I’ve been thinking a lot lately about aging and entertainment. This turns out to be a surprisingly complex subject. There are too many variables. My wife and I have been aging, which comes with more money and diminished capacity. Meanwhile the world has been changing dramatically. We recently tried to make a list of fun things to do, and it gave me a headache.
When my wife and I first met in college, I was twenty-two and she was twenty. When we graduated, we got an apartment together and jobs at the local university and a company that made glasses. There were no cell phones, laptops, tablets, flat-screen TVs, Netflix, Hulu, VR or social media.
We didn’t have a lot of money, so eating out, going to the movies, traveling (unless we hitch-hiked) were all out of the question. I remember one day we were walking around downtown, and we found a twenty-dollar bill on the sidewalk. Treasure! We were able to go out to dinner and a movie (twenty dollars was worth a lot more in the early 70s).
In the winter we mostly stayed in our apartment, snuggled while watching a nine-inch portable TV, or took a ride in our rusty old 1966 VW Beetle. In the summer we would spend weekends hiking, canoeing, bicycling or staying in the air conditioned apartment, snuggling and watching TV. I actually remember those as some of the best times of our lives; simple, few worries or responsibilities.
Did I say we spent a lot of time staying in, snuggling and watching TV? In your early twenties, you can do a lot of snuggling. It’s amazing how much rest we got when we were young, in love and already had plenty of energy.
Fast forward a few years, when we moved to Northern Virginia. We entered our thirties, had lots of friends without children. We both had better jobs, more money, lots of energy and got together for dinner, games, cards, parties. When not at work, we were constantly on the go, mostly to dinner, a movie, a concert, dancing or a sporting event. I also played rec basketball, tennis, racquetball and volleyball. Good times, but not as much snuggling.
Then in our mid-thirties, our first two daughters showed up on the scene. When they were little, it’s all kind of a blur. I vaguely remember Chuckie Cheese (thank God they sold beer), roller skating parties, ice skating, endless birthday parties, everything for small children. I remember it was so noisy at Chuckie Cheese that I couldn’t hear for a week after spending the day there.
During that time, we were fortunate enough to have enough money to build a small house on a lake near Roanoke, VA. We couldn’t afford a power boat, so we bought a small catamaran sail boat. I loved that boat, but our daughters, six and eight at the time, hated it.
We would go out in July and August when it was really hot, and the wind was always hit or miss. When there wasn’t much wind, the girls would jump off the boat to swim because it was too hot. When the wind blew, at least one of them would insist on dragging a foot in the water to cool off. This makes sailing a small boat really challenging. They always complained about how slow the boat went.
My revenge came when, one early September weekend, there was a lot of wind blowing along the mountains. I innocently volunteered to take everyone sailing, knowing just how windy it really was. I made sure everyone had on their life jackets (I wanted to get their attention, not drown them). When we got to the big water along the mountain, it was like being in a wind tunnel. We were moving so fast that everyone had to hang on for dear life to keep from being blown off the little canvas deck.
Dad. “Is this fast enough for you?” Daughters. “We’re gonna die.” Wife. “I’m going to kill you.” Well, let’s just say I’ve had better ideas. I managed to get us safely to shore, and the following summer we were able to afford our first power boat. All of the tubing, skiing and wake boarding made them forget the little sail boat, for the most part.
So, in our thirties, my wife and I did a lot of hiking, boating, water skiing, tubing and the like. Or, at least the children did. Mostly I drove the boat and my wife threw children in the water or pulled them out. We spent weekends during the summer at the lake, and quite a few winter weekends as well. Those winter weekends consisted of playing games in front of the fireplace, playing in the snow, sledding and trying to stay warm.
When the kids were still young, there was little time or energy for husband and wife snuggling. After a day of chasing children, trying to keep them safe, sunshine and swimming, there was a lot of sleeping instead of snuggling.
Talk about aging and entertainment, once the first two girls were seven and nine, a third baby showed up, another little girl. I vaguely remember taking two weeks of family leave to stay home with my wife until she could get back on her feet. Then I planned to go back to work and she would take a year off with the little one.
I barely slept a wink during those two weeks, what with taking care of the two older daughters during the day and up all night with my wife and the baby. At the end of the two weeks, my boss called me and generously asked me if I needed any more time off. I remember begging her to let me come back to work. The entertainment that year consisted of trying to get sleep whenever possible.
