|Jann, Linda, me, Deb, Sandi: the Vashonistas|
I drove through the rain on Friday 80 miles south to Linda's home, and we took her car to the ferry across to the island. Jann drove by herself and Deb and Sandi traveled here together. Driving up to the farmhouse was like coming home. It's become such a familiar place, and we have now shared more than a week's memories here, combined from these last three years. I'm sad to think that today, Sunday, we will need to say goodbye both to this place and to each other for another year.
I am the oldest of the group and have been retired for longer than the others. Actually, Deb and Sandi are still teaching and have retirement to look forward to. They had to take a day off in order to come. I keep forgetting what it's like to be working until I listen to them and realize how much my life has changed since I was in that world. Deb, the baby of our group, needs to work at least two and probably three more years before reaching 65 (or 66) when she can access her Social Security and Medicare benefits. Sandi will work for the rest of this year and probably next as well, since she needs to find a way to live with a reduced income, and the longer she works, the easier it will be.
That's true of so many of us of a certain age: I know I had to wait until I was 65 and a half before I could retire and receive full benefits from Social Security. Medicare automatically kicks in at 65 in the United States. Although it doesn't offer what it once did, it's still something and very important to seniors, and is a big part of the planning we must do as we decide how we're going to live for the rest of our lives. It makes me grateful for having gotten into the system when I was young, since one's benefits are figured based on what was paid in during your working years. Although I couldn't possibly live on just my Social Security, it makes a huge difference.
We haven't had the wonderful weather we enjoyed during our first trip here, when we explored the beaches and some other parts of the island, but it hasn't mattered all that much, since we don't need to get out to have a great visit with each other. I have been in stitches listening to Jann tell some of her stories, and Linda has shared what it's been like for her to now live four months of the year (in the winter months) in Arizona. She suffers from seasonal affective disorder and this has made all the difference: getting away from the short rainy days that constitute the Pacific Northwest winter.
I think it helps me to get outdoors every week during the winter, when the Senior Trailblazers trade our High Country hikes for ones around town, which are just as challenging sometimes, and almost as beautiful, sometimes. The rain presents a challenge, but I do find that getting out into the weather makes it easier for me to appreciate having a nice warm, cozy place to return to. There have been times when I've wondered if I'd lost my mind, as I struggle to stay dry in the pouring rain, and trying to keep my hands from getting too cold when we stop for lunch. But I've got company, and that makes a huge difference.
Vashon Island is the only place off the mainland in this part of the country where I think I might be able to manage living on an island. It's got a very quaint and relaxed atmosphere, and there are plenty of things to do to keep one from boredom. But then again, as I look at the trees changing color and think ahead to the winter, I'm not so sure. I don't like being hooked to a ferry in order to travel places. As we waited to board the ferry on Friday, we saw what looked to be school children returning on foot, lots of them. It made me wonder if they attend school on Vashon and live in Seattle.
Because one of the women who arranges for visitors to come to the farmhouse also arranges tours to Italy, both Deb and Sandi have decided to join a small group of women in the coming spring. This two-week trip will take them to places in southern Italy off the beaten path, before experiencing Rome, Venice, Florence and Milan. I'm envious, but because I'm retired, I just don't have the funds. Well, that's not entirely true: if I chose to use my savings, I could go, too. It's just a matter of choices. But as I listen to them and their excitement, I wish I could join them.
Today we will travel back to our respective homes and will probably all write about our adventure in our respective blogs. And next week I will have my partner next to me as I write. This morning it's been difficult, because I want to join the early risers and share more stories before we need to part. In fact, that's why I'm going to cut this short this morning. I don't want to miss out! See you next week, dear friends. Stay well and hug somebody for me, okay?