We journey from room to room in the house of our life, each room presenting a different world view, different opportunities and different duties. The first room of change is that of the student as we start a life in the classroom.
It seems in eighth grade that it will never end, and who cares, but it does. More often than not, we just move on to more schools to learn more narrowly defined ways of thinking. These are our "salad days," truly adventurous times whether from the excitement of enlightened learning, or the good times we enjoy with our limitless energy.
Then we come to where they separate the "men from the boys," or rather the adults from the children; those who learn to carry their own weight and those who don't. The adults learned something in their schooling, and are anxious to prove themselves. They seek an occupation to pursue their ambitions, and become a responsible adult. This phase can still have many changes. One's skills and adaptability may provide vast changes in the degree of progress and responsibility one may be offered in one's chosen career. These can change one's outlook and life experience in incredible, unforeseen ways.
If you are lucky you come to what you expect as the last room in the house, retirement. That can have as many varying challenges as any room. I retired in the spring of 1989, just before my 62nd birthday. My wife and I enjoyed many winters in Florida, and then in Houston, when our youngest son worked there.
We had an unexpected change when about five years ago my wife suffered a stroke, which left her with cognitive difficulties she couldn't recognize. That ended our trips south in winter. While I managed million dollar budgets in my work, my first challenge right after her stroke was the checkbook. She always took care of things. Then I started trying a bit of cooking and getting take outs. The absence of her apple pies took about 10 pounds off me. Learning to care for the house, our affairs and her has been a long slow process. She was always a very industrious, energetic woman who did more than her share of keeping things in order in our lives.
Now after about five years of my home care, she has reached a point where I can no longer give her the degree of care she requires. About two months ago, on the insistence of our daughter, who is an RN, we moved her into a nursing home. This has initially been difficult for everyone, as she couldn't understand why she couldn't go home. She has finally become accustomed to her new life, but still thinks she is quite capable.
Now, after a busy home where we raised six kids, who are now scattered across the country, I live alone with the puppy that I gave my wife for her birthday 14 years ago. The pup is a loving companion, an eighteen pound, affectionate, Bichon-Poo. She's what I call a "go-along-to get-along" kind of dog. She is not yappy as so many small dogs can be. She ignores other dogs, but loves to meet new people.
It would appear that this will be the last stage of my sojourn, but I take it as they say, one day at a time. All in all, I feel that I've been much more fortunate than most people. I've had a long life that has been blessed with favor. My career advanced beyond my dreams. I've enjoyed it all. Most of the things that improved my life, career and good fortune, have been things that have descended upon me to my own surprise.
Sometimes things took a turn in ways that I initially thought of as catastrophic, but turned out in the end to be really positive adjustments that I never could have expected, arranged, or had the nerve to try. It can give one pause to wonder how much of one's own life we actually do control. May God bless America.
Richard Westlund is a Collins resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org