Category: RETIREMENT IS NOT WITHOUT HASSLES (Page 1 of 187)
My day-to-day retirement life
I’m hoping to answer the many questions I’ve been asked recently by my family about heartbreak, personal influences, mid-life, regrets, and accomplishments. These plusses and negatives of life all need to be part of my Storyworth. I also gives me an opportunity to teach some tough lessons to the next Johnston generations. By the way, I purposely wrote this to be a long chapter, knowing that my grandkids will probably never read it all.
I want to blame the stringent, especially in the early 1950s, adoption process for not ever being close with my folks. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful that they wanted me to be part of their family and provided unlimited love and opportunities, but it was never a natural bond, much like an arranged marriage. I felt pressure to be perfect, as they tried to prove to adoption officials that they were worthy of my care, and I wish that I had been more honest with myself and them. I hid most of my failures and things that I feared they might disapprove of hearing, while more than anxious to share any success. They stood by me at all times, despite my learning the following lesson too late in life: Through good or bad times, parents are your biggest supporters.
I also blatantly wasted the money they provided for my education, getting by with little or no effort. I did not study, missed classes, and didn’t pay attention. I did get mostly Bs but could have done better, especially now understanding the great expense of a college education. All along, I never had to worry about money growing up, but really didn’t care about cars, clothes, fancy food, or booze. Going to concerts was my sole ambition and sadly drugs were my greatest vice.
Knowing what I know now, I would strongly discourage young people from using drugs, a total waste of money and brain power. Unfortunately, my generation was not made aware of these inherent dangers, or perhaps never paid attention, while exposure was rampant, especially on campus and in Viet Nam. Getting involved with drugs is the only regret of my life, and something I will not detail. It’s embarrassing to even mention, but an important part of the culture of the late 60s, influenced by the music and events of the times. As an immature, not yet twenty-one-year-old adult, I easily folded to peer pressure and paid the penalty.
The day-to-day examples of kindness, respect, inclusiveness, and hard work my parents and grandparents demonstrated were by far the biggest influencers on my young life. Two male neighbors, Jim Krider and Jack Lohman became older role models. Jim lost a leg in a motorcycle accident and showed positive resilience, while Jack got me involved in Little League baseball. I played sports like basketball, wrestled, and ran track in grade school, but one season of organized baseball led to softball and decades of media league enjoyment.
I also think of other kids that I tried to emulate in grade school like athletic Gary Elliott, popular Steve Swihart, or brainy Grant Balkema indirectly influenced my behavior, although none of them probably never knew. I also grew to despise Ned Markey who was one of many bullies that haunted my childhood playgrounds.
By the time I reached forty in 1991, I was prosperous, successful, and content. We bought an Indianapolis home in Castillia. Marcia and my careers were blossoming, and we were first experiencing life as dual earners and empty nesters. We enjoyed travel to Las Vegas, England, France, Hong Kong, Italy and Hawaii. I was also doing a lot of skiing and still in great shape, working out at the gym and running competitively. Both of my parents were doing well back then, at only a few years older than I am now.
It was frankly heartbreaking to see our marriage of twenty-seven years come to an abrupt end at the beginning of my 50s, but a second chance at life was about to begin. With the additional heartache of my parents’ passing, I’m proud to have built a family of now eleven, including my wife, two stepdaughters, their husbands, and three grandkids. I’m also pleased to see that my son and his wife, about to begin the final stage in becoming a doctor, renew their 10-year marriage vows. So concludes the toughest chapter, so far, of my life story I’ve been asked to write.
The year is going by quickly, as the trivia calendar rolls over to June. It starts with this Amazing Fact: In Japan, many splintered bats are turned into chopsticks. They are known as “kattobashi,” which translates to ‘get a big hit.’ It’s NCAA tourney month, with the Hoosiers, Beavs, and Ducks all getting first round wins. In women’s softball, the Sooners continue their amazing winning streak. Even the White Sox started June with a win, beating the Tigers 3-0. I can only hope this good fortune continues and that all my teams enjoy kattobashi.
