Tuesday, July 5, 2011

From Zero to Sixty

Well, it happened. I knew it was coming, and I was braced for the earth shattering, unavoidable jolt of waking up the morning of my sixtieth birthday with the sobering realization that I will never be fifty-something (let alone forty-something or indeed, thirty-something) ever again. I went to sleep sort of dreading the morning, but funnily enough, when I actually wakened I was thinking about work and some issues I was dealing with - and wasn’t even aware I was now sixty years of age until Gary smiled and said “Happy Birthday.” The day progressed nicely from there and I am happy to say that turning sixty wasn’t so bad after all. In fact, I feel sort of wise and matriarchial all of a sudden, which gives me pause to look back on my life with newfound sagacity, and contemplate why it is a good thing to be where I am now instead of where I have been previously.

In retrospect, the babyhood / early childhood decade was probably the best prior to now. I wasn’t saddled with a whole lot of responsibility at that stage of life so having fun twenty-four / seven was expected of me, and I excelled at it. Arguably, this period of my life would have been the best had it not been ruined toward the end by the start of school. Kindergarten and first grade were okay, although I would have preferred to be home with my mom – but by the time I was ten and in third grade, I had figured out I was no scholar, and school was ceasing to be fun.

The pre-teen / teenage decade was challenging for me. With two older sisters and a younger brother, I was neither fish nor fowl most of the time. My sisters got to do all sorts of cool things that I could not because I was too young, and my brother got away with murder being the baby and the only boy. Then, of course, there was the school issue. I just hated to study and resented having to do homework. Our family moved a lot, which caused me to change schools ten times between kindergarten and twelfth grade, so I was also the perennial “new kid.” Fortunately, despite the fact that I was a disconnected, recalcitrant student, I was pretty smart and managed not to get left back at any point. And regardless of which school I attended, there were lots of cute boys to flirt with, so I made the most of it and eventually graduated - if not with honors, at least not in disgrace.

I married shortly after high school and produced two beautiful daughters shortly thereafter. This was rather a good decade because being a military family we got to live in all sorts of exciting places like Wichita, Kansas. (Kidding!) Well, we did live in Wichita, but were also based in Las Vegas for three years and in England for another three before returning to the states to set up house here in Fort Worth. I loved being a stay at home mom and thoroughly enjoyed raising my two girls, but my marriage fell apart, and by the time I turned thirty, I was a poor but proud single mom struggling to keep body and soul together.

My thirties were a turbulent time. Trying to raise two small children and support a home on an entry-level salary and hit and miss child support was tough! Fortunately, I met Gary just prior to my thirtieth birthday. With his huge love and support, we got through some very difficult times and managed to keep everything afloat.

Gary and I raised three great kids, bought a restaurant, played a lot of golf and worked hard throughout my forties. One thing I am a maniac about is saving money, so having retirement savings is of utmost importance to me. We diligently contributed to our 401(k) plans while dreaming of someday touring America in our own beautiful motor home and other carefree retirement plans.

I turned fifty in June of 2001 – two and a half months before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center – an event that changed our nation and me along with it forever. I still cry at the memories of the horror that assaulted our senses that day, and grieve for the families of those who lost their lives. In the aftermath of 9-11, like many small businesses our restaurant foundered, our savings plummeted and with no other course open to us, Gary and I squared our shoulders and set about the business of rebuilding our finances and our faith in mankind. There have been numerous setbacks along the way as the stock market has risen and fallen, our hopes and dreams bobbing like flotsam and jetsam along with it.

So, leaving my fifties has not been too painful. The kids are all grown now and doing well. We have eight adorable grandchildren. I have a job that I really love and am good at which makes getting up every morning for work a lot more fun. Our retirement savings, while not where we had originally planned for them to be, are going to be enough to allow us to retire sometime in this decade, and we are really enjoying taking things at a slower pace. Best of all, Gary and I both have our health, each other and a future full of wonderful new roads to travel in a somewhat smaller RV. Sixty seems to me a good place to be.