I remember being quite irritated the first time I received mail from AARP. I was only closing in on 50 years old, for Pete’s sake! 50 was looming and I wasn’t happy about it. No other birthday had ever bothered me before. My husband definitely saw the signs and arranged a quick trip to Jamaica to get me over the hump. He knew how to best deal with me in a crisis. 

I’d secretly read the little AARP newspaper that came in the mail (after I paid the membership fee, but only to reap the benefits of their discounts). I was delighted and upset when they reported one could get the senior discount at the movie theater at the age of 50. My husband was almost 52. I figured they owed us a substantial refund, but decided to let it go.

Then you turn 60. Retirement? Hmmm…that might be fun. I married young, had children, and now ten grands. I was now a widow and never had much time to just do nothing before, so I gave retirement a try at age 62. I took my friend, Tony’s, advice who told me to, “do it and never look back.” Tony had retired early and traveled the world with his wife. No truer words were ever spoken. Tony passed away unexpectedly a week later.

Retirement was wonderful. Every day was a Saturday. I could sleep in (7:30 AM is late, right?), wake up slowly (that’s the best part), let the dog out, grab my coffee, books, and laptop, and sit and read and write until I felt like moving. I made my own schedule. I discovered yoga, published my first two books, did book signings and clubs, and was in a relationship. I was having a great life.

Then, I was getting ready to turn 65. The year the government forces one to join the 65 and Older Club, and makes you go on Medicare. This was a nail biter for me as I had wonderful insurance and really didn’t want to rock the boat. So, for a full year before you turn 65, you receive tons of ads from insurance companies that would love to help you out. I did my best to ignore them. I took the unwelcome plunge and I’m now a Medicare client (don’t like the word, “patient”). I now love it when I don’t have to cough up a copay at the doctor’s office. Way to go, tax dollars! Okay, maybe this growing older and being a member of the 65 and Older Club ain’t so bad.

Until there’s a pandemic. Then, you find out you are officially “old” because you’re a member of the 65 and Older Club. There’s that number again. Geez.

Listening to the news, I discovered that being a member of the 65 and Older Club puts you in the group that is more susceptible to the virus. I found myself a thousand miles away from Maryland in my condo in Southwest Florida. My friends were canceling their visits due to the airport scare and the COVID19 was beginning to hit our shores. Sitting at a book signing, I prayed for guidance and felt the push to head home to Maryland. A girlfriend was visiting and decided to ride back with me instead of dodging the virus in airports. So, we packed up and left, stopping to visit my Georgia family for a few nights on the way. The quarantine hadn’t happened yet, but I knew it was coming. Only a few days after we left, the spring breakers showed up on the beaches and Florida held an election. Since then, the numbers in Florida have soared.

While visiting in Georgia, my granddaughters wanted to go to the nail salon, but I explained it was not a good idea. I know they thought I was a nutty old lady, but they agreed to stay home. I think it was the first time I’d ever told them, “no.” They handled it well. Lucy pulled out a package of artificial nails, so I opened my own salon. I did a so-so job, they looked nice enough, but she took them off before she went to bed. Guess I’d better stick with writing.

We headed back to Maryland and I don’t think I was ever happier to be home. I’ve always been one that didn’t want to sit still for long, looking for a reason to go somewhere. It’s probably from having been on the road so much when I worked for Ecolab, but now I had to stay put. I went grocery shopping and filled up my empty fridge. I visited my daughter’s family and their two new foster children. We stayed outside on the porch and kept our distance. How hard it was not to scoop up the little boys who had already captured my heart on FaceTime. I went home and hunkered down.

I’m finding the memories of my modest home to be very comforting. Recalling so many projects we did over the almost 30 years I’ve lived here, leaves me smiling. I can remember imagining myself as an old lady living here. Now I’m in the 65 and Older Club. I may have fulfilled the vision of my imagination, but I’m not finished. To quote a friend, “I chose life.”

For the last five years since my husband passed, I have found the memories in our house to be painful at times. Remembering the days of my Grandy Girl parties, our family gatherings, and all the life that flowed through our home daily. Now it is quiet. The memories call my name, but instead they are comforting. Those days are gone, but they left many smiles behind in my heart.

So, did my world just get smaller? Yeah, but you know what? Other than not being able to visit with my grands or to go to Jamaica on a whim, I’m okay with that. I love my writing perch in Florida, but I love it here more. I just can’t wait to drive out to Assateague Island again. That’s home. This is home. Ocean Pines.

So now, my days blend one into the other. I’m sure you know what I mean. Watching the news, I find myself praying all day long for strangers. Those on the front lines at the hospitals, grocery stores, gas stations, etc. They didn’t sign up to fight a war, but that’s what they’re doing. My granddaughter does my grocery shopping for me now while I’m staying home. I never thought I’d miss that chore, but I do. “Never say never,” my mom always said.

My conscience taps me on the shoulder. I know I should be writing, writing, writing. I’m trying to finish my third novel, but the story is at a stage where I have to figure out some logistics and how the story will get there, but I keep trying. I tell my conscience to take a back seat.

I also find myself feeling helpless. Being in the Over 65 Club, one shouldn’t be anywhere but home. I prayed for a way to help. Just goes to show you, God has a sense of humor. Organizations were asking for homemade masks…I hadn’t sewn in fifteen years, and that feeble attempt at a Halloween costume for my grandson had been a pitiful one. But, I decided to try.

So, I borrowed my daughter’s sewing machine (she’s busy being a vice principal, fostering two boys, caring for her elderly father-in-law, and that’s the short list). I sprayed the machine down with a sanitizer and left it outside for a while to be safe.

I’m hoping my new sewing hobby will give me some time to percolate my ideas for my novel and push me to the finish line. That’s my logic and I’m sticking to it. I keep telling myself that sometimes I just have to walk away and come back later with a fresh set of eyes. The ideas will come.

So, back to the sewing gig. I was so afraid I wouldn’t even be able to thread the machine. It turned out I couldn’t, but with the help of technology and Facetime with my daughter, I did. I managed to make two face masks in just an hour or so. Hey, as long as you don’t get too close and look at the stitching, it’s an acceptable attempt. Something tells me nobody is gonna get close enough to tell.

That possibility saddens me. To think we might ever hesitate to give a friend a hug. To “reach out and touch,” as the song sings. I believe we will overcome that fear as we put our faith back into action. Now it appears we all should wear face masks when going out in public. Will this be our new normal? We all wonder and hope it’s not true. I’m thinking those of us in the 65 and Over Club will be wearing them for a while. I’ve discovered a benefit of wearing a face mask in public. No need for makeup! Now there’s an upside.

Whatever happens to us in this COVID19 pandemic, we are all just passing through this life we’ve been given. We live in the best country in the world. Don’t believe it? Just look around you. We’ve been using the phrase “God Bless America,” liberally since 911. He has blessed our country continually. I believe God did not create this situation, but is here to walk us through to the other side. Whether it’s to the other side of the COVID19 crisis on this side of Heaven, or to my next chapter on the other side, I’m good with either. But just to be clear, I prefer to hug those I love on this side. Just in case I get a choice.

So, in the meantime, I’m locked down with my dear collie, Noel, in the home I love, missing everyone, but content to wait this out. I’m talking to folks on the phone I haven’t contacted in a long time, having fun with Zoom meetings, and FaceTime. No complaints from this 65 and Older club member. Every day is a gift. Especially now.