We’re watching the final episodes of Ted Lasso, with familiar segments of our recent visit to London. It featured an outdoor pub scene with a musician singing “Hey Jude,” reminiscent of our walk across Abbey Road. The pub crowds were rowdy, extending into the streets and a focal point of British culture. Fish and Chips washed down with a warm beer. Soccer or “football” is the favored sport, although the Cubs and Cardinals play baseball at London Stadium later this month.
The fate of two recent IU basketball stars will be determined in the upcoming June NBA draft and the Nuggets play the Heat for the crown, as round ball attempts to get a foothold in this busy month of sports and don’t forget about the French Open that leads up to Wimbledon. Also, my wife’s birthday, her trip to Indy for my niece’s bachelorette party, Juneteenth, fathers’ day, Flag Day, and D-day are unforgettable June celebrations. “Remember to let her into your heart. Na na na nananana, hey June!”
As another day goes by with my running streak (#5,268), I continue to amaze myself, if not others. It’s been nearly 14 1/2 years without missing a single day. Yes, there are many other such streaks documented on the USSRA website, www.runeveryday.com, that far exceed mine, but this is solely my accomplishment in extreme discipline. I only wish that I would or could have applied it to other things in life – who knows what I could have achieved?
As it is, maybe I’ve extended my life or at least have kept myself in shape. I can eat pretty much what I want without gaining weight – and often find my sweet tooth to be a factor. As it currently stands since starting this adventure, I’ve run in 31 states and 16 countries. I will definitely add the state of Kentucky into my total when we spend the night there in August and tour the Louisville Slugger plant. Next spring, on our cross-Atlantic cruise, I will add at least 5 more countries and lay claim to six of the seven continents. I have little interest in Antarctica.
Despite the many years I’ve been running and the daily habit I’ve established, I still find every single day to be a challenge. I struggle with taking that first step, often stalling or trying to sleep a little longer. When I travel, I always keep my running shoes in reach just in case there’s a delay, lost luggage, or last-minute schedule change. The last thing I do every night before getting in bed is get my gear together for the next morning’s run. I try to be as prepared as possible, with a preplanned route or finding the whereabouts of a nearby gym. All in all, I try to eliminate any excuse not to run.
Sickness, stiff muscles, injuries, hangovers, foul weather, unfamiliar terrain, and darkness are daily challenges with keeping the streak alive. My mind tries to come up with an excuse not to do it nearly every morning. It’s rare when I actually look forward to the task. My bones and muscles creak and resist during those first few steps. The first mile is always the hardest and I always seem to look forward to the end. I try to take my thoughts off the monotony with music, rhyming words, counting things like steps, songs, driveways, cars, dogs, people, and/or trash cans, and playing silly mind games. There are many times when I think I can’t go on, but a second wind always seems to ease any discomfort. I do not run enough miles to get that euphoric feeling, except when I’m finally done for the day.
There is no finish line when you run every day, with nagging thoughts on how I’m going to possibly get up and do it again tomorrow. Yet, I’ve somehow done it 5,268 consecutive times. It’s by far my biggest challenge every day, especially in retirement. I’m thankful that my body has somehow endured and continues to allow me to perform. The time it takes to complete my 5k route is not a factor anymore, as I slog along. Tomorrow will be just another day of extreme discipline.
I’m slowly getting back into the swing of things with better luck sleeping, daily 5k runs, and writing. This morning I return to Chair Yoga after the travel hiatus. Tally sits in my comfy office chair, easing into her routine after a visit to the dog park. Once our company leaves tomorrow, all will be back to normal. We’ll then watch all the final episodes of Succession, Ted Lasso, and Maisel on TV, soon returning to the movie theater to see Indiana Jones: Dial of Destiny.
Laundry has been my biggest project these past few days. The washer and dryer have been running constantly. Cloth napkins and placemats from the Indy 500 party and three weeks of dirty clothes that we unpacked. I’ll need to make arrangements for a haircut, blood donation, another Covid booster, and to pick up a propane tank. See how mundane life becomes when you’re not on the road!
