Wednesday, May 16, 2018

It Was Five Years Ago

    I retired officially five years ago this month.  It became a phased retirement of sorts since I worked part-time for the next one and a half years.  My last paycheck was collected three and a half years ago.  My social security starts next month.  I turn 65 in less than two weeks.

     Looking back five years ago, I blogged that I’d heard the years go by faster once you retire.  I now know that’s true.  Five years ago almost seems like yesterday in some ways.  And when I look at the bucket list I concocted back then, I see it’s mostly undone.

      A friend of mine who also turned 65 this month but is still working asked me what retirement was like and how his life might be different if he too joined the ranks of seniors on the sidelines.  His job is more rewarding than mine was, so it’s a toss-up for him whether he’ll trade his paycheck for social security.

       This friend of mine is particularly haunted by the supposed dying words of rock star David Cassidy who according to his daughter said, “So much wasted time.”  He doesn’t wanted to be feeling similarly when he’s lying on his own deathbed.

        So when I think back on the past five years, I can’t say they’ve been all that productive.  We’ve accomplished a few things around the house, I have traveled quite a bit, I made a couple attempts at publishing short stories, and I’ve kept up with my hobbies and such.  But I can’t say I’ve finally completed the great American novel, went back to school, started a second career, done a lot of volunteer work or made my home a neighborhood showpiece.

        What have I done in the past five years to make those years truly worthwhile?  The time I’ve gotten to spend with family, particularly my grandkids.  As soon as I retired, I began watching my oldest grandson Grant, then Luke and now littlest Owen.   Lots of fond memories.  I remember three-year-old Grant asking me, “Are you scared” before we watched together his favorite movie at the time, “Attack of the Crab Monsters.”

    I also remember taking him to a library around then.  Not usually the outgoing type, he nevertheless hit it off with a girl there about the same age.  They played together, chatted together in the vernacular of three-year-olds, ran from table to table, and together watched the fish in the library aquarium.  Grant even invited the girl on a date of sorts, asking if she could come over to his house tomorrow.  “We’ll eat sandwiches and watch crab monster,” he offered. 

     With Luke I remember his first go-to phrase was “Here ya go.”  He’d say that as he was handing other mothers in our book babies class sundry name-tags and toys he had picked up throughout the room.  Or he would grab a package of cookies from the shelf at the grocery store and give them to me , saying,  “Here ya go.”

      His memorable experience with a girl his age at the library turned out differently.  Since Luke was quite shy with girls, when a girl came up to the puzzle table where he was putting together a puzzle, he ran off.  But I stayed to watch the little girl play with her puzzle, hoping to coax Luke to return.  And he did!  So the two were working on separate puzzles but at the same table when the little girl lost her balance, toppling over with puzzle pieces flying everywhere.

     “Oh,” I gasped, hoping that Luke would do the gallant thing and come to help her.  Instead, he glanced over, said, “She’s fine”, and turned his attention back to his own puzzle.

     Owen doesn’t say much yet but I already know years from now I’ll remember his ever-present smile.  “Cheese” is one word he will say when there’s a camera pointed his way.

     You do hear a lot of older folk say it’s time to retire and spend more time with the family.  In that regard, I guess my retirement has been a success.

Thursday, April 26, 2018


    I complained in last month’s blog about not receiving my Michigan tax refund though it had been several weeks since I’d filed.  Well, progress of sorts to report there.  No, I still don’t have my refund.  But . . . now I know why.

    Seems that when I completed my Michigan tax return—by hand since I don’t want to pay the extra money for Turbo tax or similar program and since I don’t trust the internet in any case—I missed filling in a box.  An important box.  As in “How much of this credit do you want refunded to you.”  Instead of filling in the amount, I left it blank.

     Now I did include my direct deposit information on my tax form which should have been a CLUE to the tax people that I expected the credit in the form of a direct deposit refund.  But the latest on-line explanation I received said that it would take four weeks from the time I originally contacted them about this before I could get “a response.”   Wonderful.
     It’s tough being a senior.  We’re kicked around in so many ways.   Since I’m turning 65 this year I signed up for Medicare and Social Security.  My Medicare starts May 1 but my first social security payment doesn’t come until the end of June.  So . . . since my Medicare payments are supposed to be deducted from my Social Security, what happens in May when I don’t get my SS?

      Fortunately, there was a Medicare seminar being offered locally at no cost.  Now if I didn’t suffer from senioritis, I would have seen that freebie as a red flag.  I thought, incorrectly as it turned out, that it was sponsored by a quasi-government entity tasked with the responsibility of helping those of us 60 and north (south?) to navigate the legal technicalities of  Medicare/Social Security.

