Monday, October 26, 2009

Felicisima Quiason Is 90 Years Old

Felicisima Quiason is 90 years old. The matriarch of the Quiason family in Kansas City, Missouri, grandchildren and friends from out of town came to celebrate the momentous occasion at the home of Drs. Stella Quiason and Charles Smith where Felicisima also resides. As she jokingly made a wish for a 100th birthday, we all made a sincere wish for the same. For Grandma, as we all call her, is the one guiding force in all our lives, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, in laws and friends alike. We draw from her values, her strength and especially her wisdom.

At 90, Grandma reads the newspaper in its entirety. She keeps up with current events and the political scene. She has her own opinions about the world, chooses her own candidates carefully, and on election day, votes her conscience, unswayed by pressure from her children who usually vote for the opposing party.

Born and raised in Dinagat Island of Surigao in the Philippines, Grandma learned the value of hard work and perseverance. She became a school teacher and had a long career in teaching Math both in the Philippines and in Kansas City. It was a given that her children and later, her grandchildren, learn the four fundamentals of Arithmetic and compute in their heads without electronic aid. As she sacrificed to send her children to college, she also expected perseverance, determination and over achievement from her children. She stopped at nothing to make sure that all eight children became professionals. The story is told over and over about how her firstborn, Felix, (my husband) had been truant in dental school (dental school, mind you) and Grandma camped out at the University of the East Dental College to be sure that Felix stayed in class. What mother would have the courage and determination to do that? Felix did graduate from dentistry, went on to earn two postgraduate degrees and later spent the last years of his life teaching dentistry. Her children became dentists, physicians, nurse and accountants.
We laugh when she admonishes grandson Jacob for coming home with an A instead of his usual A+. And was she all smiles when Jacob surprised her by flying home from Stanford University just to be with her for that one day. Grandma sees talent as a gift that should not be squandered and encourages all to be the best that they can be in whatever path they choose.

Granddaughters quickly learn that their beaus must pass muster with Grandma who grades them on how respectful they are, how they value the granddaughter, their sense of responsibility and accountability and their family values. Grandma has not made an error in judgment yet as all the married granddaughters chose wonderful husbands and fathers.

Grandma taught her children the value of money, not so much as a means to luxury but as a way to give back to God and the less fortunate. So it is a family tradition on Christmas Day, along with the extravagant toys the great grandchildren get, a collection is taken up for less fortunate relatives in the Philippines. To this end, children and grandchildren all support their individual charitable causes by giving time, talent or treasure.

One of Grandma's many legacies is making the right choice. She is known for the term, "Paghunong" a Visayan word for "Watch out" or "Stop and think." She reminds everyone to stop and think and we have internalized this as the watch word for our choices.

Video by Vic Quiason

Felicisima Quiason is 90 years old. While few in her generation lay claim to this, it is not her best accomplishment. Her best achievement is in raising men and women of integrity, industry and compassion who in turn raise children with the same values. With the ripple effect, her circle of influence widens even more, love grows and touches this piece of the world.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Walking for Felix

Still nurturing our sadness over, my husband, Felix' passing last month, the extended family decided to walk the Missouri/ Kansas chapter of the National Kidney Foundation walk and raise money for the organization. Masterminded by Dr. Vic Quiason, (with his obsessive sense of organization) and his wife Cathy, Team Quiason quickly gained momentum and within three weeks had signed up over 20 walkers. The modest goal of $500.00 was quickly topped by friends of Rob Quiason who contributed $800.00 in two days.

Walk day was on Saturday. Friends from out of town came as did nieces and nephews who came home from college. Cathy provided Team Quiason tee shirts. It had been raining and chilly all week but surprise, surprise, Saturday morning was sunny, cool and nice. The walking trail circled a small lake behind Bass Pro Shop in Independence, Missouri. Fall was in full regalia with red, yellow, and brown foliage all throughout the path. I could see Felix' hand in making sure that the ambiance was just right for this walk. It was perfect although I'm sure he had many comments on how it could have been better.

The walk started at a snail's pace as hundreds of walkers got in line, prompting Vic to comment, "Even Felix could have walked this walk." No, he couldn't have because Felix had this thing about when he'd had enough he would just up and leave. He would have stayed where he was (insisting I stay with him as well) and waited for the rest to get back. Just like when he played golf, he always had nephew Blake on call to take over for him at the 4th or 5th hole or whichever hole he decided his golf game ended.

Felix' connection to us all still amazes me. The children and I reminisce on the camping trips where we got rained on because we forgot the tent poles, fishing trips, concerts he dragged the children to, taking Emilie then in grade school and barely able to do math to ham radio classes with him and all manner of activity that have suddenly become precious because in some small way, it also defined us. Nieces, nephews, sibling, in-laws, friends, all have memories of some Felix-ism which have become part of our family's collective memory.

