“When people think of this State, it’s weird that they don’t think of the coast…and yet, here I am staring at the ocean.” Charlie laughed as he wiggled his toes in the sand and closed his eyes to feel the sun on his face. “Alabama has some really nice beaches. We were pleasantly surprised when we started looking at options in the south.” Lloyd took a sip of lemonade and readjusted his sunglasses, which were slipping down on his nose.“With Marilyn’s health, isn’t it expensive down here?” Charlie wondered aloud. Lloyd let out a deep sigh. “Well, we didn’t think so at first. We worked with a financial consultant and came up with an insurance plan. And all seemed fine and good. But what they don’t tell you, is that here in the States, any income you receive in the event of the death of your spouse is taxable. We found that one out when things were getting scary with Marilyn, and I was looking at our finances.”
Charlie shook his head. “That’s the one thing I never thought to do Lloyd. You get so caught up in the day-to-day caregiving when your wife gets sick, and preparing yourself for the worst, that you forget to start planning for after they are gone.” Charlie paused for a little while in thought. “We thought we had everything figured out by moving into The Manor…like we were planning for the big ‘when.’ But we planned for the living part. We didn’t plan for the after. I went to buy golf clubs and hadn’t paid bills in months. Even with life insurance, the funeral costs were a fortune. I downsized into a smaller suite at the Manor. I’m making different budgeting decisions. It’s just been very…stressful.”
Lloyd rested his hand on Charlie’s shoulder. “I understand. We want to live our best lives. And here on the beach, I’m definitely living the type of life Marilyn and I dreamed of for our later years. But there is so much more to plan…to think about. And it’s hard to have those thoughts and discussions. None of us think we’re going anytime soon. And I think we always foolishly think our wives will outlive us.” Charlie nodded. “Hazel was the strong one. The healthier of us two. She ate better, exercised, got out and did things. I indulged in all my vices and a stroke finally told me to smarten up a bit. I never thought I’d still be here without her.”
The two men sat in their beach chairs and watched the other people enjoying the summer day. Children were flying kites and building sandcastles. Teenagers chased each other into the water and were trying to impress anyone watching. Couples held hands as they took a stroll by the water. Everyone was happy and completely in the moment. There was no awareness of the passing of time, or change. Charlie smiled as he thought about the naivety of it all. Everyone was blissfully unaware of aging, and yet, they were…right in front of each other.
“You know Lloyd, I rarely see myself as ‘old’. I’ll bet none of these people here do either. And yet, they’re all going to be grey haired and sitting in chairs talking about days gone by eventually. Maybe they’ll be sitting with their best friend talking about a loved one who has passed. It’s just life. We’re all seniors…just some of us look more like one than others.”
Lloyd took his last sip of lemonade and laughed at Charlie. “The ocean air will take ten years off you Charlie. Stop philosophizing and just relax. You need it.”
Charlie definitely has a point. Everyone is in a state of aging. We just don’t like to think much about it. We put off planning for later stages of life, or inevitable changes because they are not always pleasant to think about. Or at least we have been conditioned by society to think of them as unpleasant. Usually that unpleasantness is a result of having to deal with things in crisis, without a plan or without any emotional preparation.
If we experience change traumatically, rather than as positive or a natural universal progression, we will view them as extremely negative and it will cause worry. Sometimes we might feel like things are out of our own control, so why bother with them?
We need to start to change how we view aging, and the changes that come with aging. And we need to start thinking about things a bit earlier in order to plan a little to make those decisions why they are still ours to make.
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