In the Fast Lane

March 25, 2019

Our TV weathermen have started their annual happytalk about the cherry blossoms, the ritualistic late-March deliberations about when they’re going to be in full bloom around the Tidal Basin—or not. It may be later this year. No wait—some of the trees have already bloomed, that sort of thing. Same every year. I went 20 years ago, that was enough.

Not to be grumpy, I was looking for real signs of good news, and got some: the last radiation session on Monday, recognized by the staff with a little pin and a rubber bracelet engraved “Survivor.” Had lunch with friend Alex (see this blog, Nov. 4, 2018), we talked about the chance I might join him for a jaunt out to the Shenandoahs—hiking, not running. The key word is “might.” Also, a highlight: the kids came up from S.C., Marie, Mike, grandsons  Noah and Patrick, our oldest daughter Laura. We visited and talked. Mike and I took the boys to the National Museum of the Marine Corps at Quantico, always a treat.

Noah at National Museum of the Marine Corps 

I did finish (for now) an acrylic of a Shenandoah mountain scene looking east, after hours working to get right that mysterious blue-white mist that wells up between those gentle peaks. Problem for me is the depth, it looks whiter closer in, or is that my imagination? Still, time well spent. Beats complaining.

Friends have checked in. Dan, a tough, standup Happy Trails guy whose wife fought off cancer and knows the drill I’m marching to, invited me for a mountain run with him. Dave, another friend, is taking me with him to help out at next Saturday’s Massanutten 50K (kilometer) run, my first time working this one after running it four or five times.

I’m struggling a little with aftereffects of treatment, but staying upbeat. We got a hint of spring, not every day was bitingly raw and damp. Still, most days are indoor days, and with no longer a doctor’s schedule to keep, time is available to think about and focus on the future, some of which is about changing the scenery, sure, but in the real world, the here and now.

For years, our obsession was old-age security. We attended enough financial planning sessions, or watched them on TV, to be seriously scared at the prospect of a senior “lifestyle” consisting of a cramped apartment, crushing medical bills, soup and beans every night, then being corralled into a barebones gray-walled nursing home run by neo-Nazi attendants.  A couple of medical close calls for both of us added to that: Sandy’s heart, my rhabdomyolesis last year.

We came within an inch of slashing our life policy to pay for long-term care insurance,  which I was convinced we had to have. It only takes one insurance company briefing to truly scare you about growing old: outliving your savings, developing nightmare health problems like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, the ones in the TV ads, then being forced to spend yourselves into poverty to qualify for Medicaid. Then Sandy was laid off. We junked the long-term care idea. The fallback is to “self-insure.”

Things are different now. We’re not richer. But close calls concentrate the mind, as the cliché goes. Our benchmarks on the future have changed. It now seems ridiculous to listen to those brokerage commercials that project we’re both going to live into our mid-eighties and then how important it is to have a “nest egg” put away for our nineties. My insurance policy won’t mature ‘til I’m around 100. Come on.

So having gone through all these medical appointments and paid all those bills (with help from insurance) we’re freer, in our heads, anyway, than we have been in years. What would we like to do? Travel—isn’t that what we should do? Well, where do people like us go? London, Paris, Rome? Hawaii, Hong Kong?

Laura, our oldest, spent a summer in Russia, later hiked to Macho Picchu. Our son Michael and daughter-in-law Caroline have been to New Zealand twice. Middle daughter Marie spent a year of college in Ireland, a month in Japan, then visited the U.K. many times. Kathleen, the youngest, went to Hawaii, Europe, Guatemala, and camped all over the Western states.

We’ve never done any of that. Sandy’s idea is to fly to Utah and see the five national parks there. I’d like get back to Texas and Florida. Then drive to Baxter State Park in Maine and climb Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Then drive south through New England, stop at St. Anselm’s in New Hampshire, a friend’s place in Connecticut, then ferry over to Long Island and visit a bunch of cousins there.

We then have Sandy’s nephew’s wedding in Georgia in September and a cousin’s wedding in Virginia Beach. Life in the fast lane for Ed and Sandy. We get around.

4 thoughts on “In the Fast Lane

  1. Glad your thinking is changed from some of these industries that exist just to terrify people about aging!

    Though I heartily recommend you give the cherry blossoms another chance! There’s certainly beautiful things to see in all the places you’re considering around the country and world but the cherry blossoms are a rare spectacle just a few miles up the road that have almost no equal. Sure — there are crowds at the festivals that make it a bit oppressive but maybe you could make a picnic and enjoy the stretch of blooming pink magnificence in East Potomac Park! There’s hardly anyone there and really would be a lot nicer than if you were dealing with the crowds, during a full-time job, while full-time raising four kids.

    Excited your treatment is over and hope you’ll be out on the trails with your full strength soon! Love ya!


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