Lynne, Age 71
Every day when I wake up I am surprised. Why is this? Well, both my parents died young. Mom at 49 (breast cancer) and dad at 52 (ruptured aortic anurysm). I had no parents since my early 20’s. Through the years I watched my friends and their children enjoy grandparents. In later years I watched them become caretakers of their elderly parents. They often said “longevity runs in my family” as their birthdays came…and kept coming. I had 3 terrific boys to raise within a very bad marriage. No safety net of parents meant I stayed in the marriage past when I should have left it. Finally, after 20 years of that, I went back to school, became economically independent and left the marriage. I then met the love of my life and re-married. My career flourished and I got the job of a lifetime…teaching Psychology at a local community college. My husband and I worked all we could (he was also in education) to get all 5 of our k ids through college, and grad school. Nothing was easy but we managed to do plenty of world travel on a budget and stay grateful to have each other. Our family was never the Brady Bunch but we managed and no one is estranged from anyone.
My husband (aged 75 now) is retired. I worked until 70 to optimize my social security payout. My first year of retirement, last year, felt kind of traumatic. My identity was gone. I didn’t feel bored so much as irrelevant. The “kids” don’t need us. Two of my sons got divorced. One got married. Then one got re-married. I had a granddaughter (yea!) but 3,000 miles away. Life moves on. Then I applied and was admitted to the Institute for Retired Professionals at the New School in NYC. I found a home at this teaching-learning community. So many courses! No tests or papers! So much new stuff to learn! I’ll be teaching (these are study goups and the teaching is called “coordinating”) my second course this term It is called “LUCK”. I spent a lot of time this summer researching the topic. It was a labor of love. Not for everyone I know, but if life-long learning is your thing then find some courses to take. My husband also became a member this year. We recently went to a lecture given by a well known gerontologist (Dr. Mark Lachs, who wrote “Treat Me Not My Age”). Dr Lachs told us that in terms of longevity genetics count for ONLY 20% of it!!! I was so happy to learn this. I don’t have to be so surprised to still be around! If you want to know what he told us is the #1 factor in how long you’ll live reply to this story and I’ll tell you.
One last thing I learned and I guess most of you know as well…being with friends, laughing , telling stories, sharing angst and joy and lots of wine enriches these years more than anything. I wish I could invite some of you over for some stories and wine. Let me know if you’re in the NYC area…or invite me to your place!