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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Spring Break at a Retirement Community

Back in the day I can recall watching MTV Spring Break from the comfort of my living room. Fantasizing that some day, when I could get away from my parents, I too will enjoy the thrill of a shake your booty contest on Daytona Beach.  Fast forward 20 years later and you will find me visiting THEM on my Spring Break and not at a hip Spring Break destination, but at their home which is located in a retirement community in Southern Arizona.  So south, that you even get to pass through a border patrol station... which I found to be exhilarating. And that was just the beginning of my thrills.
When contemplating where to go for Spring Break with four kids under 9 I wouldn't dare go anywhere where there wasn't additional (willing) adult support, and where the room and meals are free, so that pretty much narrows it down to one place, my parents snow bird house.
The 4 hour plane ride was actually pretty easy.... After we were settled. We brought along the car seat for Oscar and after Don broke a sweat fastening it with the child in it and arranging everyone with their backpacks, gum, seabands, drinks, etc. etc. on a packed flight, the flight attendant told us that he couldn't sit there because it was 2 rows from an exit row. Seriously? So we had to play musical chairs which resulted in a lot of climbing over seats, passing children like they were hot and my butt crack showing.  Of course there was the added pressure that the plane was waiting on us to take off and if looks could kill we would have all been dead.  We had 3 seats together and 2 seats together which left one family member displaced. Although Don had his eye on that lucky seat, the old man in the seat that was sandwiched between two nintendo playing kids offered to move. Go figure?  Now we were in our cluster.
The boys did great. I am an anxious flyer and I kept my eye on a shifty guy,  who I was convinced was a terrorist, that is, when I wasn't taking someone to the bathroom. Parker joined the mile high club, well, his version of it. Somewhere they heard that term and when he asked me what it was I told him it was when someone pooped on a plane.   He actually joined in three times. 
Once we arrived we settled in easily. Within minutes we were at the pool. They have "family time" which translates to we don't want to be around screaming, splashing kids from 11-1 and 4-6. Senior nap and dinner time respectively.
I forgot how much I love Arizona. I attending the UofA my freshman and sophomore years of college. Not only does it represent my first experience away from home, but it also is the embodiment of rustic beauty. I love it there and if it weren't so darn hot in the summer I swear I would move there.  At least I know that when I turn 65 I will be eligible to live in my parents house.
Besides my children, I was the youngest human in a ten mile radius. Everywhere I went there were old people. It was as if my pace was more like a Porsche and everyone else was a Prius.   There is a golf cart lane on the main drag, and a Jazzy parking station at the grocery store.  After adjusting to the age gap I started to notice a alarming trend.  Most everyone I came into contact with was happy.  At the grocery store that I purchased margarita mix (it is Spring Break after all)  the check out guy was wearing a tie, and happily scanning my purchases. He called me Mrs.   The bagger was equally polite.  I saw couples shopping together.
Granted, most couples that I did see together were bickering. Well, mostly the women where nagging their husband who appeared to be ignoring them. Then there was the lonely man who sat alone drinking his coffee at the grocery store Starbucks every morning who would have loved to have his wife there to bicker with  but he seemed content.  I should have sat down with him just for a moment but my fast pace didn't allow for that.    I overheard some conversations, mostly nostalgia for the past. But being there I felt like I was in the past, and to be honest it was kind of nice.
I didn't see cell phones, laptops or god forbid ipods. I did however see a walkman with a cassette player.
I saw older people literally enjoying every bit of the daylight. Biking, walking, hiking, playing tennis.   I had a sick realization about my generation.  Most of us live with instant gratification, when we want something we get it even if we can't afford it. This huge retirement community may be vacant in 30 years because we are so in debt that we can't begin to think of retirement.
While my generation struggles to find their purpose in life, these people have already figured it out. While some of us search for meaning, we are missing out on the simple pleasure of life, which may be our only purpose after all.  These people know and accept that they are not going to live forever and they want to get the most out of it while they can.  I don't know if I can say I have the foresight of that realization. That is why most of them don't communicate via computer, they communicate in person. Well, besides computers scaring the crap out of them.
For my son's and my birthday my parents invited two couples over to celebrate. They arrived on time, no need to be fashionably late.   We sat around the table long after cake was served and laughed.  I heard a lot of jokes, some of them funny, some of them not, most of them puns and not one complaint. And it was an eclectic bunch, who had lived through some pretty tough things, such as war, and a lot of death, but you wouldn't know it by the way they were laughing.
It was a great way to bring in my 35th year.
There was an unspoken camaraderie that I cannot imagine having with people who have opposite views. At the pool one day a man yelled over to another, "Good Afternoon Hippie", and the other responded "Hey, you dumb carpetbagger, I didn't see you at breakfast today!" Clearly opposing views on politics, but they still enjoy each others company. No fist fight followed. In fact, they played a game of chicken with their grandchildren on their shoulders. I watched these old guys laughing hysterically like they were 12.  And I realized, I should enjoy my own kids like that... and Don needs to work out more because these old guys were buff.
In fact, there were not many signs of stress at all, which was in sharp contrast to me because I checked my phone every other minute to see what email I was missing from my work, which I was suppose to be on vacation from.
After a day or two I decompressed a bit and I stopped checking my messages and spent little or no time on the computer. Ok, to be honest the main reason for that was that my Dad's computer was so slow that you would have thought it was dial up. They actually start their computer, do a load of laundry and wait for it to "boot up", that slow. I didn't have the patience.
Now that I am back and fully on line again, I find myself reflecting on how much fun I had when my high speed world went dial up for a week. It gave me a new enlightening perspective on aging.  If I am lucky and find myself laughing with friends, nagging my husband and enjoying the sun when I am 74 then I have a lot to look forward too. But,for the time being I may slow down and look around too.


  1. aaw Sooo cute..Best way to spend time after Retirement..:)

  2. That was some birthday! Well, I think your parents are quite happy that you spent some time them with them. I laughed at how you relate your experience with your Dad’s dial-up computer. Seems ancient to you, but it is good to go old school every once in a while. It kinda gives you a new perspective about growing old. But I think your dad is quite happy with his Internet connection!

  3. You had a great realization right there! "While some of us search for meaning, we are missing out on the simple pleasure of life, which may be our only purpose after all." Sounds like music to my ears. I mean, it's really true, that we have the tendency to look forward while ignoring what's in front of you. Well, spring break is always fun, and you had your own share of stories to tell. Cheers! :)

  4. Your blog is thus informative … carry on the nice work!!!!

  5. I love the thoroughness with which you approach all of this, interfused with your deep loving care. Keep up the good work.
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