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On Life and Love After 50 By Tom Blake
On Life and Love After 50 By Tom Blake

By Tom Blake

In May, my significant other, Greta, and I took a 15-day river cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam. On the boat, the first question people asked us was “Where are you from?” The second was “How long have you and Greta been married?”

The boat had 190 passengers. Most of them were married couples ages 50 to 80. They just assumed that we were married. To avoid a lengthy explanation of why we aren’t married, we’d usually reply, “We’ve been together for 17 years.”

From there, the conversation would segue into “How many children do you have?” again assuming that we had a bunch of kids together.

Greta would answer, “I have four children, eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren.” I wouldn’t answer the question because I have no kids.

From there, the conversation would turn into disbelief that Greta looks too young to have three great-grandkids. By then, I could distract the marriage conversation by commenting how good the Austrian wine was or point out a historic castle up on hill that the boat was passing.

Sometimes I am asked, “Why aren’t you married?” I suppose I could answer, “Why should I be?” But if I am feeling particularly devilish, I get out a tissue or hankie, pretending to dab my teary eyes and say, “Greta won’t marry me.” That makes the person who asked the question feel bad and they quickly change the subject.

The true reason we are not married is we like our relationship the way it is. We have been together for 17 years. Why change? We see no advantage to being married for us. Besides, we’ve both been married more than once before.

A month ago, I created a Facebook page, titled, “Finding Love after 50,” which has grown to 280 members. One member posted the “Marriage vs. living together?” question. Two men responded.

Gordon said, “At my time of life, in most cases, I do not think marriage is the best answer. Exceptions could be if you want your future spouse to be included on your health plan and they will not cover unless you are married. Living together is fine; however, if further commitment is wanted, there is always a commitment ceremony done by many churches or independently.”

Kenny said, “I’m kind of leaning toward the fastest-growing relationship style for the older boomer ‘folk.’ It’s called a LAT relationship (acronym for Living Apart Together). The premise is you love each other to bits, travel together and are totally committed and perceived by all your friends, family and social circle as a couple, but you maintain separate residences and do not mix money or children.”

Christine Baumgartner, an Orange County dating and relationship coach (christine@theperfectcatch.com), who is also a member of the “Finding Love After 50” Facebook group, said, “Most people in the 50 to 80 age group I coach are very interested in being in a committed, long-term, monogamous relationship and not interested in getting married. The reasons vary from financial to property to living arrangements.

“I stress to the couples who make the choice to not marry the necessity of a few legal arrangements: health directive, power of attorney, etc. If either person becomes incapacitated or dies, someone will need to be legally responsible, and it won’t matter how long you’ve been together, you will have no way to legally help your partner if there isn’t something legally in place.”

So, when you see older couples holding hands, they may or may not be married and it really doesn’t matter.

 

