Old Diary

Stillness


One of the questions asked of new full timers seems to be:  “have you learned to slow down yet?”  This surely is a trick to be mastered after a lifetime of hard work — and often after a rush to rid yourself of bricks & sticks before going  mobile.  I know that’s the very reason we love spending a week or two (or longer) at a single place before moving on.

There’s an online community I frequent from time to tim and here is an interesting approach to starting to slow down that I wanted to share.

Curtis:
Here is something I did the day I went fulltime…
Find a rest area and pull in.
Any rest area will do.
Find a comfortable place to sit in your rig. Turn on some music. (Classical piano works great).
Set the timer for 1 hour. Just 1 hour.
Sit still. Do nothing. No TV. no computer. No talking. No phone. Nothing.
And, every single time your head tells you that there is something to do, add 10 minutes to the timer, then sit still again.

I came to realize very quickly that rest areas are awesome, that I had not done this in a very long time if ever, and most importantly that I had been denying myself of some simple pleasures that this lifestyle will offer me. Anytime I want em. 🙂 

Sometimes a little forced idleness is a good thing.  (Says the guy who is almost never idle unless he’s asleep and the guy who doesn’t pay much attention to his limits when he wants to get something done.)

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Michael finishing the turkey with a blowtorch.

My son in law Michael is a great guy; I often say that of all the guys my daughter ever dated that he’s the only one we would have wanted as a SIL.  And he’s pushing, pushing, pushing himself to get the house habitable  — and I fully understand.  In some ways I’m a lot like him (except that I know nothing about cars and finishing furniture — but then there are things I know that he doesn’t — gotcha!  )  Some day that pushing will change; or someday his body will force him to change — it really doesn’t matter — nothing stays the same; everything changes.

While we are sitting here waiting on a doctor’s appointment on Monday it’s easy to get reflective.

While we were on the Forest I had been thinking how Peg & I have been living the retirement that my father would have loved.  He loved travel, he wanted to get an RV and take off down the road but my mom was geographically anchored.  She had to be near her friends and family on regular intervals and she never gave in to dad’s desire to be gone for multiple months at a time.  When she gave in it was usually for 2-3 weeks, on rare occasions they might leave for as long as 6 weeks, but that was very rare indeed.

My dad, 4 days before he passed.

My dad, 4 days before he passed.

My dad had his first heart attack at age 55 — He had been planning to retire at 55 and in fact that was just what he did.  And shortly thereafter had his first of several heart attacks.  He lived a reasonably comfortable life to 80 with two open heart surgeries including 1 valve replacement.   And he was always making fun of the fact that he had a cow heart valve in him.

We lived for 25 years in a family owned apartment building.  Each of us in a different apartment and each apartment with a suitable LOCK on the door.  The rule had always been if the door is unlocked you’re welcome in;  if the door is locked — go away, don’t stand there knocking on the door (or rattling the doorknob).  That rule worked for us and at one time we had 5 generations of the family living there:  My fathers parents, my mother’s mother, my parents, Peg and I, our daughter Kathryn and her husband Michael, and finally our grandchild Melanie.  Each family group had it’s own apartment and we were close but not too close; we did things together but not all the time.

The last 10 or 15 years of my father’s life I was working out of the house.  Part of that time I was publishing a small Christian journal, which meant editing, layout, typesetting (before the days of desktop publishing as we know it now), printing, collating, and sorting for mailing.  Dad and I worked side by side on that project for a good long while.  All he wanted was to be useful and to hang out with me.  Those were good times.

The last 5 years of his life he didn’t make it more than 3 months without a visit to the hospital.  There were all sorts of problem, none of them took him down — he just cruised through them all, taking them in stride — and in the end he died a peaceful death in his sleep the night after returning home from 4 wonderful days with family.

I’ve been pretty healthy all my life. Overweight, but healthy.  I had my gall bladder removed by a surgeon with huge hands before the days of minimally invasive surgery — I have a scar that looks long enough to have been from open heart surgery — except at the bottom of my torso not the top.

Where I’m going with all of this is that when we decided we’d had enough volunteering on the forest and we wanted to get back to retirement I got to thinking about a number of older gentlemen I’ve known in my life who had had near-end-of-life strokes leaving them either partially paralyzed or mute.  I wasn’t feeling sorry for them; rather I was admiring the way that these guys who had been firebrands in early life had adjusted to the situation God had allowed in their life with grace and aplomb.  My dad was not a showy Christian; he believed but he wasn’t always going around making a big deal about it to others who didn’t believe — I knew him best of all — and he had become a gentle man.  He wasn’t always.  In fact my mom told the story about when they had recently gotten married and they were arguing and my dad got upset and stormed out of the house.  Mom, being nosy, was watching him through the kitchen window.  He went out into the yard, picked up a fallen apple off the ground and threw it so hard at the barn that it splattered all over the barn door.  Mom would always say that she realized at that moment if he could do that to an apple that he could do that to her too and she forever changed her ‘way’ toward him.  Not out of fear;  but out of respect.  That sounds a chilling thing, but 50 years later they were still together, cuddling, and romantic so her change towards him resulted in a change towards her as well.  Point being — he wasn’t always a ‘gentle’ man.

