From the beginning, our intent for Easin’ Along was to detail our activities and experiences as we make the slow walk through our golden years, and share those experiences as they occur. We also intend to become a gathering place for other active retirees to learn about the joy they take from their own activities, interests, and experiences and hopefully share them as well.
For Helen (adorable wife) and me, our journey would begin under a multi-paneled umbrella bearing the themes of Faith, Family, Food and Fun. We’re enjoying the walk immensely, and when the panels of Food and Fun overlap, the pleasure is doubled. Moreover, when friends gather under the umbrella to share what’s going on in their own active lives, the pleasure expands exponentially. Ease Along with me and we’ll have some fun.
The occasion was a casual dinner gathering of friends that we have known for 40 years or more. We were brought together by the most fortunate circumstance. All of us lived in a fun-filled neighborhood where we worked hard, played hard, raised our (and each others) children, celebrated successes, and gave support to all through life’s challenges. Ultimately, some of us moved from that blessed place, but the bond we created has remained strong and we cherish the times we can get together and build on our friendship.
This time we were gathering for the “Annual Meat Loaf Dinner”. This food fest is one of our more recent traditions that began as a one-time event five or six years ago (Helen and I can’t remember which) and thankfully has been repeated every year since. We love hosting the event and extremely grateful that our dear friends continue to make time for us during a very busy time of the year in spite of their very busy schedules. This fact makes preparing for the occasion a labor of love. The house was ready, the flowers were out, the table was set, the tree was lit, and the meat loaf was in the oven. Our guests were to arrive at around 6pm. They did. Game on!
This year we told everyone that we were wearing tacky Christmas sweaters and encouraged them to do the same or at least be creative with their costume. Our friends are a creative bunch, and, while nobody went “Lady Ga Ga” on us, they did their best to entertain and add levity the evening as can be seen in a few of the pictures posted here.
In the past we have spent the time waiting for the food to finish cooking by doing fun things like a blind wine tasting where each couple brought two wrapped bottles of wine–one to taste, and one to be awarded as a prize. Each couple would taste and rate the nameless samples and the couple who brought the winning entry would win all of the unopened bottles. Some of the comments on the wines were priceless. “Soft as a Virgin’s kiss” and “Ugh! Broccoli in a bottle” were some of the more memorable comments. My favorite moment of the wine tasting was when a $2.95 cent Cabernet placed second, proving that price is irrelevant in good wine. But, I digress…
This year we were content to relax and enjoy each other’s company so there were no contests. The majority of this group is either retired or soon to be, and everyone is engaged in a wide and diverse collection of interests and activities and the conversations usually are equally wide ranging.
As an example, one couple in our group recently took a trip abroad that followed the path of the Allies in World War II, beginning with the invasion of Normandy and ended with the march into Berlin. Hearing about that experience is an education in itself and I listened intently as it was shared with us. That same couple has hiked most of the Appalachian Trail.
Another member of the group is an accomplished artist who is now involved in a pottery class as are others among us and she brought samples of her work to our dinner to share with us.
Other interests involving our friends, but perhaps not discussed on this occasion, include one person with a prominent membership in a national gardening association. Another participates regularly in regional contract bridge tournaments. Another has a passion for fly-fishing and travels throughout the country, as well as the Caribbean in pursuit of gamefish.
One couple told us of a recent trip to the upper Midwest where they made a spur of the moment decision to travel to Fargo, ND “just because they had never been there”. As one could imagine, this made for a lively and interesting discussion. I’ve never been there either, but it sounds like a lot of fun. Will put that on the bucket list.
In addition to the many hobbies and interests, these folks have been active participants in Board of Director and leadership positions of businesses, charities, non-profits, churches and civic groups. Groups such as Habitat for Humanity, The Alzheimer’s Association, Kiwanis International, The Symphony Society, banks and hospitals, have benefitted greatly from the talents of these individuals. Individually, each person contributes much to our gatherings by bringing something of themselves to share. Collectively, each of us benefits greatly for having known the other.
As dinner time came, the anticipation rose. Several of our group share my passion for cooking and for good food, and a pot luck dinner with this group is always a delight. I had prepared my favorite meat loaf recipe, and it was paired up with a delicious broccoli casserole and a gourmet, creamy potato recipe. We had a strawberry, kiwi, cream cheese dessert that was prepared to perfection.
Conversation continued throughout the meal and covered everything from world events, local politics, events in the lives of our children and grandchildren, and pop culture. Several had seen a recent television concert featuring Adele and gave it a big thumbs up. We were also treated to a spirited rendition of “I’m a Little Teapot, Short and Stout” complete with arm movements to the delight of all. Things like that don’t happen everyday, trust me!
As dinner wound down, it was time to take a group picture. I had the tri-pod at the ready and gathered all of the participants around the Christmas tree, making sure that all still had their tacky sweater or costume in full view. This picture was to be taken using a self-timer to take not one, but three shots in a row. The first attempt at that endeavor failed and everyone laughed, but eventually I got it together (after a second reading of the manual), and pulled it off. It should be noted that there was several seconds between shots, so there was plenty of time for improvisation by some. The result is posted on this page.
The finale for the evening was a lottery drawing to determine the order of selection for the pottery pieces that were being given away by the artist of the group. As mentioned earlier, the pieces were stunningly beautiful and the drawing created quite a stir. One cry of foul caused a re-drawing, and the lottery numbers were moved from the hat to the hand of one who claimed impartiality and the drawing continued. Helen took second, and anguished heavily before selecting a vase which was displayed proudly for the camera. Decisions were hard for everyone.
Late in the evening, with Christmas gifts handed out, and Christmas wishes extended, the guests departed. Everyone left more enriched by the experience and promising to meet again soon. To me, this is what an active retirement – and Easin’ Along – is all about, and it is a part of the slow walk that can’t be taken too often.