Octo Observations: Cherish the Bonus Days

Tucked away on my computer is a book in progress. Every so often I open it up and write a page or two. It has a name but lacks chapters! BONUS DAYS…that is title…about this new phase of life, in which both my husband and I, and many of our friends, are either blossoming or full-blown Octogenarians. Who would ever think that these advanced years of life could be so full of delight! But they can be, if we allow them to be.

For years, we always thought that age 80 belonged to others, and certainly it would be forever before we reached it. But POOF! Here we are, and it is Carpe Diem time. There is so much I want to share that getting started beyond the first ten pages is a challenge. Thoughts and words want to tumble out at a voluminous rate…but experience teaches me the importance of being diligent, deliberate and above all ORGANIZED.

When I awoke this morning, I decided to write a new piece for Woman Around Town. Perhaps, it might be the trigger to sort and align my thoughts.  Maybe it would be the kick in the you-know-what that I have needed. Thus, here we go. Crossing my fingers and plunging in!

The definition of Bonus Days for me is the time of life when our children are grown and long gone from the nest, husbands’ or wives’ careers are ended, and time for savoring each day has dawned. We are in the last quadrant or decade of our lives, and none of us knows just how long we have left on this earth. In the last year, four of my close friends buried their husbands. It is impossible not to identify with each of them, even though there is no possible way to know exactly how it feels. The vacuum left by the death of a long-time spouse is enormous. Imagine the loneliness of dinner-for-one, watching the news alone, or a movie, or sharing a king sized bed with only pillows….well, incomprehensible and frankly quite scary.

Eighteen months ago John and I downsized by 65 percent and moved from our Happy Ever After dream house. Living in a retirement facility cottage accentuates the reality of our age. We are surrounded by people who are the same vintage as we are, older often, but seldom younger. When we go to dinner in the lovely Prima dining room, we see many residents pushing walkers, many folks stooped over and doing their best to navigate independently. Sometimes, we look around and think, “gosh, everyone is old except me!” Major denial, for sure, but perchance a means of separating ourselves from the reality of being older people!

Denial is a silly game to play, and I recognize it. Yet, not allowing ourselves to cave into the vagaries of older age is a choice we can make for ourselves. And I am determined “to live each day ‘til I die if it kills me.” (A quote from my older sister Judy.) I want to make the most of every day, to reach out and away from myself, to hug my husband of 61 years close, and to text and email our children and  grandbabies living far away, as well as those far flung friends who have enriched my life for so many years. I want to be remembered as  a happy, FUN Grammy who knew how to stay in touch through modern technology!

In 2006 I had emergency carotid surgery, a life-saving endarterectomy, which was miraculously diagnosed by Life Line Screening, a mobile unit that travels around the country testing people for cardiovascular and heart disease. Thanks to a neighbor who had been diagnosed with a blockage, she alerted us all to be tested when Life Line came to town.  I urged my husband to go, and he said, “You, too, Joy.” He was fine, but after completing the doppler test, the nurse took me aside and said, “we think we just saved your life.” Gulp! When I saw the (wonderful, my hero) vascular surgeon he asked if I had eaten lunch…I had. The very next afternoon the doctor operated and discovered a 99% blockage of my left carotid. If the artery had completely closed, he would have been unable to fix it.  The chances are I would have had a massive stroke, died, or been severely disabled.  Since then I have annual doppler exams, and each year when the news is good, I say, “Thank you, God.” Next week is my 2019 appointment. 

BONUS DAYS are to be enjoyed. They are not to be spent agonizing about the world situation which we cannot fix. They are not to be frittered away worrying about our health or feeling every little twinge that plagues our aging bodies. My own dear husband has advanced degenerative spinal disc disease which manifests chronic pain. This is a reality for him, and he does his best to overcome it with moderate exercise and determination. But it is real, and no doctor can cure it. How does that affect my John? Well, some days are easier than others, but between the two of us, we know that we are richly blessed to have a glorious family, great friends, a strong and vibrant marriage. We know each other better than anyone else on earth knows us, and we are each other’s best friends. Being a friend is also being a cheerleader. And these days, that is my job as well as my pleasure much of the time. 

“A cup half full” is easier to hold than “a cup half empty”….and with all my heart and soul, I hope I will forever drink from the cup half full! I will get organized and write the next book that is itching to happen. If I am really lucky, keep exercising and don’t eat too much chocolate, I may extend these wondrous Bonus Days long enough for our two great grandbabies to know us, to dance at our unmarried grandchildren’s weddings, and to inhale, and by all means, CHERISH every joyful moment of these God-given BONUS DAYS!!

Joy Nevin is the author of Joy of Retirement – Live, Love, and Learn. Click to buy on Amazon.

Top photo: Bigstock