We still went to the lake whenever we could during the summer, but as the girls grew there were sporting events, kids’ parties, dance classes, girl scouts; the mind boggles. I guess this was all part of the aging and entertainment thing. There were several years that are a blur. My wife and I didn’t see each other for months; she was always taking one or more children in one direction while I had the others going somewhere else. Not a lot of snuggling, just run, run, run.
I remember one weekend when we payed to fly a relative in, just so she could stay with the children while my wife and I ran away to a motel for a night of…well…snuggling. I remember it well. We headed out on Saturday afternoon and arrived at the hotel in time for a nice dinner. Then we went to the room and dressed appropriately for a romantic evening.
We crawled into bed, and the next thing we remembered we were waking up next morning. We were so tired from children chasing and sleep deprivation that we apparently didn’t even get to the snuggling part. I was sad. Talk about aging and entertainment. (Note that children often come with the aging thing).
So in our thirties and forties, it was all about the children. I’m not complaining, mind you. We did a ton of boating, water skiing, tubing, wake boarding, kayaking, very little sailing (my fault, no doubt) and swimming and had many children’s parties at the dock. Once in a while, we had an adult party, when we could convince the oldest daughter to entertain the other two for the evening. We were blessed, as those were wonderful years, although not a lot of snuggling with my wife.
In our early forties we did a couple of trips, the best one out west. We stayed at a place on Lake Powell and used that as a base to travel to Zion, Bryce and the Grand Canyon. That was a great trip, although we kept losing the youngest child in the maze of rocks and pillars that is Bryce. She moved a lot faster than her parents.
Then, in our late forties and early fifties, the two older daughters were in college or off on their own. When on overseas business travel to Europe, I usually took my wife and youngest daughter, still at home, with me. I didn’t make a lot of profit on those trips, what with paying for the extra air fare, food, etc., but we had a good time. I worked all day, and they walked me to death all night. Again, not a lot of snuggling.
We also managed to work a trip to Hawaii into the mix during those years. That was great fun, although traveling all that distance with two complaining children was a pain (the oldest couldn’t go, as she had to work). So I guess travel was another thing that we did for entertainment.
As I write this, I’m realizing the obvious; most of our life together was centered around the children. So the things we did for fun were mainly things the children would like, even on really great trips. I did try renting a Porsche Boxter to drive the Road to Hana, but at 6’7” I couldn’t put the top up, so no deal. My wife also pointed out there was very little room for the children, but it WAS a Porsche.
I still played some sports in my forties, including basketball, until I turned forty-five. I was playing in a rec league, I forgot to protect myself from an aggressive pick from a guy built like a small building, and I broke two ribs. The female doctor asked me how I broke the ribs, and when I told her it was during a rec basketball game she chuckled (translated, what’s this middle-aged man doing running up and down a basketball court?).
Six months later I started playing ball again, dove for a loose ball, landed on some guy’s knee and broke two more ribs (it’s that 22-year-old mind in a 45-year-old body thing). When I went to the clinic, of course that same female doc saw me again. When I told her how I broke the ribs this time, she laughed so hard she had to sit down. She wrote me a prescription to take up golf.
Mid-fifties and early sixties, with the youngest daughter in college and the other two completely on their own, we worked a lot. We managed a couple of nice trips to various Caribbean locations, including St. Johns and Curacao, but mostly we went to the movies, dinner, or we stayed in and watched TV through our eyelids (not much snuggling, since we were asleep).
We didn’t have as much energy as we once had, and contrary to what I had imagined, things do not slow down as one gets older; more of that aging and entertainment thing. Dancing and basketball were out; parts might fall off. There still wasn’t much in the way of social media, or binge-watching TV. It was available by then, but we were too busy to participate.
I retired at sixty-four, and my wife continued to work for four more years so we could have health insurance. During that time, I started writing murder mysteries, but mostly I played at house husband. I learned to cook, clean, do the laundry, buy the groceries.
My wife mentioned from time-to-time that I was getting better and better at complaining about cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry, and buying the groceries. She had done most of those things while still working, and raising the children. Here I was retired, no children at home, and still having trouble keeping up. I honestly don’t know how she did it. But I digress. This is supposed to be about aging and entertainment, and there wasn’t much entertaining about house husbanding. Certainly no snugging involved.
