Tag Archives: retirement

Aging ain’t for the weak, or the stupid

The older I get the more I realize what I dumbass I was as a youngster.

For example … I think I was about 16 years of age or so when I disclosed to someone — it might’ve been my parents — that I didn’t want to live past the age of 55. That was old enough, I thought in that moment. Indeed, my family elders who were 55 years of age seemed like dinosaurs to me.

I carried that thought with me for a while. Until I realized, maybe it was in the Army — which I would join not long after sharing that brainless “thought” — when I realized that people had a lot of living to do once they hit 55 years of age.

Here I am in the present day. I am now 73 years of age. I am feeling pretty good. Only have a few aches and pains in the morning when I awake. I stretch ‘em out and then I am good to go.

My wife’s recent passing from cancer — at the age of 71 — also reinforced my desire to remain on this good Earth for as long as possible. Kathy Anne would want me to continue to enjoy life and live it to the fullest. I am not yet close to that level of recovery from her passing, but I am getting a bit closer to it each day. At least I believe that’s happening.

The older I get, the wiser I become. I do not consider myself to be “wise,” just “wiser” than I was as a brainless teenager.

Ohio: just out of reach

CAIRO, Ill. — I had hoped to knock one more state off my “never been there” list on my current trek east from North Texas.

Alas, I fell short by about 50 miles.

I have set foot in 48 of our 50 states. The only two states left to visit are New Jersey and Ohio. Let me state that I have been to Newark/Liberty International Airport twice, but that doesn’t count. I do not count airport stops as “visiting” a nation or a state. Indeed, I have been to Zurich, Switzerland’s airport a few times and to Hong Kong’s airport once. I do not count those places among my list of nations I have seen.

A quick aside … My wife and I went to Copenhagen, Denmark in 2006. Our flight itinerary brought us home via London Heathrow airport; we would catch a flight to Texas from Gatwick airport. My wife, using her creativity, booked a cab ride from Heathrow to Gatwick and then built in a tour of Windsor Castle en route. Thus, we were able to say we “visited Great Britain.”

I was coming out of Charleston, W. Va., two days ago. My GPS guided me along Interstate 64 west out of Charleston. I had thought it would take me to Ohio. Nope. I exited West Virginia and entered Kentucky.

So … there you have it. Ohio remains on my list of states to visit.

I have the time now to get into my truck and head there. Hmm. I suspect another quick trip just might be in order.


Oh, the no-news joy!

One of the joys of traveling as Toby the Puppy and I have been doing is weaning myself of the need to stay on top of the news of the day.

Yes, I have gone three days in a row without watching the news on TV or reading about it in local newspapers. Granted, I do have these news apps on my phone and my laptop, but I am tapping into those resources less and less all the time.

I am unsure where this quest for non-news consumption came from. Perhaps it’s because it bores me with its repetition. The cable news outlets I watch repeat themselves and each other to the point where I learn nothing new.

I arrived in Roanoke early this afternoon. About the only thing I learned today was that the singer Sinead O’Connor had died at age 56. Oh, well. So sorry to hear the news. That’s it.

I believe I am going to wait to return home before I re-engage fully in the consumption of news. We’re a few days away from that.

Until then, I will continue to enjoy the company of friends, some of whom I have known well for decades, others not so long and I am going to meet a relative of a good friend with whom I used to work in Amarillo.

My journey westward — once I start the return trip to my house in Princeton — will include a stop at the Muhammad Ali museum in Louisville, Ky., where I will pay my respects to The Greatest; and a tour of the Louisville Slugger baseball bat factory, where I just might purchase a brand spanking new baseball bat. I don’t intend to hit any baseballs with it.

There ain’t any news to report in either of those places.

Vacations ought to give us a respite from the things that occupy our minds normally. This one clearly is doing its job.


Puppy Tales, Part 104: Toby meets Vigo

CARTHAGE, N.C. — Toby the Puppy has a new best buddy, and this one is a big’n to be sure … about 90 pounds.

We ventured to the eastern coastal states of this great country to stay a few days with my cousin, who happens to be mommy to a most adorable and beautiful German shepherd mix. His name is Vigo, who’s now 11 years of age.

My cousin, a retired Army master sergeant, acquired Vigo on one of her multiple tours in the Afghan-Iraqi war zone. Vigo belonged to a family in Afghanistan; they intended to leave him behind as they were on the move. My cousin would have none of it, telling me he was “so very adorable.” She paid the shipping fee to get him from Afghanistan to the United States.

