I’m the youngest of four. The oldest, my brother, recently hit the magic age of 55. More on that later. Between us are the two sisters. Yes, my parents had four kids in five years and just short of three months. And there was a miscarriage in the middle of that somewhere too. The family story is that my mom only wanted three kids. It was my father’s desire for four that resulted in … me! So, think about that. If my mom had her way, I wouldn’t exist in this world. Do you understand then the struggles I’ve had to live with my whole life? (I hope you read that with the sarcasm I wrote it with. I have never ever questioned that my mother loved me and wanted me.)
So, we grew up. I remember there being a time when I was a teenager and I thought there was no way my siblings and I would have much to do with each other when we grew up. I don’t remember why I thought that, but I just saw us growing up and just not really needing each other or wanting to have much to do with each other. We weren’t the best of friends growing up. Why would that change when we grew up?
Thing is, I was kind of right. In a way. There are people I know who grow up and their lives still revolve around their parents and their siblings. They call each other daily or almost daily. They share in the trials and tribulations of each other’s lives. They just don’t seem to let go of the family unit. My family is different. We call each other when we need to. I almost never call any other family member just to talk. Except for my mom because I know she wants to hear from me. But my siblings? Nah. I call them when I have a reason to. They call me when they have a reason to. We rarely talk on the phone just for the sake of talking. Which means I may go months without talking to my brother or my sister. (Yes, that’s singular. There’s a bit of a family rift, but this isn’t about that.)
So, we’ve all grown up and gone our separate ways. But every once in awhile …. oh wait, I have a story to tell.
My brother turned 55 in August. He’s a state employee. Wait. Back up. Erase that. He was a state employee. In California, to be a state employee at the age of 55 means you’ve reached the magical 2% point. You can retire and receive a defined retirement benefit equal to 2% times the number of years you have worked for the state. That’s the easy, basic way to describe it. About a year ago, I asked him whether he was planning on retiring at 55. A legitimate question because if you wait until you’re 60, you can get 2.5% times the number of years as a state employee. There’s a calculation every one of us state employees have to make.
Anyway, he said he was planning on retiring. He didn’t know exactly when, but it was going to be as soon as he could. There would be no waiting until 60 for him. Fast forward to his birthday. I call him. It’s a little after 2:00. Me: “Happy Birthday. When’s your last day at work.” Him: “In about ten minutes.” Me: “You asshole. I’m never talking to you again. Or at least for the next five years until I get to 55.”
Congrats to my brother. He’s earned it. He deserves it. He has a plan in place that will see him through the rest of his life. Doing what he wants to. Which includes a part-time job to supplement his retirement benefit. He got that job a few weeks ago. Working three days a week at a doggie day care center. It’s a beautiful thing. He loves dogs and animals and now he gets to do what he wants — which means throwing balls for dogs, rubbing their tummies, and taking care of them.
So, back to the post. … every once in awhile we spend time together. Today was one of those times. My mother’s birthday was today. Last year, my brother took her up to Silver Lake for the day. I wanted to go, but couldn’t for some forgotten reason. This year, I made sure I could go. Today, we went to the Point Reyes National Seashore. She wanted to do the Arch Rock hike, a hike she had probably not done in 15 or 20 years. When she told me about it, she thought the hike was 3 miles one way. I asked her whether she was sure she could make such a trek. She responded that she regularly went for three mile walks in her neighborhood and she would be fine.
Funny thing is that she told my brother she was concerned about whether I could make it because of my groin issues and all my other aches and pains. He told me that the day I ran 7.5 miles. I assured him I would be fine.
So, today, we went for a walk.
There they are. My brother at the tender age of 55. And my mom who has lived long enough to see her grand children grow up and now has a great granddaughter. The one way distance wasn’t three miles. It was 4.2. So, basically, we went for an 8.5 mile walk today. This is the view from the end point of the hike, a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
What’s the point of this? I don’t know. All I know is that for 8.5 miles my mom kept up with her boys. My brother told her she was a beast. She was. I can only hope to be able to walk 8.5 miles when I’m her age. And she ended it with a whole lot fewer aches and pains than me. My lower back was tired. My groin was tight. (No jokes necessary.) My hips were sore. My feet hurt and both of my big toes are stiff. My mom? Doing great. Like I said. I hope I can say the same when I’m her age.