My dad was a very hard worker. He was in the military and ran his life according to the plan. He “retired” from service after 20+ years. Then he got a job on “the outside.” My whole life I heard that term in reference to anything that was not military. Jobs not on base or active duty. Groceries not bought at the commissary. Even brunch that wasn’t at the Officer’s Club. Those things were on “the outside.”
Dad had devoted his entire career to defending and serving our country. I know he believed in it strongly despite not overtly discussing it much. He worked and worked and sought to climb the ranks of that organization. He was met with mixed success. Dad was a leader but no politician. He was a hard working, brilliant man who reported for duty and took that very seriously. He loved it.
Once he left the military, he followed a similar routine in his new civilian job. I don’t think it was the same, though. I think it was harder on him than we will ever know. It was such a big change.
He worked all of those years and he and my mom raised six children together. They would retire in another decade or so. They would be able to reap the rewards of all that they had worked so hard to create and build over the years. They would travel and relax and spend the quality time together that six kids and military life makes difficult.
And then came the diagnosis. His life, his memory, his ability to function, his ability to be him was slipping away. It seemed to go so fast and in some ways it did. But as I look back now, we had lots and lots of really good days that were missed because of the shock of it. We had a lack of understanding then. We, or I especially, didn’t have the wisdom to just cherish the present days versus dwelling on what was surely to come. I couldn’t see the good we still had for mourning what was already lost. I do not blame or judge myself for that. It’s just the way it was.
I was 23 when he was diagnosed. That was a lesson delivered harshly for me. Even still, it would take many, many more years for me to really understand about enjoying today for today and giving thanks in the moment. It took a little less for me to see the folly of the retirement mindset. Now is all we have. Now is enough. Now is amazing. Now is the time. Enjoy it. Do what you are here to do.