Stillness, enforced or otherwise, changes us.  Over the three years that we have been retired a large part of that time we have spent waiting on things:

  • sale of the house
  • sale of the kid’s house
  • renovation of the new house
  • waiting on insurance issues and changing insurances several times ( goodbye COBRA, hello Wisconsin HIRSP, then goodbye HIRSP and welcome MEDICARE, and OH, don’t forget to get your supplemental insurance too.)
  • waiting to figure out the job we were supposed to do on the Forest and where to find the help I needed
  • issues with finances
  • waiting for our solar installation
  • waiting for our coach at the dealership

It seems right now with the kids getting close to having the occupancy permit on their new house that perhaps 3 years of having tension under the surface may be just about over.  And then this little (we hope it’s little) hiccup with my own health.  But, that’s life.  And we started this blog about an unscripted life — this is unscripted.

I have often thought about how my dad coped with those regular hospital stays — he was always the nurses favorite — he was an easy patient.  But he was also stubborn.  He was up on his feet recuperating as fast as they would allow him, and he pushed himself hard to get better — FAST.

Frank a few years before his passing.

Frank a few years before his passing.

By contrast, my father in law, Frank had been pretty health all his life.  He needed heart surgery and after 11 hours in surgery the doctor came out to talk with the family and literally his first words to US were, “I had a hard day.”  The story was not good.  Frank spent 12 weeks in hospital, most of that time in intensive care, 1 day in a nursing home, another 2 weeks in hospital and then about the same in a local hospice.  He was virtually non-communicative that entire time.  He had a  breathing tube down his throat for weeks; when they finally removed it he could hardly speak.  Peg and I alternated staying in OHIO with him until the end.  After the 1 day he spent in the nursing home I was sitting with him in the ER where the ambulance had brought him and he sort of croaked at me with what voice he could muster, “Shoot me, just shoot me.”  That was not my most favorite moment as his son-in-law.  He was a good stubborn German (sometimes there are reasons for clichés.)  He was not happy being where he was, he did not want to do physical therapy, had not wanted to do physical therapy at any time during his convalescence.  HIs surgery had not turned out the way he intended and he was P.O.’d.  Here, a guy who seemed to be gentle his entire life, was changed by what he endured.

Life changes us.  We don’t know how we will react to what may happen in the future.  But as a Christian, as a Believer, I have listened to people complain about how suddenly their life has changed and they no longer have time to study the Bible (or any other number of complaints).  And I have always felt that the times when we study, the times when we pray, they times when we are alone with our Creator — those are the times when we are building up strength for whatever challenges we will face in the future.  Like exercising muscles, Christians are kind of supposed to grow their spiritual muscles so that when they need them they have them, and they are strong.  Just because I don’t talk about my faith all the time doesn’t minimize my faith.  I don’t write to proselytize; I don’t write to evangelize.  I write as a way of processing the experiences in my own life; to share with others; and to keep in touch with those I love.

Peggy had a mammogram the same day I went in to see the doctor.  When the results letter came in I asked her if she wanted to read it; and she didn’t really care about what it said:  she hadn’t felt any bumps, she had no reason to suspect that anything was wrong, and what’s the big deal? In fact there was no big deal her results were normal.

I have had a heart murmur (mitral valve) since I was a teenager — following Scarlet Fever.  The doctor says there’s been some change.  Ok.  After probably 55 years of being that way I guess that’s not anything to be surprised about — I’m not getting younger.  I feel fine.  I don’t notice any differences other than things I associate with just getting older.  So, we’ll wait till Monday to see what the specialist says but this is an unscripted life and we’ll deal with what we have to deal with.

And maybe we’ll do some more waiting.  We’ll have some time to be still.  To enjoy the quiet.  This last 12 months have been so busy I don’t really mind hanging out here.  We’re close to family;  we’re in a nice spot and the weather is still reasonable.  FINALLY we’re getting some down time!   Besides, I can sit here and look out the RV window and watch the cranes 2 blocks away building a new bridge over the Interstate highway… that’s something my mom would have loved doing — just sitting here watching the world go by. 🙂  Love you mom.

Enough rambling for the day.  Thanks for stopping by and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

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3 thoughts on “Stillness

  1. Mrs. P says:

    Very thought provoking post with so many things I could relate to. Loved the “rest stop” suggestion…enjoy your stillness…and family. 🙂

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  2. Linda Sand says:

    Your Dad sounds like Dave’s Dad. The staff loved him but he was stubborn. Every time the doctor would say you should be able to do such and such by this date, Carl would move the date a bit closer. And he always reached his own deadlines.

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    • Linda, that brought a smile to my face because it was so much like my dad. Stubborn is sometimes spoken of as a bad thing, but that’s not universally true. Oft times stubborn can be very good.

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