from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: a pattern of days – a second retirement

14 May. We both retired. 18 years ago. I found retirement was a process of adaptation. There were at least two years of adjustment as we settled into working out what to do. And we did get going, we got the message that this was a gift – time – valuable FREE time. So we… moved house; studied; travelled; planted trees; travelled some more with our local museum; bought a holiday home at the seaside; got a dog; planted more trees from our own seed; I wrote a short biography of my grandmother as requested by my 90-year-old father when he emigrated from South Africa to Chester, UK ; I wrote a longer biography of my father published after his death at the age of 97, and I wrote two novels about Africa.

And now, it’s as if a second retirement is before us, with a further consideration of what we should do. However, there are fewer options and in the background is the possibility of being stricken with Covid-19. Times have changed. We constantly hear that our age group bears the highest risk for hospitalisation and death. Especially so if you have a ‘comorbidity’. (Comorbidity is a word I have never used before. It ‘refers to the presence of more than one disorder in the same person’. I am assuming that old age is now regarded as a disorder, a ‘morbidity’.)

In Adelaide, South Australia, we have not been as constrained as many other major cities but still the flow of disturbing news has been a constant since early March … that’s two months for us to adapt to a second retirement from our first retirement.

And how has our life changed? For a start, each day is much the same as the previous day. Small, hardly noteworthy differences: driving to walk the dog in the park and fetch the mail; sometimes a big supermarket shop in the early morning … etc.

So, most of the time is spent in the house or our garden. And somehow the day goes by very fast. We have ordered three vegetarian meals a week from a service called HelloFresh. The box is delivered to the door on Monday and consists of the ingredients for the meals plus a comprehensive guide to the process of cooking. This is entertainment as much as anything else, for these are meals I would not normally cook: roasted sweet potato risotto … pesto, roast pumpkin and fetta risoni …

My husband complains about the lack of MEAT. Since I am verging on becoming a vegetarian, this is not what I want to hear. During the week, there are 4 other dinners that can feature meat. The trouble is that the meals from HelloFresh are generous and we have leftovers. There is a definite greater interest in food and home cooking during this new retirement. We used to eat out 2-3 times a week.

The phone: we are spending more time talking on our mobiles (we don’t have a landline). We catch up with family and friends and since two daughters live in the USA, another daughter lives in Sydney and a son settled in South Africa, these calls go on throughout the day.

The computer is a huge resource and gobbler of time: for emails; Zoom meetings of my writing group and my husband’s geology club; for bridge games and lessons; for watching movies on ‘demand’. We are indeed lucky to have such a marvellous array of entertainment.

the Serengeti National Park

Every night, on YouTube, I watch the ‘Serengeti Show Live’ show for 30 odd minutes where Carel Verhoef and Sally Grierson show us their camp in the Serengeti and take us on a game drive. In 2018, we spent a week with their company, Great Migration Camps, on the shores of the Mara River. Watching these episodes, I can immerse myself in the landscape of Africa. And soon Serengeti Show Live will take us up Mt Kilimanjaro and then to Zanzibar. (Once upon a time in Africa, I lived in the shadow of Mt Kilimanjaro and then moved to live in Zanzibar).

I belong to the Adelaide Lyceum Club, a women’s club that was begun in London in 1903. (‘Clubs for women interested in arts, sciences, social concerns and the pursuit of lifelong learning’). We gather in interest groups called ‘circles’ and one of the circles I joined was the film circle. Our members have joined the Zoom brigade and meet to discuss certain films which are available online. Our SBS on Demand and ABC iView channels provide hundreds of films and TV shows free. Quite distracting in fact.

Don’t forget the dog! Roy, aged 11 has his own program, more insistent now that we are around almost 24/7. He wakes at dawn at 6.45am and goes out to check if any koalas or kangaroos are around. Whether they are or not, he wakes the neighbourhood with a morning bark. I am growing accustomed (as winter comes for us) to spend more reading in bed before a short program of yoga. This laziness delays breakfast as well as Roy’s walk up the long drive or in the local park.

Home maintenance and gardening fill in the holes in the day. April and May are planting months in South Australia as the rains arrive. I have paid more attention to edible plants this year – there’s nothing quite like picking your own herbs, lettuce and spinach for an evening meal. I have given up on actively growing potatoes but remnants are doing well. We have planted 20 trees that will give joy one day. I am reading City of Trees by Sonia Cunningham, a series of absorbing essays about our urban landscapes and how we are losing forests. Sonia Cunningham was a speaker at our Adelaide Festival’s Writers’ Week in March this year.

So, our new retirement is OK; we have lots to do, lots to entertain us. Soon we will be able to travel within the borders of South Australia and in July they might open up to other states … and one day maybe New Zealand will be included.

Second retirement is not so bad, so far.

from Susan S. in Washington, DC: dreams and birthdays …

“ This is one birthday I’m not likely to forget.”

I woke this morning after the first fitful night of sleep since the C-19 pandemic began affecting my community.  Normally I don’t remember dreams, but last night was one awful pandemic-related dream after another.  I was in impossible and dangerous situations I couldn’t escape from.  Different people and different circumstances in each dream, but all with the same theme.   I read an article in the Washington Post recently about people experiencing frightening dreams.  I’m no expert, but this seems perfectly understandable.  We are all coping as best we can, and then at night the demons of our fears grab us in a way that our normal defenses protect us from during the day – most of the time.   One more consequential cost of what we are all experiencing worldwide.  

Last week my mother turned 97.  She lives in a retirement community that has different levels of care. Thank goodness she is still able to live independently in her own comfortable apartment.  Two residents in the assisted living unit recently died and several members of staff tested positive.  As a result, all residents in independent living have been quarantined in their apartments.   Today is day 27 of that quarantine.   We were able to get permission from the staff at her community to let a few members of the family who live nearby sing happy birthday to her – us standing in the open courtyard and Mom on the 2nd floor balcony of her apartment.   Here’s a photo.  Her comment after we’d sung and congratulated her – “ This is one birthday I’m not likely to forget.”

a neighbor’s statement of the times

My neighbor decided to make a statement about C-19.  Please see the photo of the large boxwoods for which he fashioned wire glasses and masks.  It’s drawn a lot of attention from people in the neighborhood who have been out in the good weather. 

Meanwhile at the national level, President Trump is exploiting the C-19 crisis to accomplish his right-wing political agenda so he can tout his accomplishments to his base support in the presidential election process.   He has relaxed regulation of mercury in the air and water; he is appropriating private land by imminent domain along the southern border to build a wall; he has banned immigration for 60 days, and the list goes on and on.  Former VP Biden’s fundraising is $187 million below Trump’s and Biden’s staff is not in place – he has 25% of the number of people Trump has running social media end of his operation.   Still, there are more of us than there are of them, and with the recent unity in the Democratic party, I remain hopeful.  

Keep well  and remain resilient.