It just blows my mind how busy my life has become since I entered seniorhood, retired and moved to Florida. I thought things would slow down after my young adulthood, and middle age would be easier after raising three children and working to help put them through college. I looked forward to sleeping late and endless leisure time.
But I love what actually happened when I stopped working. Moving into a retirement community opened up an entirely new world for me with endless new choices, unexpected and different opportunities, and the challenge of keeping track of what I committed to do.
Instead of the free time I expected to have, the free choices I discovered have filled my days in wonderful ways with creativity and endless juggling. I have to keep track somehow of things I need to do, people I need to meet with, places I need to go, meetings I need to attend, bills I need to pay, and household responsibilities that cry out for attention.
Frustrated by my need for some kind of organization and control, I began to help myself remember by hanging a large calendar on my fridge with a magnetic pen alongside. And it astonished me how quickly the boxes for each day of the month became overstuffed with jotted reminders of gotta-get-dones.
But out of sheer necessity, I discovered a way to help both my husband Oscar and myself. I began to color-code my calendar. Each notation I make about a doctor’s appointment – and the number has grown amazingly in the past dozen years – is highlighted in yellow. Each birthday I need to remember is in pink. Deadlines are written in red ink and travel dates are highlighted in green. At the end of each month, I remove the page, fold it so the name of the month shows, and stand it up in a box in my pantry where it is always nearby and easily accessible.
Yes, I know it sounds anal, and I think it is. But there have been some really surprising and unexpected benefits from doing this – especially when I’m struggling to account for and reconcile medical bills and insurance statements.
Just a few days ago as I was folding November’s page, putting it in a storage box and hanging December’s page on the fridge when I realized that what I had in my hands was an unintended autobiography of Oscar’s and my life. The 30 or so squares of each month were filled with grandchildren’s special school programs that we would never miss, club meetings and service commitments we had made, social dates we’ve had with family and friends, and the travel plans we’ve made each month.
Call me crazy, but I’ve been saving these pages for several years now in case we had to validate a medical bill or track our travel. All it takes is a rubber band around 12 folded white sheets of paper. I know when I had my last mammogram, when Oscar had a CAT scan, when we drove across country camping, visited the kids and more.
It often takes only a second to capture a memory. I think each of us finds our own way to record and/or remember things. Whatever works is great. It just never occurred to me until today that those 12 sheets a year are a briefly scribbled autobiography of how Oscar and I spend the time in our lives. It says we are alive and active and doing things. And it reminds us to be grateful for each square in every month that is filled with the things that we choose to do. Yes, time does seem to fly now. And yes, we’re definitely having fun being retired.
Freelance writer Judy Kramer can be reached by email at [email protected] She is author of “Changing Places: A Journey with My Parents into Their Old Age.”