"Retirement? No Way"
Beverly J. Sutton, M.D.
Retirement? No way! At least that is what I thought for many years. I also thought that a better assessment of body wear and tear was not chronological age but the percentage of the body that is artificial. Pacemakers, dentures, joints, and lens are frequent organ or structural replacements. For some, the body organs wear out in alphabetical order, i.e., arteries, brain, cutaneous tissue, etc. For me, it started with my heart muscle that was greatly insulted by chemotherapy. My muscle just went to mush. That, along with other organ problems, made it necessary for me to rethink long hospital hours and teaching multiple classes and settle for an existence with little or no physical activity such as sitting, reading and sleeping. By the way, I am very good with inactivity. My brain did not settle down as well as my body did and so I needed to find things I could do mainly by thinking.
Eldon, my husband and the kindest person I know, is my major source of support and encourages me in whatever I do. Since I have always been people oriented, and particularly child oriented, I decided to concentrate on simple things that would be meaningful to me and to other people, mainly children. With that in mind, one thing I decided to do was to cook one meal each week for our daughter and her family. It takes me all day and I have to sit down most of the time. (Thank goodness, Eldon is a good cook or we would starve waiting for me to get meals ready. And, if I had known what a good cook he is, I would have married him sooner!) Our granddaughters, 6 and 8 years old, tell me what country they are interested in and I cook food from that country. I also look up something about the language, customs, geography, flag, or other things that might be of interest to them. Last week, they wanted American Indian food and so we did it right down to the gooseberry cobbler. We also made headdresses out of construction paper, linguini (to keep the paper feathers upright), tape and staples. I told them about my Chippewa Indian name and that it was given to me by my Michigan elementary school history teacher. They are becoming very curious children.
We enjoy having friends visit, reading, low-activity travel, and conversations about anything. Now, I can keep up with the journals and not worry about finding time to do this. I have always enjoyed reading both professional and non-work related articles and books. Eldon gave me an IPad and a Kindle so that I can download books while sitting in my favorite reading chair or on a Norwegian ship above the Arctic Circle. The Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry Research Committee has an article that will be published soon and it is one that I worked on when I was on the committee. So, I still do a few of my old activities from time to time. I enjoy thinking of something that might be fun to know more about and now I am keeping lists. I am sure there are many, many fascinating things I do not know?.yet.
As you can see, I have no special insight into retirement even after 53 years of heavy-duty practice but I knew as a child that if I wanted to be a happy old woman, I needed to work hard to get there. I do feel lucky to have been born into my natal family, who thought that I chose a peculiar profession for a woman but accepted it, to have my family and friends, to have been able to practice pediatrics and child psychiatry which I dearly love, and to continue to live as I dreamed I would when I was very young.