Care Money Can’t Buy

Marjorie Kondrack

FULL OF PROMISES AND plans, we start retirement in our 60s. It surprises me when people reach age 65 and say, “I don’t feel old.” That’s because, at 65, we aren’t.

We’re still in our go-go years. We still have the time and energy to conquer the world, visit new places, experience new adventures. The 70s, by contrast, are the slow-go years. Maybe we need replacement parts, to slather on Bengay, to load up on Advil. We’re still good to go—just a little more carefully and maybe not as often.

As people inch towards their 80s, most of us enter the no-go years. We don’t go out as much. We might head out for the “early bird” special, come home and watch the evening news, and go to bed early. The world tends to close in on us as we experience loss in many different ways.

And contrary to what others say, bird watching is not that riveting—and not how I want to spend my no-go years. Instead, my preferred remedy is friends, if only because your family can sometimes drive you crazy or, worse still, decide they don’t even like you. Here’s a snapshot of my friends, in no particular order of importance:

  • Cindy and Tom. Last Thanksgiving, they visited, ladened with a home-cooked feast fit for a king’s table. Tom has the most cheerful countenance of anyone I’ve ever met and is an expert on fixing anything. Wouldn’t you just love Mr. Fixit to live next door? As a bonus, Cindy is a gourmet cook. Unfortunately, they moved away from our neighborhood, but they remain like family.
  • Nancy. Stray animals find their way to Nancy’s house and she cares for them. She could rival Martha Stewart in entertaining. Her “hen parties” are memorable and so much fun. But her most outstanding virtue is her willingness to help friends in any way possible. When health issues leave me struggling, she’ll pop over with a cooked chicken from Costco, just in time for dinner.
  • Jeri. A woman of great faith, she’s never too busy to run an errand, take me to a doctor’s appointment and bring food treats, and she does it all willingly. Once asked if we were related, Jeri thought for a minute and then said, “She’s my sidekick.” A retired physical therapist, it’s in her nature to help others. And it runs in her family: Her daughter works with special needs children.
  • Trish. One day, my husband answered the doorbell and there appeared a tall blonde angel with a box of bakery treats. I could almost hear the Hallelujah chorus. Trish was previously unknown to me, but heard of me through our church. When I thank her for her generosity and compassion, she always replies, “Isn’t that what we’re here for?” That, in a nutshell, is her philosophy of life: Our main purpose for being is to help others.
  • Rita and Bill. They’re the neighbors you want to have. After a snowstorm, Bill is out there with his snowblower, digging us out. Rita never fails to ask if there’s anything we need on her shopping trips, and regularly checks to see how we’re doing. Alas, they’re moving to their retirement home at the Jersey Shore. But Rita reminds us she’s only a phone call away.
  • Jill and Chuck. Jill is a distant cousin. She’s a retired librarian, living in the south. She’s also an historian who chronicles our family genealogy. Jill’s been a staunch supporter of my writing. To hear her praises, you’d think I wrote the great American novel instead of a few humble posts. We have a lot in common—our love of learning and family connection. Her husband Chuck is a font of information, as well as my go-to guy for tech support.

Our friends are all younger and, fortunately for us, in better health and more capable than we are. They fill the void of departed family and friends we’ve lost to the passage of time.

In our long-term-care plan, we never counted on the kindness of friends and neighbors. We’re careful not to impose on the goodwill of others, but the help they cheerfully give us has been an amazing blessing. Friends are an integral part of the tapestry of life. Give them the care and attention they so richly deserve.

Marjorie Kondrack loves music, dancing and the arts, and is a former amateur ice dancer accredited by the United States Figure Skating Association. In retirement, she worked for eight years as a tax preparer for the IRS’s VITA and TCE programs. Check out Marjorie’s earlier articles.

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