Introspective Adventurer

Aging on my terms - Daily musings in 500 words or so

Category: The Story (page 1 of 8)

How to throw the best photo themed 60th birthday party ever

Birthday parties are a lot of fun and a lot of work. I have known for a long time that I wanted a big birthday party to celebrate my 60th year, and it turned out to be more than I could have hoped for.

Everyone pitched in to create exactly what I dreamed of, and friends and family who couldn’t attend made sure I felt loved and honored as well.

My son, Adam created the invitation for me.

The invitation!
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Counting up to 60 and what I’ve learned – decade six

I breathed a big sigh of relief when I turned 50. My 40’s had been some pretty rough years.

Oprah reached that milestone five years ahead of me. She showed the world that 50 was just the beginning of some of our best years, and I felt a complete kinship to her because of that.

But even fortified by Oprah’s example, my 50th year didn’t go as well as I had hoped. That year saw the end of my short-lived marriage, and for the first time I was completely alone.

Which is exactly what I needed.

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Counting up to 60 and what I learned – decade five

Have you ever seen the movie, Runaway Bride with Julia Roberts? While I can’t relate to her running at the altar, I can relate to the fact that she didn’t know who she was and kept modeling her behavior after whichever man she was with at the time.

There is a scene in the movie when her tormenter (the next guy) says she doesn’t even know how she likes her eggs because she just orders whatever her guy orders. I may have known exactly how I liked my eggs, but I didn’t have a clear understanding of who I was or more importantly what I wanted.

At 40, I was divorced and in a relationship with a saddle maker. So of course, I was a saddle maker too. He happened to be half Native American, and I jumped in headlong learning everything I could about my native heritage.

Me as a saddle maker
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Counting up to 60 and what I learned – decade four

I’ve heard it said that a grain of sand can tip the scale, but in my opinion it is the pile of sand before it that rarely gets the attention. By the time I reached 40 I felt like I was in a constant struggle to climb the dune I had created.

Turning 30 was fun and I was sure I had everything figured out, at least on the outside. I was married with two kids and very content with my day-to-day life. Things got even better when we bought a little 20-acre farm on the outskirts of town.

I’ve written many times before that I grew up on a farm, and when my boys were entering grade school I had the strongest desire for them to experience country life. The run-down, cat-infested place we purchased turned out to be the best place to let a couple of boys roam and discover things on their own.

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Counting up to 60 and what I learned – decade three

I find it interesting that reaching a certain age holds more significance than other ages. For me, turning 20 was important. I was no longer a teenager and somehow felt more grown-up.

Things quickly fell into place when I moved to Bend, Oregon. I found a great job working for someone who would end up being a life-long friend, I had a nice apartment and best of all I had a fun convertible sports car.

I was a bonafide adult, or at least I thought so.

Me at 20 in my Spitfire
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Counting up to 60 and what I learned – the second decade

I remember thinking when my oldest son turned 10, in the same amount of time he will be a man. The decade between 10 and 20 holds so many changes, and I was no exception to the rule.

I have shared before that my mom died when I was 11, and that I think of my life as “before she died” and “after she died”. The few years after her death were some of my hardest.

Not only was I dealing with the loss of my mother but by 12 my period started and my emotions were all over the board. I was either completely lost in thought or crying.

Puberty can be hell for so many of us and my personal experience was compounded by loss and sorrow. Worst of all, about the only thing I knew about having a period was I had to use those giant pads from the 1960’s my mom had used.

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Counting up to 60 and what I’ve learned – The first decade

I was born in 1959 in a little town in Northern California. While that is probably not very significant, the fact that I was my mother’s ninth child, my father’s tenth child and my parents’ fifth child together is significant. I know, confusing right?

Me at 10 months old. My Mom crocheted that bedspread

From the moment I can remember anything about my life, I was surrounded by lots of people. Not only did I have a bunch of siblings but I also had many cousins. There was always someone to play with.

My parents were hardworking people who made their living off the land.

As a matter of fact, my father’s occupation is on my birth certificate. Ranch hand. I find it interesting that my dad’s profession was necessary on my birth certificate. In a way, I have been “classed” from the beginning. 

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The third ingredient

By the time we reach 50 years old, most of us are pretty set in our ways. We know what we like and don’t like, we know just how things should be done and we certainly don’t need someone else mucking things up in our lives.

So getting married after 50 can have some challenges, especially for those of us who like to do things our own way.

Enter John and Loretta.

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First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes…

The day after our wedding we left our hotel in San Francisco to go explore the city. It was a beautiful spring day, and we were excited to spend the day together as husband and wife.

Our wedding was everything we hoped it to be, and we were still on a love-high we wanted to bask in for as long as possible. 

Our wedding at San Francisco City Hall

My phone rang as we stepped out onto the sidewalk and I answered immediately. My son and daughter-in-law were due to have daughter number two any day, and we were happily assigned to take care of daughter number one while they were at the hospital.

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A promise…

John and I got married on a Monday afternoon at San Francisco City Hall. There was no set-up or tear-down of decorations or chairs. There were no arches adorned with greenery and flowers. We didn’t have a rehearsal dinner because there was nothing to rehearse.

