The 40 Year Reflection

I did something unusual this weekend.  I went to a social event, my 40 year high school reunion, and I stayed for 5 hours.

My rep is that I like to be one of the first out the door, as in leaving the event.  No so for this weekend’s reunion.

The next question you might have is why the change?  One potential answer is that I was not worried about recharging the energy levels for the week ahead.  I have an easy week.  No travel.  No speeches (that I am aware of).  No dress shirts or ties.

Another more important reason is that I had many meaningful conversations.  The time flew by.  I actually forgot to eat (maybe this is the trick to avoid snacking – have more meaningful conversations).    I only attended my 5 year and 20 year and I probably left within 2 hours at each and I don’t recall any meaningful conversations at either.  So why the difference?

My hypothesis is that at a 40 year reunion no one is trying to impress anymore.  Most have experienced joys, sorrows, loss and other significant life events and as a result “what do you do for work?” is seldom asked.  At 40 years out, examples of some of the conversation starters were:  “how are your parents?” , “do your kids live nearby and how much contact do you have with them?”, and “how are you doing after the loss of your spouse to cancer?”.

Not everything was that serious.  There was several minutes of discussion on how many students we had in our graduating class.  The numbers ranged from 45 to 58.  I was quite certain and confident in my view that it was 52, near the midpoint of the range.  There was also a lively discussion of what the school was thinking to “make us” act in a play called “Dumbbell People in a Barbell World”.  Let me clarify the phrase “make us.”  In a small school, it was all hands on deck for any drama productions. Nearly everyone was drafted and I don’t recall any serious auditions.  We also reflected on how none of us ever met with the guidance counselor. This then led to the question “what is the role of the guidance counselor?” and were we somehow harmed by not having this “guidance.”

My drive home was filled with reflections on the last 40 years, choices made, experiences of life and a sense of contentment and gratitude that I have been incredibly blessed.


A Boomer In Transition

If anyone tells you that retirement is problem-free . . .

They are a knucklehead.

This is has been a tough year.  Now well into my third year of retirement, the journey has become more challenging.  My first year, the transition from full-time work went better than I expected on almost every level.  I had a plan.  I like to have a plan.  And the plan not only worked, it worked better than I had anticipated.  The second year, for the most part, went better than expected.  Toward the end of the second year, I made some adjustments – some additions and some deletions in my activities – but nothing that was a problem.  The third year, so far, has been a different story.

This year has been marked by more ups and downs.  I like a smooth trajectory.  Life does not always give us a smooth trajectory, even in the glamour of retirement.  This year has been tough one for my spiritual journey and just in the last several weeks I feel like I am getting back on track.  The spiritual journey story is too confidential for this blog, but I am happy to discuss one-on-one with anyone interested.  As a result, I have not been active writing and journaling, activities that I enjoy.  I am slowly, and not in a straight line, getting back on track in that regard.

This has been a difficult year for my parents.  My Dad went through a challenging rehab program after an illness and is now in hospice with late stage dementia.  I walked through this journey with my mom, siblings and family and while it was difficult and emotional and draining, I feel incredibly blessed to have had the gift of time to be able to pour into this.  God also closed a door that would have put me out of state and generally out of touch during the most intensive time of this journey.  I did not know exactly why that door was closed months before this health journey, but I know now.

My own health has been more frustrating this year.  From a health perspective, this year has not been a smooth trajectory.  Did I mentioned that I like smooth trajectories?  This past winter, I caught every bug known to mankind (or so it seemed).  Then I had another bought of bad UTI that resulted in another ER visit in the Spring.  And this summer, I have been battling anemia and some doctor visits to figure that out.  This ended with another colonoscopy a couple of weeks ago, which was pristine (pristine is my new favorite word).  So basically, I just need to take a lot of iron supplements and eat more red meat.  I also continue to learn that I get goofier than normal with anesthesia.  For the colposcopy they must have used an old supply of laughing gas, because when I woke up, I could not stop laughing or smiling for at least 10 minutes.  When I woke up after my cancer surgery, my first words were “take a look at my Zumba moves.”  I have never done Zumba.

There have been a lot of positives as well.  The cancer support group that I lead has entered into a new phase of growth.  I have several regular people that who have now taken on leadership roles and that has been cool to see.  Other medical facilities in the upper Midwest are sending their bladder cancer patients to our group since we have the only one in the area, and that has been rewarding to experience.  Most importantly a lot of people are getting help for their journey and that is rewarding and satisfying, but it does take a lot out of an introvert (that would be me) to emotionally invest in this.  In this regard, my expanded leadership group is ready and willing to start carrying some of that load.