My wife escaped jury duty today and is off to Indianapolis in a few weeks. I have no plans to do much of anything until July, so there obviously won’t be much to write about. I’ll try to add some swimming to my exercise routine as the weather heats up, but right now I still feel unmotivated, and jet lagged. To keep me entertained on a lazy afternoon, I rented the baseball movie, Bang the Drum Slowly, starring Robert Deniro, who was an unknown actor at the time. It was a bit of a disappointment, costing me $3.99.
We’ve traveled the world and seen lots of memorials – tombs, carvings, castles, churches, gravestones, obelisks, pyramids, statues, plaques, and historical markers. However, it’s good to be home for Memorial Day. A friend staying with us is celebrating a birthday today, and I will be delivering a present to my granddaughter who just turned 14. We’ve already enjoyed the annual fireworks and symphony performance, watched the Indy 500 with 31 of our neighbors, and I’ve gotten my running streak back to a 5k routine. Tally is back in her chair that is supposedly my chair, and I’ll be content to spend a quiet Monday, holiday simply relaxing. Of course, I’ll keep in mind those that sacrificed their lives for our overall benefit.
My Great Grandfathers, Grandfathers, father, fathers-in-law, birth father, and friends all served our country. Wives did their part in keeping the family together during this time of service. Thoughts of visiting Normandy in the course of our travels comes to mind, and the pride of being an American. I was fortunate to have avoided Viet Nam and still reluctant to travel there, with so many other places to visit.
From the Avenue of the Sphinxes and the King’s Highway to Abbey Road, we’ve returned safely to celebrate another Memorial Day from a great journey. We’re thankfully back to a country where the toilets flush properly and you’re not obligated to pay to pee. Sure, we have our share of issues, but it’s still the greatest land in the world. “Home Sweet Home” and “God Bless America.” There’s no need to carve stone for me, my life experiences have truly been a Memorable Memorial.
I woke up at 5a this morning to the sound of someone on our front porch that turned out to be American Airlines delivering our lost luggage. He didn’t bother to get a signature or ring the bell, disappearing once again into the night. I then spent the next couple hours on the phone and various websites trying to figure out why they only sent three of our four missing bags. I was at least up early enough to do some yard work, unpack, wash a load of laundry, and run a full 5k for the first time since Lexor. It’s now noon and feels like bedtime once again.
It was raining all evening, so we didn’t attend the Luminescent event last night, choosing to instead catch up on Succession episodes. It was an abrupt return to our evening television routine, after weeks of not watching at all. We both needed the down time, dozing off several times and then hitting the hay early. Tally got to go to the dog park this morning and my wife attended her aquafit class, so things are back to normal. Our weekend guest arrives shortly so normalcy will be short-lived.
Tomorrow at this time, we’ll be singing Back Home Again in Indiana with our Indy 500 party guests. About 20 neighbors are expected to attend, many of which I haven’t seen in nearly a month. The rest of them have abandoned the neighborhood in favor of their northern, second homes. Few of them are really race fans, so the party is really just an excuse to get together for brunch. However, I’ll be watching, feeling grateful to be back home again (in sunny Florida.)
Home at last after 22-days away and reunited with our schnauzer Tally. The only things we’re missing are my Mickey Mouse hooded sweatshirt and our luggage, still stuck in London. The sweatshirt I left on the plane, while our baggage was reportedly a technical error (human error doesn’t exist anymore). Our driver picked us up from the airport late last night, and we were tired company on the ride home. Without having to unpack, we were quickly asleep.
Both of us were up early this morning, with a bit of jet lag. My wife ran some errands while I went out for a 2-mile run, starting to rebuild my mileage to the daily 5k level that was part of my routine before this trip. I did manage to get at least a mile in every day, but mostly at the minimum. Currently, I’m at just under 50-miles for the month of May instead of the normal 80. It was difficult to get into a routine with early morning bus tours, flights, safety issues, and rough surfaces to negotiate.
