I write this love letter to you, my new husband of one year, to remind you of our age (50 something), and as a result, our collective wisdom (over a hundred years together). Yes, we still have lots to learn and experience, but we are now those people–the older grey-hared folks in the family, and in our work, and at the community gatherings. We are the ones who reminisce about the good old days, and are the historians of the way things used to be. We remember dialing our telephones on the one phone that we had in the house. We played the same record over and over again for entertainment. We played cards together with our friends.
We are the ones now being called for advice, and are supposed to know what the heck to do because “haven’t we experienced something like that before?” We look around for the people who are supposed to know more, and then we realize that we are the ones that people look up to to determine what is good enough or when enough is enough. In fact, we don’t really have to answer to too many people anymore. Our families have finally concluded that we are going to do what we want to at this point, regardless of their advice. We are now the leaders in our fields, and quite frankly, we are as good as we are likely going to get at what we are doing right at this very moment in time. We might dabble at learning new things over the next few years, but our core skills and abilities have been forged.
From this point forward, things are likely going to get a little bit more difficult as our adult children perplex us, and our aging parents defy us. Both these younger and older family members are a little bit delusional about their own abilities in a world where life is more of a crap shoot than we care to admit to them. We carefully advise both children and parents of their need to live for the moment while preparing for the worst case scenarios, recognizing that both of these outcomes can sometimes be mutually exclusive of each other.
The weak links of our physical health are starting to surface, and despite our efforts to deny the aging process, our brains and bodies don’t always cooperate with our plans. We get just a bit more tired (cuddling is the new sexy); and we are prone to forgetting (thank goodness for phone apps); and sometimes, we just don’t feel like doing the things that we used to do. However, that is the great part of it all; we don’t really have to do the things that we used to do anymore because we have already proven ourselves. Our resumes are already pretty comprehensive.
We no longer have to impress people because of “the professional optics“. For example, you don’t really need to care if your supervisor or colleagues see you talking on the cellphone in the middle of the work day. Instead, you have earned the ability and confidence to tell them about the magical moment that just happened: “Ya, my wife just read me a short story that she wrote in her writing class. She was pretty excited about it.” What are they going to say to the old guy (manager) at the job who prioritizes his older wife in the middle of the day? The beauty is, you don’t have to prove yourself anymore as long as the work is moving along in the right direction because we now know that the work at work is never really done and so there is no need to kill ourselves doing it. We’ll retire long before it is done, and if it was to ever to be done, no one will ever phone us up out of retirement and say, “Hey, the work here finally got done, and, oh, by the way, thanks for your part in it.”
I write to remind you of your strength and your value at this time in your life. Together, we have a lot of say in our new life together and we have an incredible power as a team if we don’t let the fear of what has been (family of origin) and what is to come (deficit mindset typical of the aging process) get in our way. We are empty nesters and if we have done our jobs right, we have less responsibility now to other people in our lives than we’ve had since we were both 26 years old. Our children are grown up and they are focussing on their own priorities so that they can set the bar for their families to come. In terms of security, we have saved a bit of money (I wish we had more) and have a pretty strong skill set (diverse, but saleable); so if a calamity was to strike, we would survive.
However, how we set our directions together with all of the wisdom and skill that God has now afforded us, will be what sets the stage for our twilight years. The calculated risks that we choose to make now will be what help us to be comfortable or uncomfortable in our old age (memories or regrets; savings or debt).
It is easy to fall in love, but so much harder to stay in love, especially as we age. Life is not getting easier, but I am prepared to weather the next 50 years together with you as we seize the days, and cherish the moments. We truly do not know how many of them there will be left, but we do know more than anyone around us, how to make our own lives happen the way that we want them to happen. We are now the master carpenters building our futures together. Let’s write the next chapters of our lives creatively because no one else is composing our destinies for us (other than a little help from God).
And so, I close by quoting Virgil because I feel our mortality knocking at the door:
“Death twitches my ear;
‘Live,’ he says…
And so, let’s live and let’s live well!
I love you.