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  • My name is Primas White Jr. I’m sixty years old, African American, and now retired. For thirty years I worked as a nuclear professional for Southern California Edison. I made my living at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station ( S.O.N.G.S ). It is the largest subsidiary of Edison International, and the primary electricity supply company for much of Southern California. I worked my way up the company. I began as an entry level warehouse worker. Eventually I rose to become a Contract Manager/Architectural Designer. My work was valuable and I was proud. Many considered my work and I to be a great asset to my company and co-workers. I prioritized safety and wellbeing, facilitating the workplace and benefiting the company’s goals. It was a job that was, more often than not, met with reward. One would think my story about my life after S.O.N.G.S, would be reflective of my better times there. Or assume that my hard work would be paid forward. Or perhaps struggle would not remotely be of concern when I concluded my final days with the company. It should not have been. I have a lovely family: Three beautiful girls, a wife of twenty years, and four grandchildren. My eldest daughter has begun her life as a working wife and mother. My middle daughter is furthering her creative career goals. My youngest is set to graduate high school this year. My wife is an early education school teacher now, in light of all that has been dealt to us, is looking for work. As good as this sounds, it is all being threatened by the never ending tide of misfortune that has shook the core of our family foundation.
    All was well in the beginning, of course. As I stated above I worked my way up from warehouse worker, taking on all tasks asked of me. My career began with the construction company that built S.O.N.G.S, Bechtel Power Corp. It was there that I learned my trade as any young man of the time did, working for my father as a laborer. I got my warehousing experience transferring to the Teamsters—A separate division of the company that would offer great experience. As construction came to an end, I learned Edison was hiring temporary employees for its warehouse. Eagerly, I applied. Soon, I found myself hired. Knowing the position was only temporary, I pushed myself. After proving dedicated, smart, and eager to learn I became permanent. I found myself practically running the warehouse operation. I trained employees to safely operate forklifts. I educated them on the implementation of shipping and receiving procedures. In time, the warehouse adopted three new managers. They were great leaders. If you did your job above and beyond you would be recognized for it. They found my dedication to training impressive. I turned down a few promotions because the training of the new employees, to me, felt more important. However the new managers treated me as their equal and would often come to me for advice. Eventually I did reach the highest level in the warehouse. It was then that the management needed me for a project that had been hurting warehouse operations.
    We were selected to take on the responsibilities of the Site Facilities (facilities management). They called on me to turn a million dollar furniture warehouse into an organized, workable warehouse. It would be meant merely save time money and space. Rather, it became a showplace. Proud of myself, I was ready to accept recognition for my hard work and dedication. I knew there was a need for a supervisor for this warehouse. The job would be open to qualified applicants. I felt I was the most qualified as the project had been a reflection of my hard work. It was executed timely, uncostly, and in the end, beautifully. I would be the best choice to maintain the new facility. Alas, an outsider, a carpenter, with no experience in locations such as this one was given the position. It was later found out, he only had done some work at one of the new manager’s home to get the position.
    I was devastated. This was my brainchild. And the promotion would have meant the world for my family. The head Facilities Manager had been on vacation at the time this had all took place. He and I had become close, he knew how hard I worked on that warehouse. He told me, “This would not have happened had I’d been here, I’ll make this up to you.” He on his own advised me to learn Architectural Design (Auto Cad). With my new personal growth and knowledgeable skill, I became the site ergonomist. Once again I pushed myself to go above and beyond. I began to design practical office spaces. I built offices to be more functional, and roads to be far safer. I was asked to design offices for directors and even the new Chief Nuclear Officer. I made them not only safe, practical, and far more functional, I made them more comfortable, inviting, and more motivational to work in. On my own, I saved the company money by preventing lost time accidents and making the employees safe and comfortable at work. It made me happy again. It was not a higher position, nor a more glorious title. But this was okay, I felt fulfilled seeing more work being done with a greater morale. And the thanks that came from my coworkers were enough to make up for the lack of recognition I got from higher up in the company. I was happy in my own.
    Unbeknownst to me, over the years of working in the warehouse, I injured my back dramatically. I was told it was minor each time, after going to first aid and then being sent off site. I was treated by the doctor of the company’s choice. The doctor would examine me, give me a shot of cortisone and send me back to work. No lost time accident and no workman comp. This would become a problem because my back was getting worse due to improper treatment. I no longer had the physical ability to continue fulfilling the ever rising demand the workers around me asked of. I could no longer walk to where I was needed to oversee my projects and workers. I could no longer assist them in ways they needed. I did my best, but not being able to continually push myself to make others happy was taking a toll on my mental health, as my physical health and ability began to dwindle.
    On my own I sought Orthopedic Surgeons, all of whom heavily recommended surgery. Once again, I pushed to make it happen. I wanted to be back to my regular self. I wanted to feel fulfilled and all I could be for the better of my coworkers. I over reached and since then I have had to undergo three surgeries. After each one, they noticed more and more damage had to make more and more corrections. All the corrections, all the improvements, eventually fell apart. I had two Laminectomies, and one Discectomy and a fusion. The doctors could not understand what had gotten my spine in such bad shape.
    The final surgery would be the fusion. It was necessary after a chair accident that fractured my spine. I was dissuaded from reporting the incident’s true damage. As I said before, I was valuable, my work was needed, and I was dedicated to my superiors and to the company as a whole. After the accident, a co-worker saw me slumped over, “Primas,” she asked, “what happened?” I told her I had looked for a place to work. I found an empty desk and computer, sat down and the entire chair collapsed to the floor. Being the friend she was, she told the manager that I had been injured. Hearing the full story, I was sent to be examined at by the onsite physician. She merely applied an ice pack and suggested giving me a shot to be sent back to work. I declined. Not this time I’m going to see my surgeon that did the first two surgeries.
