Retirement Plans and Reality Revisions

For ten years or more before I retired, I was mentally making plans for the days when I finally would have time for myself and my family.  I spent a lot of time on my job, on commuting to and from my workplace and thinking about work even when I wasn’t at work.  I had a long commute and it wore me out.

The last few years I had the added complication of parents (especially mom) who needed my help but lived thousands of miles away.  I worked with my employer’s EAP program to try to get some long distance help, and I was permitted to use some work time to make phone calls or go to lunch time seminars about eldercare.  Still, it was putting a lot of pressure on me and I was anxious to retire.

The last 2 years I was employed, I also had to take advantage of the Family Medical Leave Act to help mom when she was hospitalized.  Starting at that point, I kept careful track of how much sick time I had available and if it would be enough.  I had to renew my application on the FMLA forms annually so I would be able to fly at a moment’s notice to care for mom.

There were some goals I wanted to achieve before I retired, so I wouldn’t have to work on them afterwards.  First, I wanted to lose some weight.  I joined a weight watcher group at work and reached my goal more than a year before my retirement date.  Check one goal off!

I wanted to focus on my health and have adequate health insurance after retirement.  I started discussing this with my personal physician.  She referred me to some specialists for check-ups and tests while I still had my good work insurance.  I found more problems than I had hoped and had to spend more time visiting doctors than I had planned.  I also saw my dentist to make sure everything was up to date there.

Weeks before I retired I flew across the country to spend 2 weeks with my parents.  (My boss would have preferred I wait till after I retired, but I had the time built up and I needed the break.)  I needed to get away and see mom and dad.  That was an eye opener as I could see mom and dad were going to need me more in the coming years.

While I was concerned about caring for mom and dad, I also had other plans as well.  I never had more than 3 weeks of vacation per year and until the last few years, I had less.  Thus I had a long list of things I wanted to do and places I wanted to go.  Finally I reached the date I was eligible to retire and turned in all my paperwork.  I had a nice party and was ready to move on to the next part of my life.

One of young men (twenty something) on our staff couldn’t understand why I was counting down to retirement.  He thought it was like “counting down to die!”  I laughed at him and said, no – it is more like a graduation and after that I will be free!  I will be free to do what I want to do and not what someone else wants me to do.

Since I would no longer be commuting to work, I didn’t need to live along the express bus routes any more.  I wanted to move to a community where I could rent a home where others would be responsible for the maintenance.  Home ownership was fine when I was almost always at home.  But to travel, I needed to be free of worries about my house.

I spent my first year of retirement fixing up my home to sell.  In addition, I took some “me time” to join the senior center and take part in some local trips.  I expected to do a lot more once I had my house sold.

Then my daughter said she was moving across the country for her husband’s job.  That left me as the only one on the west coast.  I decided after I sold my home, I would move to the other coast as well as now all of my family – parents, children and grandchildren – lived there.

After my move, I went south to spend a couple of months near my parents.  Immediately I could see that their health was deteriorating faster than I had realized.  Mom needed help making medical appointments and finding transportation to get there.  Dad had given up driving only a few years before.

While I didn’t move into the same mobile home as mom and dad, I did live in a similar mobile home community within walking distance.  I was able to visit every day and to do my own activities as well.  I took part in one week-long tour of the nearby area that included seeing the wildlife that I loved to spend time with.  It was a great and necessary vacation within my winter vacation.  Soon after I got back to mom and dad they had some small health crises that I had to help them overcome.

The rest of the winter was taken by eldercare issues with mom and dad.  While mom and dad stayed independent for another 18 months, I started putting in a lot of time obtaining home care and overseeing their care.

My plans for a carefree retirement have been postponed almost from the beginning.  I am still glad that I retired when I did (though I wish it could have been sooner).  I am not really free to do what I want when I want, but I have much more freedom and flexibility than when I was working.

I live in the type of senior community I had been dreaming of and near some of my children and grandchildren and my dad as well.  I can visit them and other family members more easily and more often now.  Over the weekend I was able to spend time with my son and grandson while visiting dad, and later to go out to lunch with my daughter.

I still get away for several winter months, but now I have to hire caretakers to visit and check on dad in his assisted living facility while I am away.  Mom passed away just a couple of years after my retirement.  I am thankful that I was able to spend more time with her during her last few years than would have been possible had I still been working.  But, the freedom to travel and do what I want when I want still eludes me.  I think about that saying: “If you want to see God laugh, just make plans.”

My time will come.  For now, I can still say that I am glad to be retired.  I don’t need to use special forms (Family Medical Leave Act) to get away to help my family.  I just do what I need to do when I need to do it.


About letstalkaboutfamily

I am a retired and was the primary caregiver for both my parents before they passed. I have children and grandchildren. This blog is an attempt to connect with other caregivers and share ideas and experiences. I hope you will let me know what worked for you if you had an experience similar to mine. The main issues I am going to talk about are elder care, death and dying, assisted living, family relationships and hoarders and hoarding. Other topics will come up as I address the issues and my relationship with other family members.
This entry was posted in Alzheimer's Disease, Caregiving, Eldercare, Family, Family Medical Leave, Retirement and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Retirement Plans and Reality Revisions

  1. terry1954 says:

    I am so happy for you that you were able to finally see the retirement doors, and that you were able to move closer to your family. you may not be in charge of all of your time, but there are no more time clocks, nor bosses to answer to. you are with precious family, and that can be as rewarding as having all of your time for yourself………………….god bless my friend

    • Thank you, Terry. I am very thankful that I don’t have to get up early every morning and out the door to work. The time goes faster now that I am retired, but I am glad I am able to help dad and have some time for myself.

  2. On the other side of this, and far from retirement, i’m sure you are appreciated in more ways than you realize. The efforts that my mom and my in-laws make to spend time with me and my children are incredible, and I am reminded to thank them a little more. Your writing is very soothing, and I imagine you are in person too. I hope that you find your time soon.

  3. boomer98053 says:

    Great article. Imagine someone thinking that retirement means the end of the road. Have mercy, that person is too young to understand. Congratulations on having the freedom to do as you please, when you please.

    • Thanks, Irene. I do remember myself thinking that older people were really over othe hill and too old to have any fun at all! We live and learn.

      • boomer98053 says:

        Yes we do. I’m giving a talk to middle schoolers about inter-generational dynamics entitled, “Your Grandparents are cooler than you think” in January and I just KNOW they’re going to think I’m on my deathbed. I’m 59.

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