We decided to try again.  I confirmed my commitment by renting the Westin condo furnished.  There was no safety net now for at least the term of the new tenant’s lease.   It seemed easier now to leave the East Coast behind.  So many of the important people in my life out east were now deceased.  I was the last one standing in my core family and some of my best friends were also gone.  My youngest son was in Cleveland but like the reality of divorced families everywhere in the new jet age, his children were in Nevada.  My oldest son had very young children in Florida but he lived in an airplane because of business and I knew I would see him often.  Whatever was left of my career in real estate and private placements seemed to no longer interest me.  The new crowdfunding securities law opened up a future for online fund raising and I created one of the earliest attempts to educate owners and developers about this opportunity. But like an aging race horse, the truth was I just wanted to be put out to pasture.

            I became fascinated with the potential of the world of online communications.  Skype and later Zoom offer unlimited possibilities to bring people together to share ideas and also to resolve disputes.  I had become certified as a mediator in Florida and began mediation services in California, but I dreamed of the potential to resolve disputes online and created a website where you could meet online with a mediator to settle disputes.  I also saw this as a vehicle to have family meetings online to resolve family issues.  I focused on helping families deal with the new challenge of their elderly parents’ needs.  Barbara spent her time focusing on the challenges of weight loss.  Having successfully survived a serious eating disorder she followed her passion by becoming a leader and coach with Weight Watchers.

            The challenges of living with and understanding someone much younger no longer existed with Barbara.  I understood her physical aches and pains and she understood mine.  We were two completed entities sharing our lives.  This was not a codependent relationship.

            Barbara worked in the Silicon Valley for a high tech pioneer before the incredible developments of the Valley were well known. She used her Mensa brain and library skills to become an expert high tech writer.  Her skills at the piano reintroduced me to the joys of classical music, and we became weekend hikers exploring the many parks the area has to offer.  Frequent trips to San Francisco exposed me to incredible art, the mysteries of Chinatown and the charm of a city that had sparked a cultural revolution in the 60’s.

            Before I met Barbara, my travel plans had been limited to the Caribbean and Canada.  That was about to change.  Barbara had the travel bug and had already seen much of the world.  My kids had been to Europe.  Steven spent his senior year of college in London.  I had never been to Europe.  So after exploring with Barbara most of what the miraculous California had to offer, including Yosemite and the redwoods, we visited London and Paris together and later Viet Nam, Portland and most of New Mexico.  If we stay healthy we will be going on a four month cruise around the world early next year.

            I spend my volunteer time as a field ombudsman advocating for seniors in assisted living facilities, memory care facilities and skilled nursing facilities licensed by the State of California.  After meeting some amazing seniors, I started a podcast called The Reluctant Senior on iTunes. I am still painting and writing poetry.

            I am comforted by my sons’ parenting skills and for the fact that they draw comfort from their brotherly love.  I am proud of their accomplishments but most proud of the way they have handled adversity. My grandchildren have been blessed with healthy bodies and strong intellect.  I believe they will thrive in this very difficult fast changing world. We were all together for my 70th birthday in Cleveland.

YOU WOULD THINK THAT WHEN YOU REACH YOUR 70’S you would have a better understanding of yourself.  And that understanding would help you unravel the predominant patterns of your life by employing a more mature analysis and review.  Maybe. Yet even now I am not sure I can determine the difference between behavior that qualifies as codependent and behavior that is just an exuberant display of love.

            I know the dynamics of my early childhood home profoundly affected my relationships and motivations.  But I also believe some of us have a greater capacity for empathy than others.  My grandfather cried every night during the news, both for the sad stories and the uplifting ones.  I inherited the cry gene.

            The longer I stay alive and interact with the glow and flow of existence, the more I appreciate the complexity and mystery of our lives.  We live in an unknown environment. The bulk of the universe consists of dark energy (73%) and dark matter (23%) neither of which has been identified. All the stars and planets are only 4%.  No one has yet explained consciousness.  My grandson wants to be an astrophysicist. Maybe he will figure it all out.

           I think I have survived cancer (it’s an ongoing watch) and I still can enjoy most activities that require an operating body but my days of existence are limited.  I am mortal.  Recent discussions about the future of AI has made some wonder if being human will always be unique because of an enduring soul.  I have never spent much time wondering about the existence of God. Am I afraid I am going to HELL?

Do I hope to go to HEAVEN? Will I be chanting OM near the end?

            I saw my mother exactly five minutes before she died and immediately afterwards. The difference was striking and indescribable. Without that thing that is life, the body is just a piece of flesh. Dispose of it as you will. With or without prayers.  One of the things that fascinated me about Jewish prayers that mention God is that they never say the Hebrew word for God but instead use a code word. The idea is that the mere word itself is too holy to be spoken. And maybe too mysterious.

            My God is that mysterious. So beyond explanation that I have not yet found a religion to warrant his mystery or complexity.

            So what’s it all about?  I think it’s about learning to love yourself or at least accept yourself.  All of us were blessed with a spot of life on the planet.  Who is to say we are not worthy. Everyone has their very own pile of problems.  Be careful who you want to change places with.  I cherish my relationships with old and new friends.  I am blessed to be able to communicate with my grandchildren and learn from them.   I feel real love and believe I am capable of returning love.

            I used to relate to the scene in my favorite movie “All That Jazz,” where Roy Scheider acting as Bob Fosse splashes water in his face, looks at his weary face and bloodshot eyes in the mirror, and says to the mirror: “It’s show time, folks.”  Now each morning I squeegee, the shower door, and think, “Didn’t I just do this minutes ago.  Could it already be another day?” The days are moving faster now.  I need to hold on to each a little longer. 

            I hope I have finally learned that I am only human.  It’s hard enough to repair myself much less try to fix someone else.  I will probably second guess my past behavior for the rest of my life but I will do so now with acceptance of the imperfect logic of the human heart.

Barb and Richard 2019

A short note from Now!

This little exercise has forced me to reread a book I wrote five years ago. Looking back at your life can have consequences. Some favorable and some not so. It’s sad to remember all those mentioned who have now passed away. I am hopeful to think there have been lessons learned. After 12 years of living together, Barbara and I got married. It’s never too late!

If you want to check out our recent travels and adventures take a look at the rest of The Reluctant Senior Blog. Thanks for those of you who have sent me comments.