For a couple of weeks now I have been listening to very fervent and passionate retirement plan discussions. Half of my teammates will be eligible to pull the rip chord in the next six months to two years. They are all already in countdown mode or STD – short timer’s disease – since they can’t seem to care much above or beyond what is expected of them because they already have a foot out the door mentally and spiritually.
The 150 mph Shinkansen ride has me wondering if I should take a break too. The year 2019 was a total clusterf@%k!
Growing up, my mother talked about retiring early constantly. By the time she hit 55, all there would be between her and the next door neighbors would be acres of beautiful land. Gorgeous flower gardens. Maybe a couple of cows, dogs or goats. (Maybe that last part was me asking for the pets we never had because we didn’t have a yard. 😅🤣) The condo had been a nice place to raise a family without the worry of chores; there was no lawn to mow and the HOA fees covered any exterior cosmetic issues and painting needs. By 57, she’d be ready for open spaces and new horizons. That was a promise she begged me to help her keep. Unfortunately, I was overruled a few times until it was very clear to mom that she owed this to herself. A promise she owed that little kid that dreamed of moving to a “ranch in Montana”.
As an introvert, my mother shared with me her desire to move out to the middle of nowhere, buy a Harley and ride the open highway. As she got older, she started to rethink her strategy in favor of staying closer to home to help with my ailing grandmother who we all believed was destined to outlive us all! It was very disappointing to hear that she had Stage IV Glioblastoma at age 62, just two years into her jubilee. Instead of moving to the home of her dreams, she was moving back to her childhood home, to the room that used to be my uncle’s until he left to start his own family.
The irony of her dream was not lost on me.
We make all these plans and then, poof!, life takes us in a different direction. When I asked the Colonel (Ret) before her craniotomy if she had any regrets, her response was “NONE”. She’d delay retirement again and again, to ensure she had enough savings and pension to provide for her into her last days. Putting a more elaborate retirement schedule that included regular visits with us, stateside, on hold to help take care of grandma was non negotiable. She realized she didn’t need any of her fancy plans to come to fruition because ultimately “My dream was you. My beautiful daughters. My only concern is leaving you so soon.”
On January 7th, 2019, my mom passed away peacefully in her sleep. We were a few miles away sleeping restlessly, waiting for her suffering to end. It’s been over 8 months but the pain feels like it has been forever. There are days when I want to quit, buy an electric Harley (I know, I know) and just drive until I find that beautiful homestead in the middle of nowhere that she’d been longing for so long. I wish nothing more than to reclaim everything this unexpected loss has taken from me. Confidence. Pride. Joy. A belief in the future. I’d drive a million miles with the wind flowing through my curly hair just to find a place to lie and forget how much I miss her. How much it frustrates and angers me that I ran out of time too.
Whatever I achieve from this moment on, for better or worse, will be beyond her influence, beyond anything she had hoped to witness. It’s hard to think she will never see me at my best, or at least getting better, wiser, more at peace with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I wonder what she would have thought of post-mom’s death me. This new person that grieves daily and trucks on, without realizing she needs to stop and feel the loss beyond the platitudes and social expectations. I wish she could be here for all the next wonderful milestones that we hope to celebrate; anniveraries, births, promotions, retirements, love found, new beginnings. Many tell me she is here in spirit but somehow that brings no solace to my broken heart. There’s no way to politically quantify how much I miss her.
Perhaps one day, in my own version of her ranch in Montana, I’ll finally be able to understand why this happened to us. Why it had to happen to me.