Although we are travel weary there will be little time to rest. Tonight, we have tickets for the Wellen Park Luminescence, tomorrow my wife’s girlfriend arrives for a few days, Saturday night is a Venice Symphony concert to honor Memorial Day, and Sunday is my granddaughter’s birthday along with our annual Indy 500 party. The retirement party continues.
Our last day in London proper started with my Hyde Park run, another visit to an ATM, check-out, and a walk to Piccadilly Circus. We had a few hours to kill before our scheduled Rock Tour, tired of wandering through Palaces, Castles, Monuments, Tombs, Temples, Museums, and Churches.
We stumbled across the Savil Row Concurs, a display of high-end cars in the premier fashion district. My wife refrained from shopping and agreed to go to The Hard Rock Café, founded in London. I figured it would be an appropriate start to visiting some of the homes, studios, and haunts of British Rock Stars – the real English royalty as far as I’m concerned. I’ve always been enamored by lets say Freddy Mercury and Queen rather than Queen Elizabeth.
As we waited for the guided tour to start, we sat on the steps by the statue of Frederick, Duke of York 1766-1827. The dome of St. Paul’s loomed in the distance, along with Union flags hanging above the streets from the recent coronation ceremonies. As expected, our long-haired, British tour guide, Ian, showed up late, ala stoner Jeff Spicoli from the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High, in an oversized van. It turned out to be as much a pub tour, seeing where the London superstars of music, Hendrix, Morrison, the Fab Four, Pink Floyd, Clapton, Freddy Mercury, Elton John, Jim Morrison, and Jimmy Page held court. We stopped by the famous Royal Albert Hall where Asa was performing a sound check, visited a tiny record store specializing in vinyl, and drove by the secluded homes and apartments where they lived and some died. Needless to say, we couldn’t see much in passing. A walk across the zebra crosswalk on Abbey Road was a highlight, and well hidden studios where the legends recorded were often identified with round, blue historic plaques.
Dinner was at Baozilnn for dim sum in Chinatown, followed by a bit of a stroll to the Vaudeville Theatre on The Strand next door to where we saw Ain’t Too Proud to Beg when we first arrived in London four days ago. The musical, SIX, was an all female performance by six powerful vocalists and a talented instrumental trio. It was about the six wives of Henry VIII, thinking of Herman’s Hermits’ hit “I’m Henry the 8th I am.” Fortunately, it was short in length, since it was late and we needed to taxi to 47 Park to pick up our luggage and then continued on to Heathrow. As we waited to check-in at the airport Renaissance, a breaking news bulletin announced the death of the Queen of Rock and Roll, Tina Turner at age 83. It truly was a day of Rock and Roll reflection.
I saw The Stones in England this morning! Not the group but rather Stonehenge. The last time I was in London more than 25 years ago, I stopped by for a bite to eat at Sticky Fingers – Bill Wyman’s restaurant in Kensington that closed a few years ago after 32-years in business due to the pandemic. The closest I’ve gotten to rock-and- roll on this trip so far is a drive-by-sighting of the original Hard Rock Café and the musical, “Back to the Future,” featuring Huey Lewis hits. However, The Beatles’ Apple Records headquarters and its Abbey Road famed zebra crosswalk aren’t too far away from our hotel.
Ben Joyce starred as Marty McFly and Cory English as Doc Brown. Jordan Benjamin was also great as Mayor Marvin Berry, with McFly defying the basic rules of time travel by stealing Berry’s “cousin” Chuck’s guitar masterpiece, Johnny B. Goode, before its time. Produced by Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis, who added some high-tech magic with the iconic DeLorean time machine. Back to the Future will eventually be big on Broadway.
The British West End stage production of Ain’t Too Proud to Beg, the story of The Temptations was also outstanding, as we await the third and final theater night, SIX, here in London. We’ll be back home in three short days after getting the opportunity to see ten of the world’s finest and oldest wonders – the Great Pyramid, Petra’s Treasury, The Sphinx, Valley of the Kings, Mount Nebo, Westminster Abbey, The Dead Sea, Luxor Temple, Abu Simbel, and Stonehenge. The Stones today seemed to fit somewhere in the middle of these impressive sightings.