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THAT "R" WORD

Story ID:7630
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family Memories
Location:Butte Montana USA
Year:32767
Person:Ken & Kathe Campbell
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THAT

That "R" Word
by Kathe Campbell

I've heard it said that one day the husband walks through the door to announce... "Hi, Honey, I'm home--forever!" Dear God, does that mean the wife gets twice the husband, and his retirement becomes her full time job?

Well and good for some, but our energetic lifestyles told me Pops and I were too young to call it a day. I agreed extra time allows for more of everything good in life, but blurring the line between work and play sounded more appealing. Will Rogers made perfect sense of the whole process... "Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save."

"I might die, but I'll never retire," my man trumpeted loudly as our sixties galloped past us like a dose of salts. Pops was a firm believer that nobody ages by merely living a number of years, that we lose our youth and grow old when deserting ambitions and ideals.

So, while friends retired, we opened an independent claims service after Pop's thirty-two years as top claims gun for a prominent insurance company. I ran the office with a terrific secretary, the boss and newly trained multiple-lines inspectors spending most days in the field examining calamities. Our work never tediious, we saw everything from major fires to fender benders, no two ever alike. Property and liability savvy, a congenial presence, unpredictable places and hours, it helped to have a good night's sleep, and know the words to, "King Of The Road."

Pops and I dabbled briefly overseas, but traveling had him stewing over the new crew back home while I wallowed in dreadful homesickness. After a couple weeks and feeling we smelled like dead fish, we and our baggage sprinted for the nearest freighter. We've compromised by settling back into the beauty of family, our ranch, and shepherding energetic young professionals toward worthwhile careers.

We genuinely care about another's misfortunes, even though our own seventh decade hasn't exactly been seventh heaven. Despite RA, cancer, heart by-passes, and assorted replacement of moving parts, we're hardly sedentary. Strange as it seems, if we were to toss all our complaints into a pile along with everyone else, we would grab ours back while running the farm and business like a well oiled machine. Whether we're mulish die-hards or it's the meds, we're still a charged up pair as our doctor goads us on.

Staying in the fight is important to my guy as he lunches with the old gang weekly, bandying around business, government issues and the latest gossip, for men like to gossip too. As for me, I'm free to play hooky at will when not turning out reports. I zip through chores, judge at the county fair, play with our critters, and enjoy reading my non-fiction works to nursing home patients.

Rejuvenation comes in the form of relaxing on our deck in the quiet calm and loveliness of our mountain before the supper hour. We kick back with silly sounding wine to allow Mother Earth unfold treasures that illume our minds and rekindle our hearts. The daily drag of keeping books, cars, and the office spiffy are shoved aside as we savor the scene and sigh... "tomorrow's work can wait."


Sadly, tomorrow's work was beset with a tempest of trouble. Pops had just photographed the remains of a fire up north, and was tooling along on Interstate 15 when a bull elk crashed through his windshield. He drove another eight miles in a state of shock before realizing he felt cold, the beast having peeled the car's roof back like a can of sardines. After retrieving his cell phone beneath shards of glass, all I could hear was... "Zat you, hon? Think I hit an animal and might have a small cut on my face." In this family that meant only one thing. Our eternal optimist totaled his car and had a gusher. Sending me to my knees in the hospital chapel, my darlin' survived two brain surgeries and is good as new with his trendy head shave. The bull didn't fare so well.

It's been quite a half-century ride for we two old crows, our longevity reflecting setting suns on the twilight of colorful autumns. We're not sure where the autumns ended and winters began, but old age arrived as abruptly as a blustery snow. One morning we awoke and everything was white, including our hair.

Despite operating at half speed in our decrepitude, we take our glad hands and lagging carcasses to church, and volunteer community time. Because he believes strongly in furthering education, at seventy-seven Pops earned his Juris Doctor Degree in law. Though his skin is wrinkled, abandoning this ambition would have surely wrinkled his soul. And when the home phone rings at some ungodly hour, Pops still hollers... "tell 'em I'm on my way, dear," for in spite of Montana snowstorms and fluky highway mishaps, he's still at odds with that "R" word.