Instead we met John’s family and my best friend and her husband at City Hall at 3:30 in the afternoon on March 13, 2013 and stood before Judge Betty in the magnificent rotunda and both said “I do.”

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St. Patrick’s Day in San Francisco

My favorite thing about planning our wedding was the celebration the night before.

We found a beautiful boutique hotel in San Francisco called Hotel Majestic.  I thought it was a fitting tribute to our wedding at City Hall with its turn of the century Edwardian architecture. 

Hotel Majestic

I felt like royalty walking through the doors into the marble tiled lobby. This beautiful old hotel was built in 1902 and is one of the few buildings that survived the 1906 earthquake and subsequent fires that devastated so much of this amazing city.

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Planning a marriage not a wedding

After saying yes to John’s proposal, we both felt like we had finally arrived. The last two years had been quite the ride and we were ready to begin this new chapter of our lives together.

It was exciting to share the news with John’s family, but I was fretting about telling mine. How do I tell them I am getting married yet again? I made John promise to keep the secret from his family but everyone who was close to me knew the truth.

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Amazing Grace by John P. Gavin

When John went back home to get me clean clothes after my accident, he gathered my things and sat outside for a few moments. He told me he was so proud of me and how gracefully I handled the situation and that he sang, “Amazing Grace” for me.

That is how he came to the title of this post.

Amazing Grace

When I was 10, my Aunt came to live with us.

That may not seem like a big deal; but since my family is from Ireland, it meant she had to travel about five thousand miles to do so.

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The Marrying Kind

When John asked me to marry him, the first word out of my mouth was “No.” The look of surprise on his face made me want to take it back. The poor guy was standing on a big boulder holding my hands and asking me a question he thought he would never ask anyone again.

But I had made a promise to myself that John didn’t know about.

I was just a few months shy of 54, and life had thrown me some curveballs when it came to romance and especially marriage. If you have been reading my blog, you know this was not my first proposal…or even second.

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The Real Trouble with Valentine’s Day

The reason John chose to ask me to marry him on February 13, 2013, was because it was February 13, 2012, when he told me he could never see us getting together. Ever.

Guest post: John P. Gavin – The Real Trouble with Valentine’s Day

(This was the first column in a long time I didn’t send to Loretta to proofread before sending it to my editor, and that felt weird. I didn’t send it because she broke up with me the day before, albeit with good reason.
But I didn’t want to see that yet.
So I was annoyed – and a little shook up – and very cranky.
Let’s see if any of that comes across in the column).

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The Love Bug

The weeks after my accident were, in a strange way, some of the best in my life. I know that sounds odd, but you need to remember my past experiences of being taken care of were not such stellar memories.

I’ve never had anyone dote on me like John did during those weeks of recovery. He wrote down all medications and times I’d taken what and made sure I was taking a probiotic to offset the antibiotic prescribed by my doctor.

He drove me to doctor visits and physical therapy and he even helped me with my hair. I could hardly go to the bathroom without him wanting to assist me. I felt completely spoiled and cared for by the man I loved, and it was the first time in my life I’d experienced that.

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Everything will be okay

As I stood on the deck holding my left hand, I could feel the void and knew what had happened. I also knew I couldn’t look at it. I just stood there trying to breathe through the burning pain I felt in my left thumb.

With my eyes squeezed shut, I kept saying out loud, “It burns! It burns”! Within seconds John was at my side talking to me and leading me into the house.

Grabbing a towel from the kitchen, he told me to turn away so he could see the extent of the injury. Talking in quiet, hushed tones, he assured me everything would be okay; but I had a hard time believing him in that moment.

John wrapped my hand with the towel and put an ice pack on it and told me he’d be right back. What was probably just a few minutes felt like an eternity; so I called out to John asking where he was. He came back into the house and said, “Looking for your thumb, honey.”

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Fixing things

When John and I got the news his sentence would be community service, we were overjoyed. Over the coming months, we worked side by side at the Boys & Girls Club repainting interiors, working with the kids and helping out with special money raising events.

I had been a volunteer for the Boys & Girls Club before, and it was a natural fit to pick that charity to help. John was in his element as a natural Mr. Fix-it and was happy to help out an organization in need.

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In Service

As the autumn breeze cooled the air, my heart filled with warmth when John uttered those three words he had said to me months earlier. Not only had he said, “I love you,” but I also knew he meant it. Perhaps it was the fear of his uncertain future, but in that moment I didn’t care.

A month later we were sitting together on a bench outside Courtroom A waiting for John’s trial to begin, neither of us wanting to show the anxiety we both felt. I could sense John’s fidgeting before he stood up and announced he needed to use the bathroom.

I watched him walk away and noticed his usual swagger was absent. From the moment I met John, he had an air of confidence that I knew didn’t always match what he was feeling inside. That day he couldn’t mask the anxiety he was feeling, and I noticed his shoulders weren’t as square as usual.

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Affairs of the heart

On the drive home from the airport, John was all smiles. He kept glancing over at me and saying how much he’d missed me. He was grinning ear to ear, and it was nice to see him happy.

Once home, I invited him to stay and have dinner so we could catch up. He happily grabbed my suitcase with a bounce in his step and said that he would love to stay.

As with so many other times in the past we sat on my deck and shared food, laughs and the things about ourselves we wanted each other to know.

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