Fall and the Moon of Radical Change
Monday gratefuls: Beau Jo’s pizza. Stephen King. He inspires me. The Ancient Ones. Male intimacy. Safe space. Tom and Roxann. Pam, Roxann’s sister. Joe and Seoah. Mary. Margus. (Mark, in Arabic) Diane. Drought and fire danger. The burning of the West. Covid. Trump.
A fortnight. That’s all that separates us from a soul reckoning, an accounting of the American heart made large. Here’s a help to guide your news consumption over the next two weeks: 8 tips to stay sane in the final fifteen days of the campaign. Nate Silver at 538.
Me, I’m going wild, believing the lead. Planning for a celebration. One like our normal New Year’s. At home. Quiet. Wonderful. If I’m wrong, well… So be it.
The third phase. Haven’t mentioned this much of late. For those of you to whom the phrase is new. I divide life into 3, or maybe 4, stages. Education/learning: birth to mid-to-late twenties. Family and career: mid-to-late twenties to mid-sixties. Third phase: mid-sixties to death. Maybe a fourth phase just before death.
We have little consensus on the third phase. What’s it for? Who are we after family and career? The old finish-line model of retirement suggested golf, bridge, barbecue. Leisure activities in the time between stopping work and death. Sounded boring to me way back when.
Growing up in a bedroom community for two large General Motor’s factories, I knew the class bias in this model and the big lie. GM workers lived 18 months after retirement. On average. My friend Rick’s dad retired from his job on the silvering tank for GM head lamps. A year later he crashed over forward in the living room, broke his nose in the fall. Dead of a heart attack.
Grandparents then did not have as much time with their grandkids. We’re living longer after retirement. Our healthspan has increased. But for what?
A friend said he couldn’t watch television on Saturday morning. He needed to be productive. He’s 73. Like me. And long out of the day to day work world. He volunteers. Hospice work. Clears brush. Doubt he’ll be watching Saturday morning cartoons. Maybe ever.
Another friend spends good chunks of time on his art. Two days a week he plays with his granddaughter. Yet another ponders the transition from running his company to caregiver. Reads poetry. Waits.
Another of the Ancient Ones lives from moment to moment. Always ready to show up. He rescues ducklings, walks by the river, in the woods. Reads. Visits his kids and grandkids. Does code for a startup business. He’s 82.
Though we are at higher risk in this pandemic, those of us in the third phase have advantages. We can stay home. We can limit our exposure to others. Zoom has made that just bearable. But the question remains, who are we in this last phase of life?
I see patterns as I listen to others, watch their lives, now from afar. Paid work might get replaced by volunteer work. Work around the house may take up more time. Others have a family focus, but as grandparents, back-up, not as parents in a nuclear family. (Of course, there are exceptions.) Some find creative work, either continued from their second phase or developed in the third. Others find themselves in caregiving roles when a partner contracts a serious illness.
An unfortunate number go numb, wait out the end, if not fully depressed, at least dysthymic. This might be the largest group since financial resources create severe limits for many elderly U.S. citizens.
If you’re in the third phase, how are you in it? What are your strategies for a meaningful life?