We were still living at the lake, although she was so tired from working and commuting, and me from house husbanding, writing and publishing, that the boat, jet ski, and kayaks for the most part went unused. The girls were all out on their own and far away, so they weren’t there either. The maintenance on the boat, dock, house, lot, etc. got to be too much for someone in his/her sixties, and it just wasn’t much fun to be there anymore. Entertainment still mainly consisted of going out to dinner, the movies or watching TV at home (still through our eyelids); still not a lot of snuggling.
My wife finally retired last year. She decided she wanted to be a beach girl, so we moved to Florida (not very original, I know). The good news is there’s lots of fun things to do. Walks on the beach, bicycling on the beach, sitting and reading on the beach (have I mentioned the beach?). There’s lots of great restaurants nearby, tons of great state and national parks to visit, and there’s also boating, fishing and swimming if you so choose.
The bad news is, if you choose boating or swimming, there are lots of things in the water that would like to taste you. There are alligators, sharks, poisonous snakes (rattlesnakes, coral snakes, cotton mouths). Also, according to the ‘Guardians of the Glades’, those giant pythons that have eaten everything in the Everglades are headed up to north Florida where we currently reside. But as my wife is always pointing out to me, our condo is on the second floor, so we are safe.
Since I started writing murder mysteries (see johnjjessop.com for more), I have learned a lot about marketing on social media. There’s a whole lot out there to learn, and both the writing and the marketing have been fun. We also now have Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, and do a considerable amount of binge watching, especially murder mysteries. We continue to watch through our eyelids, but you can miss a couple of episodes and still follow the story line, especially if one of us stays awake to fill the other one in.
Our biggest problem is choosing a movie to watch. I like grade B science fiction movies and movies where they blow stuff up, and she likes romantic comedies. So depending on who chooses the movie, the other one often watches through his/her eyelids. We both like murder mysteries, so it’s a good thing when we find one we can agree on.
I had a momentary lapse in judgment (my wife might argue that ‘momentary’ doesn’t quite cover it), and I bought an Oculus Quest VR headset. This wonderful device came with more hazards than I anticipated. I have already fallen off the couch while riding the VR roller coaster, and been eaten by zombies several times in the shooting gallery.
The most serious situation was when I was standing on an elevated loading dock in the warehouse of the shooting gallery, and I fell off the platform while shooting the ‘bad guys’. I was actually standing on a completely flat floor in my living room at the time, but the reality of the VR made me dizzy and I fell forward. After this incident, I went back into the VR world and tried to force myself to walk off of the raised loading dock, to prove to myself that there really was no elevated loading dock. But, I couldn’t convince my feet to participate in the experiment. I guess like many things VR is for the young.
We sat down the other day to put together a list of fun things to do, which is what got me to thinking about aging and entertainment in the first place. We want to go back to Ireland, Scotland and St. Johns, but it’s no fun to fly anymore. Not thrilled at being treated like cattle. Then there’s this new coronavirus. Same goes for cruises. We’d like to cruise Alaska and the Caribbean, but don’t want to be quarantined at sea on a cruise ship fighting for the last roll of TP.
We are considering a road trip out west or to Nova Scotia, which is the most likely scenario. Only problem is that after sitting in the car for a couple of hours my knees are so stiff you have to pry me out with a crow bar. Ah, aging and entertainment. Who knew (probably everyone who ever lived beyond the age of fifty).
I must admit, I’m happy here in Florida. But to be honest, I didn’t factor that aging and entertainment thing in very well. In my late sixties, I expected to be traveling the world, deep sea fishing, doing exciting things. Instead, I’m grateful that Florida is very flat, so that when I walk or ride my bicycle on the beach it takes only a minimal amount of energy. It’s good that restaurants, grocery stores, doctors and such are close, because I’m not as comfortable driving long distances as I used to be (another issue with long road trips).
And all the various parts of my body are constantly speaking the language of pain to me, a twinge here, a cramp there, shooting pain elsewhere. My four healed ribs speak volumes when it rains. I actually somehow twisted my ankle while sleeping the other night. It seems it’s not all that possible for my wife and I to find a comfortable position to lay on the couch together anymore. So, there’s still no snuggling. Of all the things from our lives, including children, travel, friends, restaurants, movies, that’s the one thing I miss the most.
If you liked this blog, you might also enjoy PLEASURIA: Take as Directed (Koehler Books). It’s available in bookstores and on Amazon at http://bit.ly/pleasuria.
I’m donating all of my after-tax profits to two children’s charities, Holly’s House and Darkness to Light.