     But it turned out that it was being offered by the same folks who inundate my phone line daily with pitches for various Medicare co-insurance products.  The lady at this seminar was pitching her website as a way of finding the best Medicare co-insurance product.  I asked her how was I supposed to pay for my Medicare in May and her response?  “I don’t know; I think they’ll send you a bill.”  Wonderful.

      If the stresses of being sixty-something overcomplicate life some, one way of simplifying things is that you can listen to your grandchildren’s everyday wisdom.  Maybe they’ll tell you something that will end up being a revelation.  Just this week I took my grandsons to the park and Grant, the older at seven, confessed to me, “I like little kids because they don’t tell on you.”

      OK, I’m not sure that’s such a good thing all the time.  But if I feel like rising up in revolution against the state of Michigan for sitting on my tax refund or at the federal government for holding out on my social security check, my one-year-old grandson Owen will be the first to know.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Feeling Forgotten

     I’m still here.  But lately feeling quite ignored outside the blog world.

     I had to follow up on three fronts today as it appeared that I had been snubbed—by my pharmacist/doctor, by a home improvement company, and finally by my own state of Michigan (where is my tax refund?  I should have received it weeks ago).

     So I called the pharmacy as I’d dropped off a prescription re-fill request last Friday.  They had to get approval from my doctor but these are maintenance medications and they should know the drill by now.  It should take a day at most.  But five days later, today, the pharmacy still says they don’t have the permission necessary to do the refills.  This has happened before . . . the pharmacy blames the doctor and the doctor blames the pharmacy.  I’m thinking I either need a new pharmacy or new doctor, or both.

    Last Friday we had a contractor and a Lowe’s project specialist come to measure and give us an estimate for replacing our kitchen cabinets.   I thought we would get an estimate when they were here.  No, they said they would get back with me Monday or Tuesday.  It’s Wednesday and still no estimate.  I e-mailed the Lowe’s specialist, who took our $75 deposit, and she blamed the internet, saying she had an e-mail “resent” to the contractor asking for his numbers.   At the end of the day though, still no quote.

    But those two situations were easier than dealing with the bureaucracy of our fine state of Michigan.  They suggest, or rather DEMAND, that you find out what’s going on with your tax refund by going on-line, which I did.  There, it said that my tax return was completed and I should get my money within a couple days.

   That was last Friday.  So today, when no money arrived, I wanted to follow up further.  That’s when the fun started.   The treasury department only lists an automatic call center phone number in its tax forms.  When I called and jumped through the necessary hoops to get information, a recording said my tax return was completed on February 22 and that I owed $56.

     What????  I was expecting a refund of over $500.  Something was seriously amiss.  But try to find a phone number of someone who could help.  I checked the phone book.  There is actually a phone number listed for the state fishery office here in my hometown of Saline.  They don’t even have any sizable lakes or rivers near here, let along any sizable fish.  Lots of other state of Michigan phone numbers too but nothing for the treasury.

   Well, I had a phone number for my state representative as we’re always getting flyers from her office in our mail.  But when I called, her office spokesperson just repeated, almost verbatim, the same information that was in the tax forms that I got.  Even my own state representative can’t give me the phone number for the treasury department?   Kinda sad.

    There was an option on-line to submit an inquiry on your tax refund status, so I did that.  They actually got back to me rather quickly . . . saying I should wait to hear something in two weeks.  So my tax return was completed a month ago and I owe $56, or I should be getting my refund any day, or I should hear something in two weeks.  Take your pick.

     There’s more reasons I feel non-existent lately.  Through I discovered my wife has a first cousin that she’s never heard of, let alone met.  So I sent him a message saying, “Hello”, giving a little personal ancestry information about my wife and asking how they might be related.  That was a week ago.  No response.  Zippo.

     Then today my wife Wendy was going to send me a cute picture of our grandson, sent to her cell phone by our oldest son.  But when she tried finding me among her contacts on her phone, she had difficulty.  “Usually your name and e-mail address pops right up, but it’s not there anymore.”


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Hangin' with Owen

        I just love this picture.  It’s very unusual for me to like a picture of myself enough to post it here on my blog but this one next to my youngest grandson Owen I couldn’t resist posting.  He is such a ham too.   Loves to have his picture taken and has a ready smile each time.  “Cheese,” is one of about a dozen words he knows.

