Old Dog, New Budget

So here we go, entering the Wonderful Water Park of Later Life, splashing and giggling down the slippery slope into the years of total immersion in Blessed Retirement.

The faucet by which the hot tub of spendable dollars will fill is pretty much a known trickle in the absence of the monthly salary stream. The volume of outflows– the leaks, the sudden catastrophic emptying–OTOH is both a known and an unknown figure.

We can calculate what we usually spend and what we usually owe in regularly-occurring bills each year, divide that by twelve and approximate a monthly budget.  Fine and dandy.

But the unexpected, inevitable death of major appliances, of vehicles or for home repairs–all live inside  a black hole. And of course we face the increasing probability of medical expenses over and above what the best combination of SS plus Supplemental will cover. We’re quite healthy at the moment. But…

These leaks, the Great Flushing, can happen as quickly as the Titanic hitting an iceberg–and so it makes those of us in the Jacuzi of the Golden Years necessarily cautious about what would once have been significant but not sleep-depriving decisions.

And yet, there may be no serious leaks at all. Being fearful of ever taking a dipper out of the pool for travel, for desirable but non-critical extras, for “fun” because we cant be sure if there will be enough left after the iceberg: that’s the conundrum of new reality. And there have already been a couple of challenges to float this dilemma to bubbly surface along with the rubber duckies.

A month ago, my old beat-up 1997 Dodge Dakota truck seemed doomed to become scrap metal. What would we do about replacing it? Could we live without a truck while we still collect maybe 30% of our winter firewood with the truck and haul mulch, and do country-living kinds of things that can’t be done with a Subaru? Long story short: a friend, bless his heart, worked miracles and resurrected the old girl. Our dreaded expense is deferred at least until spring.

Then, in the past two weeks, my main computer, an early 2008 MacPro, has been making the death rattle. So I am in mid-angst about what to do about this, given the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns of fixed income.

The new Retina-display iMacs would be the logical, cost-is-no-object  move from the ancient MacPro. Beautiful machine. But Ouch!

So I figure, against that kind of leakage, I need to go back to work–me, a great catch at 66. Got my own teeth and some hair left. So I have been practicing for some while now, knowing this moment would come. I don’t know where yet, but I’m ready to re-enter the workforce!

Do I want a little hat and a hairnet; a long white apron; or a blue vest and hushpuppies? It will be a tough decision. But that iMac will be mine in just three years of full-time work! Practice! Practice!

“You want fries with that?”

“Paper or plastic?”

“Thank you for shopping at Walmart!”

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fred

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

3 thoughts on “Old Dog, New Budget”

  1. Oh Lord, Fred. What great metaphors for our time of life in this post. Totally fun. I propose writing for various senior focused periodicals as your new gig. Old follks still like the hold in your hand kind, not digital, and over the years I have seen plenty. Lots may have failed in this digital age, but the things you write about, plus your wit, make you a natural for any still remaining magazines. I have seen lots of “Country Living” category, and the RV crowd has theirs, and even AARP has a funnny last page.

  2. Fred, you’re fretting. Let’s take a walk with Thoreau. I copied following from his Walking essay to cheer you up –

    We had a remarkable sunset one day last November. I was walking in a meadow, the source of a small brook, when the sun at last, just before setting, after a cold, gray day, reached a clear stratum in the horizon, and the softest, brightest morning sunlight fell on the dry grass and on the stems of the trees in the opposite horizon and on the leaves of the shrub oaks on the hillside, while our shadows stretched long over the meadow eastward, as if we were the only motes in its beams. It was such a light as we could not have imagined a moment before, and the air also was so warm and serene that nothing was wanting to make a paradise of that meadow. When we reflected that this was not a solitary phenomenon, never to happen again, but that it would happen forever and ever, an infinite number of evenings, and cheer and reassure the latest child that walked there, it was more glorious still.

    I like it that he puts the whole thing in a single paragraph. We are the latest children to walk there.

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