When you want a boat to go faster you start rowing, when you want your life to get better, you start doing! — Unknown
A few years back I wanted my life to get better. I loved the full-time job I had, but I wanted to spend more time with my husband. We were recent empty nest-ers, and I wanted us to get closer. We had been raising children for so many years, and I wanted to finally have some alone time. My husband is twelve years older than I am, and I didn’t want to wait until I was retirement age to quit working and risk not having time with him while he was still healthy. I started rowing that boat. I took a big virtual red pen to our budget and quit my job. It was a pretty scary thing to do, but it was the only thing that was going to get my boat moving.
Today, as we celebrate our 39th anniversary, I’m really glad I started rowing that boat and doing the things we love. We are not world travelers, and we don’t travel around the country in a motor home, but we are enjoying life together. We enjoy movies together, day trips, shopping for grandchildren, and many other things. Sometimes it is nice just to sit quietly and hold hands.
Our lives are not spent in boredom, as we both find plenty of things to do. It is really true that retired people can be busier than working people. I don’t know how that’s possible, but I’ve learned that it is.
Looking back, our 39 years together has meant a lot of rowing and a lot of doing. Raising children is just plain hard, and every day presented challenges that could make the strongest of couples turn tail and run. Instead, you just start doing.
The baby has a dirty diaper, the toddler is throwing up, the 6-year-old just wet the bed, the 12-year-old is up late because of procrastination to finish a report, and both parents are exhausted. Sound familiar? The only thing to do is start doing. You don’t even think about it because it’s too overwhelming. Mom grabs a fresh diaper while Dad cleans up the toddler. Mom directs the 6-year-old to change pajamas while waiting for fresh bed linens, and Dad reminds the 12-year-old to stay focused. Somehow you all get through the night. In the morning, you pat yourselves on the back for not drowning, and you keep rowing the boat.
I remember the day my son had an appendectomy. I received a call at the office that he was ill. My husband was headed for urgent care. My son had been complaining of a stomach ache for several days off and on. This would be the third trip to the doctor in a week. I was a legal secretary on a deadline and couldn’t leave the office, so I did the only thing I could do. I said a prayer and started rowing. As soon as I got my motion on its way to the court, I headed to meet my husband at the hospital.
By the time I got there, it was determined surgery was in order for a perforated appendix that had been hiding from the x-rays all week. My husband had everything in order at the hospital, as well as making sure our teenagers were caring for our youngest. He had been rowing the boat quite fast that afternoon. I was grateful to have a husband who knew how to step it up when it was needed. Together we got through the next excruciating hours while we waited to hear news from the surgeon.
The oars to our boat move a little slower these days, as we are drifting through smoother waters. It’s nice to meander through sparkling clear river water enjoying the sunshine on our faces while looking back upstream through where we have been. The river was long, windy, and sometimes mean. Our boat tipped back and forth a few times, but never surrendered to the deep. We always managed to stay afloat. When the waters were murky, we prayed for clarity. When we hit rapids, we paddled faster and with greater force. Drowning was not an option.
We try not to look downstream too often at where we are going, because we know there are rapids ahead. As we move ever closer to the end of our lives, we know there will be health challenges, and other trials. When those days come, we will do what we have always done. We’ll grab the oars and row. We’ll start doing what needs to be done. We’ll take one baby step at a time. We’ll keep moving until we’ve reached the end. We know that the rapids will eventually dissipate, and this time our river will empty into an ocean of beauty.
Happy anniversary to my sweetie—39 years and counting.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.