But by the time I knew her, in the 1950s, Aunt Han was a wizened old lady who lived in a far-off land called Florida and came north to visit in the summer. She lived with our family for about a month, then stayed with my Uncle Tom for a few weeks before returning to the land of the heat and the old.
She was a dour old woman who never smiled. She spent most of her time drinking tea and scolding us kids. My mother would sometimes make me sit at the kitchen table to keep her company. That was an excruciating experience, sitting there, watching her sip tea. I'd scarf down my snack in 30 seconds. "Tommy, don't bolt your food; you could choke," she'd warn. "You're supposed to chew each bite 30 times before you swallow."
Meanwhile, it could easily take Aunt Han an hour to eat one piece of toast. They were the longest hours of my life.
So . . . how times have changed! We don't associate Baby Boomers with spinsters. And most of the retired people I know are doing a lot more than sitting around the kitchen nibbling on toast.
Meryl Baer of Six Decades and Counting says that one of the advantages of retirement is the opportunity to do things that a working schedule doesn't allow, such as attending a Broadway matinee in New York City. She recently enjoyed a reunion with four long-time friends, enjoying a long lunch (including dessert!) and joining throngs of other tourists in the Big Apple.
If you want to know what show she saw, open the curtain at One Friendly Summer Day in the City. Here's a hint: all five of the retirees walked out of the theater "with smiles, memories past and present, and familiar songs ringing in their ears."
It's a chaotic time. But she is thrilled that she's met a new friend who knows people in her small town. And now, after all the preparation and anticipation, she is reminding herself that "all of this stress will pass, and then we will be set for some serious rest and relaxation!"
I don't know if my Aunt Han had to worry about her medical bills. In any case, I'm sure they would seem quaint by our standards. On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about congressional restrictions on the government’s ability to negotiate with the pharmaceutical industry that causes Medicare Part D drug prices to be significantly higher than those paid by anyone else, including people on Medicaid and in dozens of other countries. Costs in the United States per capita for pharmaceuticals average $1,010 annually -- more than twice as much as in most other developed nations.
That's enough to make us outraged, or in some cases even desperate. As Robison reminds us, Medicare Part D covers almost 40 million people, and an untold number of them do not fill their prescriptions for financial reasons.
Kathy Gottberg of SmartLiving365 found a book, Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe, about how moms sometimes feel desperate and need hope and encouragement to help them carry on. But that made her consider: Don't we all need help and encouragement, now and then?
We all face challenges at different phases of life, and while feelings of desperation might be universal, what we're currently facing and how we're coping are usually quite different. So Gottberg has come up with 5 Ways to Cope with Life at This Stage -- issues that most of us will likely encounter somewhere in midlife or later, along with some possible solutions for helping us get through them . . . and be able to breathe.