He joined her family.

Now, she had told me Vigo is quite “territorial” and was unsure how he would react to another pooch in the house. Pfffttt! No problem, man.

Vigo greeted Toby outside when we pulled up in our truck. They sniffed each other’s private parts and, voila, they became best buds for life. I have to reckon that Vigo, having lived for a brief period of his life in the middle of a war, isn’t going to be bothered by the presence of a pooch a tenth of his size.

Toby the Puppy has spent plenty of time indoors while my cousin, her two sons, her boyfriend and his daughter and I have visited. Not a hint of trouble. No tension. No jealousy. No growling. No snapping.


And so … we’ll continue our visit without ever worrying about how well Toby and Vigo will get along. I am proud of my puppy — and of Vigo — to report that they are doing quite nicely.


Poignancy added to this exhibit

FORT WORTH — I have visited this exhibit many times over the years, dating back to the time before my wife and I relocated to the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

You’ll find it across the street from the Fort Worth Convention Center and in front of the hotel where President and Mrs. Kennedy spent the president’s final night on Earth before flying to Love Field in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

We all know what happened next.

My son and I went there this weekend to gander and gawk at downtown Fort Worth, just take in the sights of the place. I saw the pictures behind JFK’s statue and was struck immediately about their poignancy.

They were taken literally hours before a gunman killed the president. The president was smiling, as was his wife. One photo shows JFK standing in front of then-Texas Gov. John Connally, who also would be injured by a gunshot on that horrible day in downtown Dallas.

The poignancy was heightened, strange as it might seem, by the loss I have just suffered in my own life. A little more than three months ago, cancer took my bride, Kathy Anne, from me, robbing my sons of their mother, my daughter-in-law of her good friend and confidante and my granddaughter of Grandma, who loved her beyond measure.

Seeing pictures such as what my son and I saw reminded me as well of how precious life is and how we must treat it as a gift we should treasure.

Just a short time — a few weeks, actually — prior to the terrible diagnosis we got regarding Kathy Anne, we were returning from a lengthy RV trip out west and we were looking forward to spending the rest of our life charting new journeys and adventures.

My life without my beloved bride is taking an entirely different course. I don’t know where it will lead me. I am just intending to be ready to embark when the time comes.


A new era begins

AMARILLO, Texas — I have returned to commence the next step in a journey I didn’t expect to take.

It will be a journey tinged with happiness, but also some sadness.

Once I depart this city, I will be able to have both of my sons nearby for the first time in, oh, more than 30 years. My older son is moving from the Panhandle to the Dallas/Fort Worth area, where I now live near where my younger son lives with his wife and daughter.

The sadness comes — as many of you no doubt are aware — because my beloved bride, Kathy Anne, won’t be there to greet us. It’s just the three of us now, my sons and me.

Our older son graduated from high school in 1991 and went to college in Huntsville, about a two-hour drive from Beaumont, where we were living at the time. Our youngers son graduated from HS the following year and moved to Dallas to attend college; our younger son never looked back.

My wife and I moved from Beaumont to Amarillo in early 1995. Our older son graduated from college that year and moved to Amarillo to start his career.

But for all those years, we were separated from our younger son.

That is about to change. My older son had talked out loud for some time about moving from the High Plains to be near family. The loss of my bride to cancer in February accelerated his plans.

I am delighted to have both of my sons, along with my daughter-in-law and granddaughter, close by. I only wish our family was complete. Tragically, that cannot occur.

Meanwhile, my son and I are preparing to help his brother pack up.

A new era is about to begin. Pray for all of us.


Puppy Intuition: It’s real!

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — I have boasted for many years about the intelligence of my pooch, Toby the Puppy.

Well, today he outdid himself.

We pulled into California’s capital city to stay with my cousin and his wife for a couple of nights before we head to the rainy coast. We have been to this city before; we came here a year ago while my bride and I were pulling our RV.

But we did not venture into my cousin’s neighborhood on that earlier visit; we parked our RV in a park several miles from my cousin’s home. Today, we did.

What is so remarkable about Toby the Puppy is that we were about five minutes away from arriving at my cousin’s home when Toby awoke from his snooze, stood up and began peering out the window, looking for all the world as if he wanted to get out and explore wherever we were going. His tail was wagging. He was prancing around the front seat where he had been sleeping.