    He ordered x-rays. Upon examining the results of the x-ray he asked if I filed for workers comp. I said no. He demanded, “Do that and get a lawyer.”
    My final surgery, the fusion, was scheduled for January 9th 2012, the chair accident occurred August 8th 2011.
    The surgeries caused so much damage to my family. Each time I had a surgery, the recovery time was anywhere from 4 to 6 months. I was the bread winner in the family, and was now laid up in bed. Placed on short term disability, denied long term disability, and my salary cut in half. After the surgery, my supervisor and manager called to see how I was doing, and pick my brain on certain projects. They even went so far as to give me work to do at home. The company that handles long and short term disability for Edison (Sedgwick) got wind of this and ordered it to stop immediately. However, the order did not stop them. Instead it only caused the conversations to become slightly more underhanded. Feeling needed, and unable to fully relax with the constant work calls, I asked my surgeon if I could come back early. A two hour work day was agreed upon. It helped but not much, so I pushed for more time. The surgeon ordered not to exceed six hours, no bending, lifting or twisting. This would go on for about 2 months. After the two months, I was OK’ed by my doctor to go back to a full schedule, 8 hours only, once again. I followed doctors’ orders and kept myself under physical restrictions. Inevitably my condition worsened, however, as the company continued to ignore my condition, I remained dedicated.
    I had that reputation of the “Go to Guy”. Most of the directors and the CNO would call me direct to get things done. But I’m no longer enjoying my work because this annoyed my supervisor. Afraid to let my employees and coworkers down, I simply moved to a different department. I worked on resting my back and going at a steady pace in Contracts Management. I was there five months with the pain still killing me. I had used all my sick time and all my vacation days. Out of desperation I switched back to temporary work schedule that allowed me to leave work after four hours if needed. This was nearly always. It killed me, not just the physical pain, but the weight of the company that wore me down. I worked hard, with little recognition. I began to regret turning down those promotions and to stay where I felt I was looked up to and needed. To remain where I felt my work was valuable, helping others, keeping people safe, and making them comfortable and happy at work. Had I not been denied long term disability my family would have had enough money saved now, when we needed it most. And who knew, maybe I would be in better physical condition to enjoy my family. To swim with my growing girls and new grandchildren, to dance with my wife, to dedicate more time to fulfilling work as well. This hurt my family financially and emotionally.
    The three surgeries and being on short term disability had put us behind on our mortgage and bills. My wife and I faced the decision to either downsize or lose our home. My wife is a school teacher, early education, working only 4 hours a day. After my third surgery and with no hope for going back to work after, we put the house on the market. I was forced to retire. Who retires at fifty six years old with a mortgage and two children in high school? If long term disability had been granted to me it would have allowed my body the time to recover and I could return to work. This necessity was denied every time. When I was forced to retire, my family and I were forced to struggle.
    Without hope on our side we sold our home. To make ends meet we made an out of state move. I was devastated to be separated from my family. I went to our new home in Nevada alone. When one retires, they expect to spend more time with their family. This couldn’t be the case for me. My kids were young, still yearning to have their teenage years at their home school with their lifelong friends. So they stayed in San Clemente to finish school. And forced to provide for our entire family, my wife stayed with them. She continued her job as a teacher, a low salary, but all we had. They spent their days and nights away from me, staying in hotels or with family, sleeping on their couches. Some nights they were even forced to farm out among their own friends and away from even each other. We were all very alone. We were all in unexpected hardships. There was no normalcy, only exhaustive and constant change. This entire situation has resulted in a huge emotional & financial loss for me & my family.
    We still had to pay a large check that we could not afford to SCE every month to sustain our medical benefits. My wife and I have high blood pressure, our daughters heath ranges from allergies, to severe asthma, to mental health—Things that can’t afford to be unaffordable. There was also the burden of the immense taxes I had to pay, owing the IRS thousands of dollars because I had to take everything out at a pre-retirement age. This would be more affordable with a steady income, even at my LTD rate.
    When they finally were able to move in to our new home in Nevada full time, we expected great times. We were glad to be together finally. But there was still that cloud hovering over us. There still was that burden that my mistreatment at S.ON.G.S. placed on us. I tried to enjoy their presence back in my life. But I’m still in pain. I am unable to enjoy the summer activities my family is eager to partake in. Eager to leave the stress of their hectic school year behind, my family still has to face the facts. Not only can I not take part as I would like to, we can’t afford to do them. We can’t vacation, or go to dinner, camp, or swim. And still getting between us, was my stressful battle trying to get the proper treatment I was still owed but couldn’t afford. Because my case is in California, doctors in Nevada are reluctant to take an out of state worker comp patient.
    With yet more obstacles stacked against us, we have to move again. Just to get the medical treatment I need. We are still hoping for change. But we’re beaten down, for sure. We relocate back to California. We now live in Lake Elsinore, not far from our home town and family. And it is much more affordable than San Clemente. But once again, nothing has changed. For some reason, I’m still not getting the treatment I need. I have the doctors, but most things the doctors prescribed get denied to me. Other times, they are altered to a less expensive and less effective treatment or prescription. They’re trying to save money. Much like I used to do for them. Except now, rather than pay me back for all the money I saved them, they’re using the same tactics I used on furniture and concrete, on me, a human being in pain. So as I deteriorate and we go into financial stress, I’ve decided to write this letter in search of help. All I wanted was to retire and enjoy the life after with my family. I use be proud to tell people that I worked for Edison. I’d still like to tell people I worked and retired from Edison. But after 30 years of loyalty I’ve been abandon, I’m now just 23145 no longer Primas White Jr. the Go To Guy.

  • I wasn to talk to you. No worries. I’m 58 & my husband has earl onset at 57. We all know that it doesn’t getting better. I’m just wanting to talk to someone who can e.

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