A Day in January
by Martin Green
One of the first things you learn when you retire is that, without the structure of an 8-to-5 five-day workweek, you need another structure, no matter how loose; otherwise youll be flailing away, wondering how to fill in all of those now empty hours. In my early retirement years, tennis was an important part of my structure. I played three, sometimes four times a week. When I started freelance writing, first for an alternative weekly paper in Sacramento, then for the Sacramento Bee Neighbors section, this provided a structure, at times too rigid a one as I might find myself working more than I had as a State employee. As time went on and I got older, my activities decreased and now I only write a couple of columns for a monthly senior paper our retirement community gets and play pool once or twice a week. Oh, yes, I also write profiles for the monthly bulletin of the veterans club we have here.
Sundays during the fall and winter months for me mean NYT and NFL. The NYT is for the New York Times Sunday paper, an indulgence that, as a New Yorker, I gave myself a few years back. NFL is for National Football League and I primarily watch my old home team, the New York Giants, and my adopted California teams, the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders. Unfortunately, this season both the 49ers and Raiders dropped out of playoff contention pretty early and my Giants had nearly dropped out of the league.
On this January day I was up around 8:30, having had a fairly decent nights sleep, something that doesnt always happen. Made it through another night, I thought. My wife Sally was up before me and was in the kitchen pouring orange for our daily regimen of pill-taking. Shed be going to our community church shortly to sing in their choir, which shed joined the year before. I asked how shed slept and she replied not too well as she could when she knew she had something to go to the next morning. I looked out the window and observed that it seemed to be a nice day, unusual in January when in the Sacramento Valley it was usually foggy or raining. I might go for a walk later, I said.
After breakfast, I took my coffee and the Sunday Times to our enclosed patio, which this morning was a sun room, and tackled the crossword puzzle. When Id finished with it I turned to the book section and there was a front page interview with noted writer Philip Roth. I glanced through it and then stopped because the interviewer said that Roth would be 85 soon and asked how he felt about being an elder. I read Roths answer with interest because he said hes astonished on getting into bed each night that hed lived another day and its astonishing again to wake up eight hours later and find hed survived another night. This was something like what Id thought this morning and which I think pretty much every day, too. The one difference was that Roth said he smiled at getting through each day and smiled again at getting through each night. I didnt smile as I saw nothing to smile about with being old even though I was still above ground.
After getting dressed I checked the TV schedule for NFL games. There was nothing interesting on in the morning. The 49er game was on in the afternoon. I might look at it to see how their new quarterback was doing. I was still thinking about the Philip Roth article. Hed also said that in a few months when hed be 85 hed be going from plain old age to deep old age. This too was something that Id thought and in fact had written a book I called The View From 85 that Id published on Amazon for 99 cents. I think that so far it had sold about a dozen copies. I guessed that the reason Roth was smiling about still being around might be that he was an eminent author and, judging from the article was in pretty good shape. Hed said he woke up after eight hours of sleep, indicating he had no insomnia problem. Also, he had a net worth (Id looked it up on Google) of some ten million dollars. This, Im sure, helped to feel good about life.
Id told Sally I might go for a walk. The sun was still out so I took my walking stick (not cane) and drove to our Lodge, the center of our retirement communitys activities. There was a park, or nature area, adjacent to it with a circular walking path. After Id had my hip replacement a few years ago, when I was 85 as a matter of fact, it was my goal to be able to walk around the circular path, something I was able to do after a couple of months. As it was a Sunday, a lot of golfers were out. The golf course was also adjacent to the Lodge and the parking lot was pretty full.. I drove around and managed to find a parking space and set off.
The nature area had some wild life - wild turkeys, whod taken up residence on the golf course, an occasional jackrabbit, squirrels, many birds and of course, at a distance, golfers. I rarely met anyone else on the walking path, sometimes someone walking a dog. I walked along the path, seeing nothing but trees and hearing but not seeing birds. In my younger days, Id liked to walk and had done a lot of walking. Now doing this walk was more of a task. All of the authorities said us elders should exercise at least three times a week. This might possibly stave off Alzheimers. Sally and I went to an exercise class twice a week. This walk would be my third exercise.
I reached the bench that was about halfway around the path and decided to sit down and take a break. A few minutes later, two persons approached the bench. One was a tall, thin elderly man with a walker; the other was a short, plump dark-complexioned woman who I assumed was a caretaker. They paused in front of the bench and I said Good morning. The man said, Good morning. Im 92 years old. Thats great, I said. The man nodded. I guess that was all he wanted to say because they moved on. I sat for a little while longer. Well, maybe there was life after 90, even with a walker and a caretaker. Philip Roth said that surviving day after day was like playing a game which gave him the illusion that he was winning against the odds, even though he might lose at any time. He hoped his luck wouldnt run out. I got up and resumed walking, prepared to get through another day.
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