Retirement in the Valadie household

Quibbles about ballgames and TV shows aside, there is thankfulness for good health

By George Valadie

Hey, will you turn the game up?” “2 o’clock, I think.” “What?” “2 p.m. Can’t you hear?” “What?” “What?” “What are you talking about?”

“Katy said his game is at 2. Isn’t that what you asked?”

“No! You’re the one who can’t hear. I asked you to turn up the volume.”

“I thought you asked what time Brady’s basketball game is. We’re going, right? It’s at 2.”

“Yeah, we’re going … but will you turn up this game, please?”

“I would, but you know you have the remote, don’t you?”

Welcome to retirement in the Valadie household. It’s the sort of conversation that happens more than you think it would—or should—given our two chairs sit exactly 24 inches apart. I measured.

It used to be the noise of three kids that confounded our communications, but now it’s just us. It could be age. Maybe it’s faulty body parts. Or both. Thankfully we don’t frustrate each other. Well, maybe a little bit. But we just laugh. And scoot closer.

Our daughters have also been teaching us about the new streaming services so we can catch up on the television programs and series that they’re always talking about.

Our youngest daughter joined us for the last one we watched.

“Let’s try this one.”

“Haven’t we watched that before?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Are you sure?”

“No, but do you remember anything about it?”

“Not really. OK, let’s watch it, but will you turn it up?”

Ten minutes in, “Are you sure we haven’t watched this before?”

“Well, that guy does seem familiar.”

It’s at this point that our daughter began texting her sisters on a chain to which neither Nancy nor I have been given access.

“Wait, what did that guy say? Can you rewind that?”

“You’ve got the remote.”

“Who’s he talking about?”

“I’m not sure, but I kinda remember that car chase.”

“Oh, yeah, I think we liked this show.”

More texting, more frantically.

“That was good—I can’t wait to watch the next episode.”

“You know we can watch it right now, don’t you? That’s what streaming is.”

“Oh, yeah, let’s watch one more.”

“All right, but I get to have the remote this time.”

Texting, texting, texting.

We’re sure they’re planning an intervention of some sort for our near future. Or they probably should.

But other than shows we can’t recall, sounds we can’t distinguish, and joints and bones that are no longer as well-oiled as they used to be, our two lives have been blessed with good health.

Knock on wood!

Nanc does have some arthritis and issues with her feet. On my side, I’ve reached the fourth week of bronchitis, but it’s almost gone. I won’t lie, I was a little surprised when my doctor’s office printout said I was “obese” at 6-1, 195, but other than those mostly insignificant issues, we are doing incredibly well.

It’s a fact that gets hammered home each Tuesday morning when I help out at the hospital. I drive a courtesy shuttle and transport folks who need to get from their car to the front door and back again.

I get to see and hear about the impact of poor health on the lives of others. And am thus reminded how lucky and blessed our family really is.

Nancy’s father passed away as the victim of Alzheimer’s. Eighty-seven years old, he’d enjoyed a lifetime of perfect health until the last little bit when he didn’t. Her mom made it to 90. My mom was 87, too, when she died, and other than an annual bout with a sinus infection, she could do most anything she wanted—including hang-gliding at age 80—until a sudden stroke took her away.

We come from hearty stock, as they say. Though I don’t know why, and I wonder about that a lot.

Because we know a dad of three young kids who had a heart attack and died in the shower. And another who passed before his daughter was even born.

We heard of a friend whose Christmas gift was a brain tumor diagnosis, technically a glioblastoma—she jumped straight to stage four before anyone had a clue.

And there’s a young man—in his 30s at best—who has early-onset dementia. Couldn’t find his house while driving home.

But you know as many people as we do. Your list is as long as ours. Friends and family whose bodies are no longer kind to them. Chronic misery. Their lives upended by some unexpected medical condition to which they must now move on and adjust. Or worse—struck down before they had time to.

So, I return to my earlier thought: why exactly do we get to be healthy? While others do not?

I’m pretty sure we’ve all moved beyond the mindset that sick people suffer because of their sinfulness.

Pope St. John Paul II spoke often about how he tried to visualize his own physical suffering—and he had plenty of it—in light of what Jesus Himself was forced to endure.

Stumbling over both steps and speech, he continued to maintain much of his public schedule so that others might witness suffering and illness and understand how one’s attitude toward it can be a source of grace, if not salvation.

Many of us learned that same lesson early on.

“Offer it up” is what the Sisters used to tell us when we were in school.

“Sister, I jammed my finger on the playground.”

“Sister, I think I have a sore throat.”

“Sister, I’m thirsty.”

“Offer it up. Jesus was thirsty on the cross.”

I get it, I do. But if it’s happening to you or your loved ones, I can see how you might not feel so inclined. Not so gracious. Not really convinced they are “blessed” to get to suffer like the Savior did. And not at all sure how fair it is that they struggle while others—like Nancy and me—do not.

I pray for them, but I’m no pope and won’t be suggesting how they should think or feel.

But again—does anyone know why we get to have the health that we do?

Left with nothing but my faith, it tells me I’ve been given a wondrous—sometimes feels miraculous—gift from God.

But I wish I knew. I wish He’d speak up.

Or maybe He did.

“Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

I have much, maybe more. Many of you do, too.

May we figure out how to best use the gift of His trust.

Dear God—Thank you. May those of us who can, be a blessing to those of us who can’t. Amen.


George Valadie is a parishioner at St. Stephen Church in Chattanooga and author of the newly released “We Lost Our Fifth Fork … and other moments when we need some perspective.”

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