xx 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!

Comments for xx Retirement Woes - Addressing the True Heart of the Matter.

Click here to add your own comments

If only.
by: Mary

My goodness your wife was so lucky to have you by her side, not to mention her grown up children.
You went through so much, but to realise how things could have turned out so different.
You so deserve the retirement that you both now seem to be enjoying long may it continue!

I on the other hand do not have such a rosey picture, Like your wife I suffered major heart problems, eventually ending up in Resuscitation in A+E.

I was diagnosed with Dilated cardiomyopathy , in easy turns Heart Failure, my heart is only ticking at 20%.But this was not the end of the road, with medication who knows?

My grown up children were both there for me 100%, but over time I could not say the same for my husband.

I so desperately wanted him to put his arms round me and tell me all was going to be well, we could tackle anything and everything together. Plans we had for the future could still be realised.

But as I lay in my hospital bed that second night I had a dark feeling come over, I couldn’t stop the tears I guess I knew that I was in for a bumpy ride.

Over a period of time I knew I was a burden to my husband, he certainly had not signed up for this in his retirement, come to think of it neither had I!
Instead of love and encouragement there was always something in the way.

My life changed completely, no longer able to work, encouraged by my husband to retire and enjoy our time together

But in June during an argument the unthinkable happened, life was never to be the same again.
IMy husband unlike you decided to take the easy option, jump ship, turn his back and walk away. All this just before heart surgery.

How I wish I could turn the clock back and had a husband like you. Your wife is so lucky.

Thank you sincerely
by: Gordon Kinghorn, UK

Several years ago, when undertaking a degree in journalism as a mature student, this following a full and intoxicating life as a member of the Armed Forces, I was faced with a bit of a quandary as to what particular field I should specialise. Political journalism had ubiquitously prevailed as the crème-de-la-crème of all literary pursuits - however, on taking receipt of a hard-fought-for diploma, one that ensnared [circa] no less four years of my life – I inexplicably veered into the world of sports, subsequently scribing on both domestic and international soccer .

There can be little doubt that my 11th hour deviation into the world of football, has provided one with countless moments of sublime satisfaction and accomplishment, the art of juggling and constructing visible letters and characters into a logical and graphic, essay-like format - based on what I had witnessed during a mere ball game, ultimately yielded immense personal pride and unbridled gratification of no equal.

During the ensuing years, I rubbed shoulders with some of the most sophisticated and word savvy sports journalists one could ever wish to meet, gifted men and woman all, the same who could push aside my less talented written endeavours with a miniscule,flash flirtation on a computer keyboard – a deeply humbling experience if the truth be known.

Yet, experience has taught me that the afore-mention connoisseurs of literary giant-hood, each possessed limited idiosyncrasies, particularly when it came to purposefully and accurately defining human accomplishment.

In the language of the sports pages modern day, greatness is seemingly plentiful – when, in actual fact, similar to that of every area of life, shows that it is desperately rare.

Greatness does not gad about, reaching for people in huge handfuls, it settles deliberately on only a blessed few – a number of which have taken valuable time to acknowledge my recent article, via ‘Retirement-on-Line - and consequently relay their own ‘uncomfortable’ experiences whilst entombed in a cauldron of grief and uncertainty – their emotional and immensely articulate stanzas exuded a greatness of which no sports writer known to me, could have articulated better.

There exists no international borders or foreign shores that can hide or disguise the fact that we are all human beings - and each have the propensity to involuntarily subside when the ‘Grim Reaper’ attempts to nullify our lives – primarily during an era when serious illness and/or life threatening calamities blight our respective existence.

Tonight therefore, I am not merely Gordon Kinghorn, spouse to a stricken wife, my name is Dean from Tennessee, I am Joyce from way down in Coxs Creek, Kentucky, I am one whom, along with millions of others, has come to fully comprehend the underrated frailties of life-and then indefatigably cope with the unambiguous ‘fallout’ from the vituperative viciousness of unexpected physical/mental disarray – my hope therefore, is to proficiently emulate both Joyce and Dean’s caring attendance to respective loved ones – and demonstrate an inner strength, where self-confessed weakness one resided within my psyche.

Thank you to all responding, namely; Joyce, Dean, Ricardo, Mike from Canberra, Sandy and of course, Wendy -hey, we each share a common denominator, we are special, and if something isn’t special, then its ordinary – and given our dotage, we can in no way be ordinary – make your retirement special, and for those you love!

by: Sandy

Gordon - first, let me say how much I enjoy and respect your writing style. You are masterful.

Secondly, but most important, thank you for sharing your story. I have struggled tremendously in retirement, continuing to go in and out of depression and misery for my decision. My hope is that I can take your story to heart, not just read about it.

I have no reason to be unhappy about my retirement, yet can't seem to shake this foolish feeling of being forlorn. I don't want to have a personal health crisis or have my spouse experience one before I can enjoy myself. I will keep trying.

I am so glad your wife made it and that it had a positive impact on your life. Blessings to all.

Thanks Gordon
by: Mike / Canberra Australia

Hi Gordon. First of all let me say what a well written memory. You are obviously an accomplished student of the English language. Your words were inspiring and hit the nail on the head about how we should never give into negativity and cherish each day. My own retirement journey is going well after a very anxious time prior to retirement. I wish you and your family all the best.

by: Joyce, Coxs Creek, Ky

This was profoundly personal for me. I, too, experienced the heart attack of my husband in February 2016. I, too, have been a negative-thinking person, voicing my complaints, etc. - most of which likely come from loss of "structure" in retirement.

My husband, praise God, did survive, and is doing well. We have no children, and I have no siblings, and the thought of losing my spouse was indescribable. I have fought anxiety and depression for several months as a result.

But, the words of your wife's cardiologist struck me - about her desire to survive as a result of love - like nothing else. We (my husband and I) were given life by the Lord for a reason - to serve others, as well as each other. I pray the Lord continues to give me that strength and impetus I need to do that.

My husband lives each day to the fullest, and I must find my place in which to do that, too.

Response In Life
by: Ricardo

My, my Gordon your eloquence in expressing yourself with verbiage is interesting, colorful and at times verbose, yet informative.

I am happy that your wife is returning to somewhat of a stable life style. Situations that cross our paths as we travel thru this life often have unpredictable consequences, sometimes positive, and sometimes negative.

We must ALWAYS learn from the past and become stronger because of the knowledge that we acquired from any given experience, be it positive OR negative.

I revert to the statement, "it is not what HAPPENS in our lives, BUT, how we RESPOND to what happens that impacts us"......sometimes for the REST of our lives!

by: Donna

Thanks Gordon for sharing your most horrific and personal story. You have reminded me to enjoy this retirement and loved ones. We take life for granted even if we say the words over and over "We need to enjoy each day be thankful to our God and live in the moment"

Until we go through these life changing times we seem to drift It is truly an eye opener.

Thank You

Retirement Woes
by: Dean/Tennessee

Gordon, your story shows how adversity can be a blessing which puts everything into perspective.

My wife and I had a similar incident several years ago when heart problems sent me to the hospital.

Click here to add your own comments

Return to Retirement Story.