     We watch Owen one day a week, giving his parents’ other babysitter a break.   A little boy old enough to run and play but not necessarily old enough to know better is a challenge at times to grandma and grandpa.  But it’s fun hangin’ with Owen.    We have a simple routine on Tuesdays that involve naps, playtime, meals and usually an outing.  For example, we attend a library program for babies.  Owen has been going since before he could walk so at 15 months old he's a veteran now.

      What’s been most fascinating lately is watching his speech develop.   He’s a regular chatterbox though most of what he “says” is gibberish.  Or is it?  Occasionally we’ll here him say, “Yeah” or “Okay” and it seems in perfect context.

     One day my wife Wendy was changing his diaper and as he wriggled and squirmed, seeming ly distracted by the attention he was getting, my wife asked, “Are you going to pee on me?”

      “Yeah, maybe,” Owen said (we swear).

     More recently we watched all three grandsons one night.   Though we have plenty of toys for them to play with here, Owen often prefers playing with things we wish he wouldn’t handle.  Like our TV remote.  One time we discovered that we’d lost our WiFi connection to Netflix.  Who knows how that happened but Wendy blamed Owen and his penchant for manhandling remotes.

      “So blame the only kid in the room who can’t talk,” I pointed out.

      “Yeah,” Owen said, responding perfectly on cue.

      Besides saying ‘yeah’, he was for a while saying “Yay-yeah”.  With great gusto too.  During a group read at our library’s book babies session, he would suddenly call out “Yay-yeah!”  So the librarian led us reading, “Corduroy went outside to play.”  And Owen shouted out “Yay-yeah.”  He did it more than once too.  I observed that it made our group read sound more like a revival meeting.

      Yesterday, he seemed to even put words together.  I took him down the basement and he spotted a bucket of plastic toy pieces.  “What is that?” he seemed to say.  Could be another milestone in his speech development—forming sentences.  But what made me feel even better is when he called out, “Bampa.” 

     May not be ‘grandpa’, but it was close enough for me.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Lost And Found

  Mid-winter.  Jigsaw puzzle time if you’re a retiree like us in Michigan.  We have four puzzles in our to-do bucket this season including a 1,000-piece challenge puzzle—all kittens and pink flowers.  Very hard.  Ordinarily we can knock out such a puzzle in a couple days.  But this challenge puzzle took us a week.  Then when we finished fitting all the pieces together, we discovered to our dismay we were missing a piece.

   It goes without saying that as we enter our golden years, each day is a lost and found of sorts.  It’s where did I put this or where did I leave that.  Doesn’t help that as you age you accumulate stuff to the point where your home resembles a cross between a museum and a re-sale consignment store.  Stuff is EVERYWHERE.

     But a puzzle piece?  We did move the puzzle from one room to another to make space on our kitchen table for dinner and guests but still an errant jigsaw puzzle piece should stand out on the floor or the carpet.  This one didn’t.  I checked nooks, crannies, under furniture . . . anywhere I thought a piece might have fallen.  No luck.

    This wasn’t the first thing to go missing this week either.  We’re planning an Alaska trip for 2018 and I had a collection of trip documents stored away.  But stored where?  I knew I had moved them from the usual spot next to my computer as the computer had to be moved to accommodate guests over the holidays.

     But when the holidays were over and normality returned, the trip documents didn’t.  I checked every closet, drawer and storage bin in every room of the house.  My wife suggested I even try checking our cars, thinking somehow they got left in there.  Finally, I moved some poster frames that had been resting against a bookcase in the basement and there sat a plastic bag with the documents.  It’d taken me a day to find them.

     Then another day I could not find my favorite stocking hat.  This “Quicksilver” knit hat I had bought in Maine many, many years ago and I found it to be the best protection for my ears during the blast of arctic air we’ve experienced in Michigan lately.  Again, I looked everywhere I normally would have put winter outerwear.  I came up empty.

     I looked atop our piano in the living room thinking I might have tossed it up there without thinking (leaving things somewhere without thinking has become quite commonplace).  It wasn’t there but I saw an empty plastic bag atop the piano.  I recognized it as the bag that contained our challenge puzzle.  When I grabbed it, I discovered there was still a piece inside.  YES!  Our missing puzzle piece.

    And my missing stocking hat turned out to be not in our house at all.  I’d left it at a bar the previous afternoon.  When I went to the bar on a hunch it might be there, they checked their own lost and found.  There it was. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Santa Trauma

    As you can tell from the reactions of my one-year-old grandchildren, Santa doesn't automatically instill smiles in the youngest.  And Gwen should share some kinship with the guy in the red and white suit, having been born Christmas day last year herself.  Owen is usually all smiles.  Not in his Santa photo though.

