Retirement Is No Walk In The Park
Everyone who works all their life looks forward to retirement. And I am no exception. I counted the days till I could sleep in each morning, travel to exotic locations, and catch up on reading the books, currently gathering dust in the corner of my bedroom. Retirement is the reward for working hard for so many years. And I bought into the whole package, believing that I was beginning the best time of my life. Too bad it didn’t work out that way.
The first year of retirement was quite eventful. My son, Eric, changed his work schedule to spend more time with his boys. That was great! I was proud that he was a good father and realized the importance of spending time with his children. Until I discovered, that he assumed I would be the one to get up at 5:00 a.m. each morning and drive to his house to babysit when he had to leave for work. There goes the ‘sleeping in’ part of retiring that I looked forward to. My daughter, Rachel, an aspiring rockstar and junior in high school, was booking more and more guitar playing jobs. I was so excited for her! Then I found out that, because she is under eighteen, I was required by law to accompany her. My dream of traveling changed from exotic locales to visiting every nasty college bar in the tri-state area.
The books I longed to read remained gathering dust in the corner. Our local cable television company made two great services available to the public during my first year of retirement. High definition channels and the Digital Video Recorder. It was my downfall. In an instant, I had 280 hi-def channels to watch. And I didn’t even have to pick just one! The DVR allowed me to record two channels while I watched another. I could zip through commercials and watch what I wanted, when I wanted. I am still unsure of how it records programs without tapes or discs, but it does. I can also stop live television anytime I want to get a snack or answer the telephone. I was hooked. In a few months, I was following dozens of programs and gaining weight quickly. I gained a lot of weight, 63 pounds in fact. But I didn’t care, I was retired. Then, I had a stroke.
A life threatening event is a wake up call. Rachel and I were driving home from a graduation party when I noticed my right arm felt heavy. I could barely move it to turn the steering wheel. There was no pain, I didn’t even have a headache. I thought the heaviness was odd, but no cause for concern. When we arrived at home, I was unable to get out of the car. I couldn’t move my right arm or leg. When I tried to tell Rachel what was wrong, my words sounded slurred and slow. Rachel was alarmed when she saw that the right side of my face was frozen. It didn’t move as I tried to talk. Rachel called my sister for help. My sister, a physician’s assistant, told her that I was probably having a stroke and needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible. It was in that moment, when Rachel heard the word stroke, that chaos ensued. She called Eric, who flew to our house and drove like a madman to the hospital. At the hospital, I was told that I was most likely having a stroke, and they were going to give me a drug that would stop the stroke, but warned me that if I wasn’t having a stroke, the drug would kill me. Like most people, I like having choices, it makes me feel like I am in control, but this was not much of a choice. Doctors, nurses, and technicians hovered around me, busy shouting statistics at each other. Eric and Rachel huddled in the corner looking like I was dying right before their eyes. And I was on a table, hard-wired to multiple machines, thinking about the books I hadn’t read yet.
The best way to recover from a stroke is to live. I did not die from my stroke. Not even close. And though it was wildly entertaining to see so many people look so worried, it was not as bad as I thought it would be. I did not enjoy eighteen months of physical therapy, in a room that reminded me of a medieval torture chamber, but I survived. And lost 60 pounds! The most significant result of having a stroke was knowing that I wanted to do more before I did die. I wanted to live, not just pass the time being a babysitter or chaperone for my children. There was so much I wanted to know about. So many things to learn.
But where do I go from here?