Our kids are doing well – for a parent this is probably one of the most satisfying and rewarding of the positives.  Erin and Carson have been traveling and experiencing the world, pouring into relationships, and growing in their careers.  Dan has had a great summer working at a private equity firm and growing in confidence and ability. We had a great family vacation to the Canadian Rockies.  Ok, I will stop here as this is starting to sound like a Christmas letter.

Thanks for listening.


A Boomer In Transition (and not journeying in a straight line)


Four year surgery anniversary

On April 8, 2013, after several months of chemo, I had surgery to remove my bladder and reconstruct a new one.  My daughter texted me this morning to see how I was feeling about it.  Honestly, I have not thought about it much this week..  I believe going from three month check-ups for the past three years to every six months this past year has taken it off the front burner for me.

I feel no emotions about this anniversary other than how it has impacted my relationships.  I don’t fear my scans.  I just set up my next check-up this past week for late June and I will not be nervous for the results because cancer was just the catalyst that changed a lot of things in my life.  When I talk about those changes, particularly relationships and giving back, that is when the emotions are ever-present and quick to be triggered.

Yes, I am grateful to be cancer-free and I am grateful that my new bladder actually works, but most importantly I feel blessed to have been able to walk away from a great job and career to follow God’s call for a new purpose in my life.


A Boomer In Transition

From Crisis to Clarity

This has been a tough winter.  It seems like I just get over one bug and I catch another one.  And yes, I had my flu shot, I wash my hands every third week, I take my vitamins, eat reasonably well, blah, blah, blah, blah.  Maybe I need to go back to work full time when it seemed like I rarely got sick?

Amidst this winter of illness, I also started to feel bored for the first time since I retired.  I had dropped teaching, which is very time-consuming if done right and I have been praying about what to fill that time with.  I have been forcing myself to practice patience and not just jump into something, which would be all too easy for me to do.

Then the phone started to ring.  It was Tuesday afternoon and I was getting ready to take my sister to the doctor when I get a phone call from a friend who was just diagnosed with cancer.  I talked with this friend for about half an hour and agreed to pray and talk again in the next couple of days.  Then while, with my sister at the doctor, I got a call that my mom had a health episode that landed her in the Emergency Room.  I was about 75 miles away at the time, so I dropped off my sister, and headed to the hospital.  I ended up staying with my parents overnight and then driving back to guest lecture at two classes on Wednesday morning (I am not sure if it is advisable to teach two 70 minute classes back to back on 2 hours sleep).  Then I drove back to my parents and stayed with them until the health episode was resolved enough to allow them to be on their own.  By the time I got home on Wednesday night I was exhausted.  Then the phone rang again.  This time it was a newly diagnosed bladder cancer patient who was having surgery in two days and had several questions for me.  I talked to him for over a half an hour and then dropped into bed.

And this is only part of the story and part of the week.  I am writing all of this detail, because maybe this is how I am supposed to be filling my time – taking care of other people.  Then the phone rang again.  Now it was Thursday and I was offered a short term consulting engagement.  Had the previous two days not happened, I may have said “yes”.  I think this week was a reminder of what I am supposed to do.


A Boomer In Transition

When Injury Is a Blessing

Our son Dan broke his arm biking last Saturday on a rare 60 degree February day in Minnesota.  Over the past week, we have spent a lot of time in Urgent Care, in an appointment with a surgeon, figuring out how to wear a long sleeve dress shirt and suit over a sling so he could attend a job fair, and yesterday in surgery to repair the arm.

Over the past four years, it seems like I have been more often on the receiving end of care and even though I would not wish a broken arm on anyone, especially one of our kids, it has been rewarding and bonding to be able to be one of the caregivers.  I am sure Tammie feels the same way, having Dan stay at our house the past couple of days so we can help him pre and post surgery.  He is usually very self-sufficient and likes to figure things out on his own, so having him “let” us help him has been a blessing for both of us.  One of the things I have personally learned about illness or injury is that it tends to knock the self-sufficiency gene down a peg or two, giving others the opportunity to help.

BTW, if you need help at 4 am, I am your guy.  Early mornings are my best time and it goes downhill from there.  So, being at the surgery center at 4:36 am, before the medical staff arrived, was my idea of a good start to the day.

In retirement, the schedule (such as it is), can be quickly trashed and it can be all-hands on deck to help out in these kinds of situations.  Yet another positive of being …

A Boomer In Transition (Dean)