, was the date of our Grundy High School graduation. We were nearly 200 in that class…
It was a misty, rainy night as I drove Dad’s 1949 Packard from Harman to Grundy with Dad, Mom, my Grandmother Annie, and Trudy and David all aboard. The car was packed, and so was the Auditorium.
When we arrived back home to Harman, none of us were prepared for what confronted us when we opened the door to the house. As soon as somebody turned the lights on, Giant Waterbugs(at least three times the size of a roach) went scurrying everywhere: floor, couches, cabinets, etc… We lived next to a creek, but we had never seen anything like the invasion that took place that night.
All of us began killing as many as we could get by stomping them or swatting them & then sweeping them up. Finally, with no more Waterbugs, we went to bed, hoping and praying that all of our invaders had hidden in the walls or returned to Bull Creek, just across the road from our house. Sleep was hard to come by as we all tried to forget a shared nightmare.
Myself, I was doubly burdened with what I was going to do with my life. I was considering joining the service, but Mom & Dad didn’t want that. I could just continue to work at the Harman Mining Company Store. I sure enjoyed that!
Alas, about two weeks later, I received a letter from my good friend, Willard Owens, asking me to come join him at Hiwassee Junior College in Madisonville, Tennessee. Willard had graduated from Grundy in 1959 and then attended the college’s summer session after spending a year working for the FBI in the fingerprint division but deciding he needed a college education.
His letter asked me to enroll for the 2nd Summer Session…” You can be my roommate,” he said. (I had never had one of those.)
Truth to tell, it seemed like a great idea, but only because my Mom & Dad wanted me to do this & a few weeks later, they took me to Claypool Hill on a Sunday morning to catch a bus for an 8-hour trip to Madisonville, Tennessee…
It was expensive even then to attend college & I did apply and receive a National Defense Loan, which entailed that I would only have to pay half of it back if I taught school for ten years. Paid it back & taught school for 36 years…LOL
I was upset when I got off the bus & had to walk about two miles on a dusty road to the college campus, dragging a trunk behind me. Did manage to catch a ride for part of the journey though…LOL
But when I finally found Willard, I wanted to kill him. He locked me in the room and made me promise to stay at least one night. Really though, it was a no-brainer, for I was exhausted & a long way from my bed at home…
Fortunately, I said I would stay one night.
Could you imagine me walking back down that dusty road dragging a trunk, trying to thumb a ride to Harman? Me neither!
And it did turn out to be a most enjoyable two years…And Willard became my roommate for four years of college—the last two at ETSU.
Eight years after that graduation on June 7, 1960, I married the beautiful Sandra Kennedy Fields at MMS Chapel on June 7, 1968.
Hope yall enjoyed…