Giving thanks at (almost) 86 years young

Retirement doesn't mean doing nothing.

Sailors on the USS Tryon

ST. LOUIS, Missouri, February 26, 2016 – I woke at 4am this morning for some reason and started looking back at my life. I will turn 86 years young in a few weeks, and this has made me think about things, I suppose.

Memories started flowing in, crowding out the article I was already working on, nudging me to write about my life and my memories.

When I was fourteen, I started wishing I was sixteen so I could do all the things the older boys were doing. When I was sixteen I wished I was seventeen so I could join the Navy.

When I was seventeen, I joined the Navy, and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I learned a skill – punch cards – which was the forerunner to computers. The navy taught me brotherhood and to be a team layer, which helped me later in life. It also taught me about patriotism and love for my country. Even today, I get goose bumps when I hear Anchors Aweigh

While in the Navy I married my beautiful Irish wife. There are no words to describe the blessings I feel for sharing my life with her. We have been married  for sixty-eight years and everything I have enjoyed and accomplished in life I owe to her.

We had children, then grandchildren, then great grandchildren. We sometimes are so proud of them that we feel like we are going to burst. Other days we are literally sick with worry over them. Our hearts break when they are sad, and we explode in happiness with their joy.

This is the condition of family. You love them with  your entire being, and that means you live and breath with them.

After a fifty-four year career in technology, I retired. The house is empty, and amid that somewhat sad feeling is another feeling. We realize we can now travel or do other things we have always wanted to do. It’s a change from babysitters and getting up early to go to work, but it is also a good change. It is part of the changes in life.

I found that retirement did not mean having nothing to do. I realized quickly I needed to keep busy or, as my doctor told me, I would die at a young age. Staying busy after retirement means you have the ability to do things, but you don’t have the pressure that goes along with it. You are much freer to make decisions about which responsibilities you want to take on, and which you want to pass off.

I keep busy by talking to senior groups, writing three books, and much more.  I write for Communities Digital News (CDN), and I learned that even in your 80s, you can learn new skills and have new mentors.

God has blessed me with the ability to tell my stories and with people at CDN who help me spread the word.

I never did want to set on the porch and watch my liver spots jump from hand to hand. I have a bad back so writing is a way to keep my mind active.

I urge all my fellow mature citizens to stay busy. Regardless of what you do, you will find joy having a full life in your twilight years.

For me, the most important things are God, family, and country. I have served them all, and in turn, they have served me well.

However, that’s from a time and place I am from-

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Charles Vandegriff, Sr.
Charles spent a fifty-four-year career in technology, retiring at the director level from three major corporations. Followed by three-plus years as a freelance columnist, he has published three books, made over three hundred speeches to senior organizations, and been involved in numerous radio interviews and one television commercial. He has been married for sixty-five years, and has four children, seven grandchildren and thirteen great-grand children. Charles is also a Navy veteran.