     I remember trying to coax my first grandson Grant into visiting with the mall Santa one day when I was babysitting him.  I believe he was about three-years-old at the time.

     "Don't you like Santa?" I asked.

     "I do," he responded emphatically.

     "Then don't you want to go say 'hi' to him?"

     "I don't," he said just as emphatically. 

      This past week while shopping in a mall, I witnessed what appeared to be a mother and grandfather trying to coax a boy about four-years-old to visit Santa Claus who was on a raised platform overlooking the center of the mall.

     "Don't you want to come say 'hi'? Santa called out to the little guy.

     "No, thank you," the boy said politely.

     But the mom and Santa must have been persistent because after I had visited a shop at the other end of the mall and returned, the boy was up there on Santa's lap.  It must have taken some time and effort, but he was finally persuaded to enter Santa's realm.

     Just briefly, however.  Something on stage spooked the little guy and he took off running, down the ramp past a menagerie of stuffed animals out into the mall.  He sailed past his grandpa who stood watching him go down the wide aisle not looking back for anything.

     "He won't stop running," his mom advised Santa's crew as she broke off into a trot herself after the boy who had disappeared into a nearby department store, still at full gallop.  One of Santa's helpers took off in pursuit as well.

     Eventually they re-appeared with the little guy who had been told that "Santa has a present for you."  That was apparently enough to secure his return to Santa's lap.

    If only that was enough for all the little girls and boys who visit with Santa each Christmas season.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Life Lately

     Happy Halloween!

     Wait, that was yesterday.  Life's been like that lately . . . breezing by before I have a chance to recollect.  I wanted to have a new blog up before my favorite holiday.  Obviously, that didn't work out.

     The picture above is the pumpkin I carved from a stencil you could print free on-line.  Taking into account that I have absolutely no artistic still, I thought I did pretty good.  What I'm better at is decorating my yard ghoulishly to entertain the trick-or-treaters.

      Even that wasn't enough this year.  Besides the faux graveyard, besides the skeletons being projected dancing and prowling onto a screen in my darkened garage, besides the coffins lying occupied by scary dummies by my porch--besides all that, I dressed in a skeleton costume myself and sat quietly among the yard horrors.

       I wasn't trying to scare the little ones.  I'd see parents tugging on their little one's sleeve, telling them, "It's all pretend" as they viewed my macabre trappings.  But while the elders urged their progeny forward, they looked my way with an expression that said, "Don't scare my kid."  So I kept still.

      Then a large group of older youngsters approached, excitedly saying how much they enjoyed my Halloween decorations.  But one young girl couldn't keep her eye off me, not sure whether I was just another yard dummy or real.  A friend urged her to go closer to make sure.  So she approached, closer and closer.  Finally I had to move, so I flinched.

      That sent her fleeing towards the safety of the sidewalk, loudly alerting her friends that I was, indeed, real.  Panic ensued and the youngsters scattered like a frightened school of fish.  "I don't think all of them got candy," my wife handing out treats nearby deadpanned to me.  Hey.  Not my fault.

     Our grandsons had come over a couple days earlier, showing off their costumes to us.  We prepared their favorite spaghetti dinner for them;.  But I teased four-year-old Luke, saying he needed to eat his broccoli salad before he could enjoy his spaghetti.

      Very seriously, Luke informed me, "I can't eat broccoli."  His mother urged him to tell me why.  So Luke recounted, "I was at Keena's (his babysitter) and she gave me broccoli for lunch and I choked on it.  So, I can't have broccoli."  I guess it's either true or a good story.  Either way, he didn't eat broccoli with us.

     When we were shopping for this dinner at the local Wal-Mart, Wendy scanned the receipt for the  items we purchased.  Something did not seem right.  This Wal-Mart does not put individual price stickers on its grocery items so you have to rely on memory to determine whether you're being charged correctly.  Wendy swore that the six-pack of soft drinks she bought cost $3.50, not $3.98.

     She went back to the service desk to complain.  The service desk called for a price check.   A supervisor had to be consulted.  Finally, the store agreed.  They would give her 48 cents.  Not so fast though.  If there is a scanner error, which this was, shouldn't she by law get ten times the error?

     The clerk looked perturbed.  My wife hadn't asked to be reimbursed for a 'scanning error' so she wasn't given the penalty.  Wendy said she thought it should have been automatic, but she still wanted it nonetheless.  Another call to a supervisor.  More waiting.  More hoops to jump through.
     Big stores like Wal-Mart don't make it easy.  But when you get to be a senior, you don't make it easy on them either.  In the end, Wendy got the penalty and scored $4.80.  Boo-yeah, as I like to say.