Chapter 1: Retirement Reality Bites

When you’re a little kid, you have big dreams for your future. When I grow up, I’m going to be a fireman, you say. Or a monster truck driver. Or a dinosaur hunter. Then we grow up, get saddled with bills to pay, and end up settling for the first job that will pay the mortgage. We become telemarketers. Chain store cashiers. Button pushers with no power, and nowhere to climb on the ladder of life. That spark of adventure that once made our eyes glow gets snuffed out before the age of thirty.

Welcome to real life, kid.

And guess what? It happens again when you grow old. You think to yourself, gee, I can’t wait until retirement. I’m going to do nothing but hit golf balls, or lie on the beach, sipping mai tais and listening to the Beatles on my headphones.

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Me today.

Then retirement comes around at last, and your back’s too bad for golf, alcohol doesn’t mix well with your medication, and even your hearing starts to fade away, along with your memory.

Depressed yet?

Trust me, kid. You don’t know what depression is until your grown children ship you off to live at Sleepy Meadows Retirement Home. There are no meadows at Sleepy Meadows Retirement Home. There is, however, an awful lot of sleeping. Because when you reach a certain age, a daily nap or two is pretty much a requirement.

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I guess it’s not all depressing. It is kind of nice not having to make my bed or clean up after myself all the time, kind of like staying in a hotel. Plus, the food is semi-decent, and the nurses make the cutest protest when I reach out and pinch their behinds once in a while, heeheehee.

There are a few other residents at Sleepy Meadows, of course. Some are invalids, stuck in their beds or wheelchairs. Some are as dried up as old apples with no memory whatsoever of the outside world. But then there’s Melissa. Oh…and Richard.

Let me start with Her. Melissa Hilargi. Quite possibly the second great love of my life (though she doesn’t know it yet). She is the opposite of most of the other residents at Sleepy Meadows. Sharp-witted and sharp-tongued when she wanted to be, she could put any man in his place if he dared to cross her boundaries. Her smile was my Prozac, and her eyes were my Zoloft.

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My Melissa, long before I knew her.

Melissa is an artist. Back in her younger years, she says, she used to produce these grand paintings to sell at art shows around the state. You could still find her artwork hanging in office buildings, dentists’ offices, even city hall. Nowadays, she still paints, but Parkinson’s left her with shaky hands, which affected her work.

Now Richard Kingsley.  What can I say? Hanging out with Richard is like drinking a Slurpee. Drink a little, and it’s refreshing. Drink too much, and you’re likely to end up with brain freeze.

The thing is, Richard is a very smart man. He really knows his stuff. But he is just a little too obsessed with politics for my taste. Back in his heyday, he was a journalist who wrote political opinion pieces and breaking news articles about D.C. politicians. If there was a judge being considered for the Supreme Court, Richard could tell you all about it. If the president had some policy Richard didn’t care for, everyone in the retirement home soon knew every detail, thanks to his ranting.

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“Maybe you could try writing your opinions instead of verbalizing them so often,” Melissa once suggested. So Richard started a political blog, and began posting his political views on Twitter. But that didn’t keep him from sharing his opinions with everyone around him, too.

As for me, I was retired from what was quite possibly the coolest job in the world. I used to develop video games. Granted, I did most of my developing early one, for games that came out in the 1990s and early turn-of-the-century. We were just getting around to developing some of the exciting VR and IoT games that are becoming popular now when I at last hung up my hat.

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Me in my younger years, with my son, Chase.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it. Not as much as I missed my wife, of course. Or my kids and grandkids. But my work was a huge part of who I used to be. Now I barely recognized the programming languages the developers were using to create the newest apps. I was nothing more than a has-been, playing video games until my arthritic fingers began to cramp up.

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Suffice to say that this was not how I envisioned spending my retirement years.

But thank goodness for Melissa.

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