It happened again. Somebody in my life dropped dead yesterday. Unexpectedly. At 59 years of age.
Gayle was a hair stylist, and he had my wife, my mother in law, and me as clients. Stereotypes are often based in truth, and yes, this man was gay. He was actually one of the handful of gay men that I’ve had lengthy conversations with. That I knew well. I really liked this man, and the shock of his sudden passing has me really upset.
I found out about this on Facebook. All of a sudden I started seeing condolence messages popping up on my wall. I didn’t get it at first. I thought that one of Gayle’s friends had passed, and it was his friends sending condolence messages for his loss. I was interested to find out who this was, so I went to his wall. The reality of what happened smacked me. Hard. I told my wife, and she thought I was misunderstanding something. No. It was true. Our friend was gone.
Gayle was not married, and there is nobody out there to remove his Facebook page, so of course it has turned into pages and pages of condolence messages and tributes and shock and hurt. And pictures. So many pictures, with his smiling face, surrounded by his friends. This is good. Another friend (Anne) passed a few years ago, and I also saw it on Facebook. In this case, Anne was survived by a spouse, and he shut down the Facebook page almost immediately. That left a hole. It was harder than this.
Gayle had asked my wife to remind me to bring my iPAD to my last appointment, so he could see pictures of our new RV. I did that, and before he got started working on my hair, we looked at the pictures. He was so excited for us. After that, we had conversation about all kinds of things, for the whole time I was there. We talked of volunteer work he was doing at the YWCA, the upcoming Long Beach Grand Prix, movies, a musical I was playing in, and many other things.
So what does this have to do with the RV lifestyle, and Retirement? Why am I putting this on The Two Who Wander?
Gayle is the latest in a growing number of people I know who have passed much earlier than expected. It serves as a reminder that life is fragile, and none of us know how much more time we have.
Laura and I are looking forward to adventures in our RV. If we are lucky, we will be healthy enough to enjoy this lifestyle for 10 to 15 years. A lot of people aren’t that lucky. A lot of people don’t make it to retirement. This gave Laura and I a feeling of urgency. We knew that the clock was running, and if we were going to do this lifestyle, we had to jump in. Now.
Both of us had reservations about doing this. Getting into the RV lifestyle is a big outlay of resources – both time and money resources. We’ve had negative feedback. I’ve been on forum threads where people ridiculed others for borrowing money to buy an RV, saying that smart people will save their money until they can afford to pay cash. We’ve had people poke at our good fortune of having a sound retirement that provides enough resources to get into the RV lifestyle. It’s just not fair, they tell us, because everybody isn’t that lucky. Maybe not, but there was a lot of hard work involved to earn this….with many 60-70 hour weeks worked over the years. We even have a family member calling us “selfish” because we don’t use our resources and time purely for elder and offspring support.
I’ve worked through all of this in my mind. I’ve rejected the negative feedback. All of it.
We have responsibilities to our family, and we will fulfill those as needed, no matter what. We won’t take away the very real value to our children of making their own way in life – we won’t use our remaining resources to make it overly easy. If my parents would have done that, I would not have tried as hard, and I would not have achieved as much. I would not have what I have now. If and when any of our children get into real trouble, we will be there. I mean real trouble. We have done that before.
I’m not worried about borrowing money to buy an RV. With money as cheap as it is now, and the tax advantage available on the interest, it doesn’t make sense to avoid a loan. And of course there is always the possibility that you’re gone before you have saved enough to avoid a loan. Is that a good thing?
Laura and I made choices during our working lives that resulted in us having good pensions and savings. This involved a lot of hard work, some smarts, and some luck. Going back to school to get additional education while working full time is something that both of us did. We both worked a lot of overtime, either for pay or just for career advancement. Do I feel guilty about what we have achieved? Not one bit, but I do feel blessed and humbled and fortunate and thankful. A lot of people helped. Parents, family, friends, co-workers.
I feel just terrible that Gayle died before he got to take a rest and enjoy retirement. I feel the same way for Beth, who died at just 55, and our friend Monica, and our friend Anne, and my cousin Roger, and my brother Lew, who died at only 25.
These are wake up calls for those who live on.
Wake up and live life while you can. Don’t take what you have for granted. Do what makes you happy. Use your time and resources for what you want. Cherish the time you have left.
It’s later than you think.