Tom turned 53 today. If you've read much of my blog, you know I never take birthdays for granted, but I'm especially grateful for each one of his we get to celebrate. I've spent too many hours sitting in hospital waiting rooms praying for him ... come too close to losing him too many times. I know there are dozens of close calls I'm not even aware of, times I'm sure his angels kept him from falling off the roof or wrecking the backhoe, the motorcycle, the car ...
And then there's his heart, the time bomb in his chest that he inherited from his grandpa. The grandpa who died of a heart attack at 56. The father of Tom's aunts who died from heart attacks before their 50th birthdays.
When we were in our twenties, 56 seemed so old.
I'm grateful Tom listens to his body and doesn't hesitate in seeing a doctor when something is wrong. We wouldn't be celebrating his birthday today if he hadn't insisted ten years ago that the pain in his chest was more than just a pulled muscle, even though a stress test and EKG said otherwise. Hallelujah! his wonderful cardiologist listened to him and ordered an arteriogram. She saved his life! An arterial blockage hid in the one spot a stress test couldn't find it. They popped in a stent and sent him on his way - with plenty of prescriptions and requirements for yearly blood work and check-ups, of course.
I support his efforts to take care of himself ... to eat right and exercise. I buy the things he should be eating, not ice cream or cookies. I make sure we have plenty of raw fruits and vegetables on hand.
What I wish I could do better is help him with stress. He worries, and not without reason, over finances, retirement, our kids, our cars, our land, our house. Mostly over finances.
So I wasn't surprised when I asked him what he wanted for his birthday and he said: "Don't get me anything. Just pay off the credit cards."
I'm trying. I've made progress. Substantial progress. But it's a constant tug between needs, wants and finances, a battle we're intimately familiar with - we've been a mostly one-income family since soon after we married, when he quit work to go to college. We just switched places after our youngest was born.
Now that we're Empty Nesters, I've doubled my "paid" hours. The catch is, without a college degree, my pay ... and my choices ... are limited. I try to make up for both - the pay and the fulfillment - with my writing. Blogging brings in a little bit of money; my play and my book, not so much ... yet. I joke that they're our retirement plan - once they're finished, I'll make a million dollars and we can both retire. But the only way that can happen is if I write, and the trick there is finding time to write. Between the 'paid' job and life, there's not much time left without dipping into my sleep, and when I skimp on sleep ... well, I'm back where I started, full circle: Tom worries. About me.
But I haven't given up. If being broke and juggling finances for years has taught me anything, it's to be creative and frugal. Being frugal just gets so tiring. But Tom's worth it.
I feel bad that I won't be able to give him what he asked for this year, but I'll do my best for #54. I have a feeling he'll be asking for the same thing, anyway.
(If anyone has any time-saving, juggling, management ideas, send them on! I've probably already tried them, but you never know!)
Happy 53rd birthday, sweet Tom!