Retirement Woes - Addressing the True Heart of the Matter.
by Gordon G. Kinghorn © 2016
I have just recently, following a lengthy and hugely testing year, managed to reacquaint myself with the exquisite pages of this wonderful website – and that of the plethora of graphic mixed emotions that have emerged during ensuing months from the despairing minds of respective retirees worldwide.
In truth, now having scanned countless communiqués – and combined with one’s high degree of personal perspicacity, (Modesty aside) one is led to the most logical conclusion as to the root of the problems contained with many of the listed laments of woe and dejection – in that they are forlornly fuelled through copious bouts of confusion and delusion created from intolerable solitude, AKA – “An unhappy divorce from daily routine as we each once knew it”.
Now, far from me appearing as one who has enjoyed the good fortune of never having endured post-employment stress and despair – I must emphasise at this juncture that I too encountered a massive void in my life, quintessentially during an epoch when one was forced to accept that we must all – at one stage or another, prepare ourselves to walk and under and through the portcullis of uncertainty and fully embrace the new and unfamiliar existence that awaits, ergo; ‘The Retirement Years’ – a loathsome lacuna then surfaces all too speedily - the many decades of dedicated travail and the security that comes from being in paid work are at an end – then disorientation and despondency assault the senses with an unremitting shock wave that I for one, never thought possible.
So, what precisely does it take to wipe our misty metaphorical lenses clean and dissipate the fog that blights one’s vision and general appreciation of extended life that has been granted to us – simply put folks, and from my perspective, the answer lies with death, or in my case, a near-death experience – one which befell my spouse at the commencement of 2016.
The larcenous nature of death and its reprehensible habit of breaking in on us when we are least prepared - and then mercilessly stealing the irreplaceable, has seldom been more sickeningly exhibited than at 4.10am on a chilly January morning of 2016, this on discovering the near lifeless frame of my wife of near forty years, lying at the foot of the stairs, those that divide the lower and upper chambers of our Berkshire domicile in the UK.
Within an hour of this shocking scaevitas occurring, and with the family matriarch now in the hands of a highly proficient and massively compassionate ‘crash team’, ensconced deep in the bowels of our nearby infirmary – my adult children and I awaited news regarding the survival chances of a much-loved wife and mother – a raw dread consumed each of us and conversation eventually became muted, our silence being dictated by the comings and goings of medical staff – with we standing hopelessly in the obtuse belief that something in either a doctor of nurse’s facial expression may impart even a modicum of information as to how the patient was responding to revival treatment – silly assertion if the truth be known – but all we had to cling onto at that critical moment, the inherent vagueness and waiting for news to filter through proved to be agony – compounding further the realisation that we were soon to be either motherless and/or wifeless.
As my mind began to clear a little – and by inhaling a small whiff of comfort from the fact that ‘no news is good news’ I stared to curse myself inwardly for contaminating my long-suffering consort’s cranium with negative commentary on the trials and tribulations of retirement – with the benefit of hindsight, I additionally began to dwell on the abhorrent notion that I may have unwittingly contributed to the status quo through constant verbal assaults on her left and right ear over many months – I nearly crumbled at the repugnant result of my harrowing analysis - then moved a little closer to my brace of fretting offspring and hugged them tighter than at any other stage of their existence – how both wrong and foolish I had been to assume that my flawed observations on contemporary retired life had any significance or meaningful level of importance against what we actually have.
The words of Socrates echoed repeatedly resounded inside me, thus, “True wisdom comes to each of us when we realise how little we understand about life, ourselves and the world around us” - My own world at that moment lay struggling for life in the next room to which we fretfully stood – I vowed that she would never again ever put up with my long-winded and garrulous complaints about whatever topics that irritatingly affected me after watching news reports via Sky or CNN, summarising candidly
that I may not actually become a saint overnight - or indeed a repository for bland altruism – but with her long considered retirement no longer an option, we would come through this together as a retired couple, still willing and able to conquer the world and everything that it could possibly throw at us – thus far, we appeared to be doing OK, despite the trauma that then prevailed.
Six and a half hours after being admitted - and with the three of us having fruitlessly attempted to burglarise each other’s thoughts as a means to allay any irrational fears of concerns within our trembling human frames – the door to the waiting room finally opened - relatively slowly too - as if only the tiniest pressure possible was employed to create the ingress – was this an indication that the bearer of bad news possessed no great relish to impart his devastating results to those who stood behind the hinged wooden partition that separated us? – We were soon to find out the true magnitude of the situation.
“Your wife and mum” said the warm, compassionate, bespectacled, Asian cardiologist, “has just survived a cardiomyopathy brought about by pneumonia” – she arrested shortly after admittance - but her condition is now stable and we expect her to recover in due course – following surgery to the now damaged area of her heart. She is a fighter of no equal, looking at you all now, I fully understand her valiant and determined struggle for life – she will survive, family love sometimes ensures longevity throughout even the toughest tests – even situations as grave as this flirtation with personal danger has undeniably been- love remains as the essential driving force between life and death, I have witnessed this sublime phenomenon so often throughout my career.”
There was no mistaking the true meaning of his words - but suddenly our much-yearned for sense of relief – that of which had been infiltrating our anxieties for many hours – had finally arrived, we were going to make it – and I utilise the term ‘We’ without reservation or apology, my mother once referred to the fact that every man and his family are in actual fact a private company, throughout times of adversity particularly – there is no letter ‘I’ in the word team – because that is what we indeed are – a team, pure and simple – as all families should be!
My wife has since come through the required treatment and surgery and although several restrictions are in place as to what she can and cannot do, we nevertheless have consigned all forms of negativity to the bin-of-no importance, enjoying our retirement years to the fullest – simple pleasures that at one time appeared as trivial and non-inspiring activities, have now taken on a complexion of sheer beauty, it is therefore not for us, the retirement issue regarding our entwined lives, but the life in our retirement – and by God, it is such a superb experience – life has that effect, no matter the position we sit on the generation ladder – we are blessed from her survival – and thankful for the opportunity to share our retirement years together – and for a very long time.
In summary, the only other experience I endured regarding domestic heart problems lay with my Uncle Tommy, a coal miner for many years and one who anticipated a lengthy old age liberty from the shafts that had claimed his services from the age of fifteen.
As he entered his fifties, the inhumane strains of recovering coal from Scottish mineral reserves for more years than he cared to remember, ultimately took their toll – the ravages of such an occupation proved too much for a man who had been stricken, similar to many of his peers and colleagues, and plagued with frequent bronchial and lung disorders, ultimately succumbed to a massive, life-sapping heart attack in the summer of ’76, a mere three weeks into the retirement era that he so richly deserved - I wept uncontrollably for several days following his distressful passing – I continue to think of him even to this day.
I suspect that there are many across the globe tonight, this as I scribe these frail and feeble lines, who too have suffered loss or life-changing consequences caused by premature heart submission of a loved one, my thoughts are with you, there are, I have little doubt, countless others in many places across the world - who know full well that one does not need to venture down a coal mine to fully comprehend what real darkness truly is – let there soon be light in your world too.
Enjoy your retirement all – last chance saloon, drink in and be merry!