Best Laid Plans
I always thought retiring from working was something my grandparents did; something you did when you got too old to be able to work.
I always liked working and usually had a job that I loved.
Then in 1999, we talked about moving. We had lived in this house for 20 years, but felt it was time for a change. We had just bought the property in a small town about 100 miles north of us, our son would be graduating from high school the following year, and our daughter two years after that. The plan seemed so perfect.
But there is something funny about best laid plans. The universe doesn’t like to follow our plans, it has plans of its own.
In May of 2000 I had trouble walking up the stairs at work. I couldn’t catch my breath when I got to the top. I thought it was just my asthma and started using my medications and inhalers again. It didn’t seem to help. I finally went to the doctor, who then sent me to a specialist, the same doctor who treated me for a pulmonary embolism in 1987.
Dr. McCoy couldn’t find the cause of my breathing problem. He had me take dozens of tests and by the end of June I was on a nebulizer, more inhalers, and oxygen 24 hours a day. I had already “retired” from my job to get the house ready to put on the market in the next two years; after more than 20 years it would take me that long to go though things and decide what to keep and what to toss. Now even that was put on hold.
I couldn’t walk up and down the stairs to the basement to use the computer, so it was finally moved up to the living room.
By August we learned that I had scarring on my lungs, although the doctors still didn’t know why. I was scheduled to have an open lung biopsy on September 20th.
On August 28th, the four of us came up to to our property so the kids could see the new place before our son left for college and our daughter started her junior year of high school. We had a great picnic at the beach and for the first time I didn’t need to use the oxygen. I could breathe on my own up here.
A few days later, my husband and son left for Spokane to help him get settled into his dorm and get ready for his college classes to start. I missed my son so much already, I cried for three days.
My husband came home, and went back to work, my daughter went to back to school, and then the unthinkable happened. My 16 year old daughter suddenly died.
The universe interfered again.
We were in shock. We were devastated. How do you cope with something like this that totally alters your life in a way you never could have anticipated?
Fortunately, I didn’t have to go back to work, but my husband did. At least he tried. After two weeks, he knew he just couldn’t handle it. He arranged to take a leave of absence, for a year.
At that point he was eligible for early retirement, which he quickly took.
On September 11th, 2001, which was also my husband’s birthday, we had the car and truck all packed up to move to our new home. Then we heard the news that the ferries had been closed down. And the terrible news that the World Trade Center had been attacked.
We sat glued to the TV, stunned, just like everyone else in the world.
Our retirements didn’t come because of any choice we made on our own. They came because that twists and turns in our journey’s path, and we simply had to roll with them.
I’ve learned that our path will have some ups and downs, the road will sometimes have rocks, and sometimes you will get lost.
And that you can plan for the future, to a certain extent. But the only moment you can rely on, is the one that is happening right now.
I wrote this before I was diagnosed with cancer three different times.
Now we are planning on moving again, and again, there is the unknown of where and how.