He does this very thing when we approach our own neighborhood in Princeton, Texas, or when we’re a couple of turns from driving up to my son’s home in Allen, Texas. He’s ready to get out and dash into his own backyard or is ready to play with my son’s two pooches, Madden and Ryder and, of course, to see our granddaughter, Emma.

Today was a different deal altogether. He seemed to recognize several streets away from my cousin’s home that — by golly! — this is where we are going.

Amazing. I’m tellin’ ya. Simply amazing.


Open road awaits

As you know by now, my retirement journey has taken a dramatic — and so very tragic — turn in recent weeks.

My bride, Kathy Anne, passed away from cancer. I miss her every minute of every day.

But … the journey we took together is about to resume, but with one significant difference — which I do not need to explain.

Still, I am preparing to hit the road with Toby the Puppy, who’s all in on the travel plans. I’ve told him in vivid detail about our plans. He listened. Wagged his tail. Pawed my arm. He’s good to go!

I intend to make this a journey of adventure. I will travel along some fairly familiar rights-of-way, having made this trek before with my bride. But not all of it will be familiar. The return trip home to North Texas will include some remote stretches of highway through the Nevada mountains, into Utah and then north of Santa Fe, N.M.

Kathy Anne and I always loved to take new, unexplored routes on our travels. I will continue that tradition as best I can during the month Toby the Puppy and I are on the road. And … as some of my friends have requested, I intend fully to chronicle my journey on this blog.

As I have mentioned already, my mission is to clear my head and mend my heart. I won’t set my expectation for success too high; indeed, I won’t set any expectation. I will take this journey one day at a time … which will be the setup for how I intend to live the rest of my life.

So, the open road is clear.


What happens next?

This retirement journey on which I embarked has taken an unexpected turn, as I am now traveling alone.

OK. Many of you know that already as I have written about my bride’s passing from brain cancer. Kathy Anne was my life partner for the past 51-plus years.

So … what’s next? Obviously, it is far too early to predict anything about where I am heading. I have the strongest support possible from my sons, my daughter-in-law, my granddaughter, my sisters and my bride’s brothers and their families. I also have many friends around the nation … and, yes, the world.

Some of my friends have endured the pain I am suffering at this moment. I will lean heavily on them and their “expertise” in losing a spouse.

I want to stipulate, though, something many of you might already have surmised. Kathy Anne was far more than just my spouse. She was the woman I longed to meet when she appeared before me all those years ago. The Presbyterian preacher who married us took us through a personality test and determined, based on the results he received, that we were “incompatible.”

Kathy Anne and I laughed out loud for decades at that preposterous notion. Indeed, our “incompatibility” outlasted his time as a clergyman; he quit the ministry not many years after declaring us to be “husband and wife.” But … I digress.

Now comes the retirement journey that will continue in some fashion. It won’t be the same — quite obviously — but it will go on.

Where it leads me remains the greatest unknown answer I ever have sought, or ever will seek. I intend to find it … wherever it is.


Life teaches stern lessons

To be candid, my bride and I have not envisioned ourselves sitting on easy chairs at the beach, watching the tide roll in and out as we march on through our retired life.

Our plan always has been to travel hither and yon. We sold our RV recently, but our travel plans remain intact.

But … first things first.

We have a health issue to battle and to whip. You see, my bride was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in her brain. The doctor removed most of it. The plan now is to blast the rest of it out of there through an aggressive treatment of radiation and chemotherapy. The docs are clear about the intent of this therapy: to shrink what’s left of the tumor … with the aim of eliminating it altogether!

My optimism is high. More importantly, so is hers. This challenge has taught us many valuable lessons. We are receiving love from family and friends. It’s even coming from people we don’t know well. The lesson has been to accept it with open arms and hearts.

The next lesson has been that no matter how smoothly your journey through life has been, one should always expect to encounter the occasional shock to one’s system. My wife’s shock arrived the day after Christmas when she received the diagnosis of a mass in her brain.

The journey, though, continues along a different path than what we had envisioned. The destination remains the same and for that I will stay focused. More importantly, so will my bride.

Our blessings mount even as we embark on the effort to face down this challenge. They provide us with optimism looking ahead. They are coming in the form of the love that is pouring forth. I can state with absolute certainty that the love will sustain us.