As I helped my friend unpack wine glasses for her new apartment in the senior living facility, I pondered how much longer my husband, Dick and I, both in our late seventies, have — living in our three-story townhome. When we bought it thirteen years ago we assured ourselves that even with the kitchen and living room on the top floor, it was fine because it had an elevator.
Since retiring and moving to Rehoboth Beach from the bustle of Washington DC both of us enjoyed the quieter, slower lifestyle in a place where we can walk or bike just about everywhere we need to go. A town right on the Atlantic Ocean with a beautiful beach and boardwalk. Living on the canal where we can watch hummingbirds and osprey in summer, great blue herons and cardinals in the winter, and sunsets all year around.
Almost immediately we immersed ourselves in a myriad of volunteer activities. Dick with the SPCA, the YMCA, the senior center, and as a city commissioner. Main Street and Clear Space Theater boards.
I enrolled in poetry and creative nonfiction classes with the Rehoboth Beach Writer’s Guild and volunteer at a food rescue delivering fresh produce from the Farmers Market during summer for our low income and homeless clients. Most summer weekends I ran in 5K races and made a group of running friends. With only three or four women in my age group I usually placed first or second.
Spending three months in Key West each year gave us just the right balance – not having to deal with much winter at all and taking a break from activities. Spending sunny afternoons by the pool reading books. Our three adult kids, their spouses and our three grandsons all came to see us there – happy to have a warm winter break. It seemed like we had everything about retirement and aging figured out.
But things change.
Two summers ago, Dick broke his foot and couldn’t do stairs or walk our dog for three months. We survived it because of our elevator and because of a good dog walker who took on half of the walks for me. We left Key West early in 2020 and didn’t go at all in 2021. We went 19 months without seeing any of our kids. Then last summer I underwent three months of physical therapy for an arthritic hip. I’ve only run one race in two years. While both of us used to go many times a week to the Y for weight workouts, spinning, and yoga classes, we cancelled our membership in 2021.
It’s easy to blame COVID for everything – for all I am not doing, the sluggishness, the fear that paralyzes me when I think about getting on a plane. But I cannot explain the lethargy, the inertia; it’s like once I slowed down, I can’t find the initiative or the energy to do what I used to. My daughter has texted me multiple times to do a zoom yoga – each time I’ve made an excuse. I swear I’ll do exercises at home but I’m down to once or twice a week instead of every other day as I did when I first quit going to the Y. I have to talk myself into a morning run even though my hip is much improved.
COVID forced me to accept that I don’t have to be active every minute of every day. That maybe (at age 79) I can give myself permission to slow down. With my friend moving to senior living and another friend losing her husband right after Christmas, I’ve had to ask myself how much longer we have.
To realize how important it is to enjoy being here; on the water, among the trees, where birds, squirrels, fox, raccoons, deer offer a different outlook every day of the week. How important it is this evening to sit on the deck with my husband, watch the sunset, share a glass of wine.
Sherri Wright belongs to the Rehoboth Beach Writers Guild and the Key West Poetry Guild. She runs, walks her dog on the boardwalk, and volunteers for a food rescue, which figure into her writing. Her work has appeared in Creative Nonfiction, Persimmon Tree, Ocotillo Review, Delaware Beach Life and Quartet.