We have big plans for next year's walk. Cathy wants to add Felix' picture to the Team Quiason tee shirts. We plan to top this year's pledge and sign up more walkers. My suggestion to adjourn to a casino buffet and then challenge the one arm bandits is gaining wide enthusiasm. (Not a Felix thing because he couldn't stand cigarette smoke.) It will be a bigger Felix event because walking for Felix is walking for ourselves.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cruise Ships As Retirement Communities

Whether going for a long weekend or a month long travel, going on a cruise is the ultimate vacation. Tired after a long day's work, I long to be on a cruise where I can be waited on and pampered. No grocery shopping, no dishes to wash, clean sheets and linen daily, dine to my heart's content, walk to a show, read, or just watch the sea. Little wonder that some older adults think of cruise ships when checking out retirement communities. It has been tried and it can be done.

Bea Muller, 89 years old, opted to stay in the Queen Elizabeth 2 when her husband died. She sailed the seas on the QE2 from 2000 until 2008 when the QE2 sailed to Dubai to become a museum. She was then flown to the replacement ship, the QM2 where she is in residence. Clair Macbeth sailed back to back cruises on Cunard Lines for 14 years. Blogs and forums talk about the tempting promise of cruise ships as retirement communities and the advantages of cruise ships over assisted living apartments for the older adult. I think of travel in retirement but would also love to live where I can walk to every place. What is better than a cruise ship to do both.

In the October 2004 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Dr. Lee A. Lindquist and Dr.Robert M. Golub examined the needs and care of older adults in assisted living and compared them with the care provided in cruise ships. They found that the cost for both was about equal. The article goes on to suggest how cruise ships can modify services to accommodate the long term needs of older passengers. They suggest that cruising is a viable alternative for older adults who can no longer live independently but are still healthy enough not to require much medical and nursing intervention. The American Geriatrics Society estimates assisted living cost to be anywhere from a low $30,288 to upwards of $48,000 a year. The cost of living on a cruise ship varies according to type of accommodation, season and cruise line. In January 2010, Holland America will start a cruise to circumnavigate the world from Sidney, Australia to Vancouver, BC, Canada. An inside cabin for single occupancy starts at $11,476 for the 74 day voyage or $45,904.00 for back to back booking for 296 days. Quite tempting, I must say.

For the affluent, there is of course, The World Ship, a 12 deck floating city where one can buy a 2-3 bedroom condo (675-3,242 sq ft of luxury accommodations) for a mere 1.3 to 6.3M USD, not to mention the condo fees to pay the crew, fuel, insurance and whatever else it takes to float a ship. Owners can disembark and stay in any port and catch the ship in another city. Condos can be rented for 1,000.00 USD/night and up with a week long minimum. A second floating city is soon to launch.

Cruise living will attract a unique breed of older adults. Unless you own or rent a condo in The World Ship, you have to change rooms with each sailing. This and living in a 10 x 12 foot space make it hard to have a sense of home. You cannot drive over to a relative's home for a nice visit or watch the grandchildren play ball. Passengers change with each sailing making it difficult to keep lasting relationships.

On the other hand, this is the ultimate example of having few possessions, living uncluttered, living simply (but oh, so luxuriously,) of letting go and looking at life as a series of hello's and goodbyes.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Uncluttering: One Way of Preparing for Happy Retirement


Much as I love my work, age 70, the magic age I promised myself I would retire is just around the corner. As I contemplate happy retirement, one mantra comes to mind, unclutter. It is amazing how many things we hang on to, how much we accumulate and how many of them have any real meaning. I decided to spend this next year weeding out the clutter and focusing on what is truly important. Now, this takes real focus, commitment and brutal determination. People like me who were born during WWII are natural born hoarders. We just can't throw anything away.

The first things that went were the contents of my refrigerators and freezers. Note the plural. We have a refrigerator in the kitchen, in the garage, two beverage refrigerators, two dorm refrigerators from the kid's college days. And they were all full of stuff, like commercial size mayonnaise from the wholesale club, big tubs of margarine and large jars of olives, just because they were cheaper, never mind that they expired the next month. I am embarrassed to confess that I kept food until they turned green and only then could they be thrown out on trash day. It was not easy, but I was determined. Today, my freezers are empty. The cooler section only holds small jars of mayo, condiments, milk and today's food. I plan to get rid of all but one refrigerator. If I travel in retirement, there is nothing in the refrigerator to spoil. Having done that, I am confident I can tackle closets, shelves and yes, the garage so if I decide to look into retirement communities, I will be unencumbered.

Of course, refrigerators and closets are just metaphors of life, my life. I look into my mind and my heart and I examine the clutter. Caught in the busyness of contemporary living, I aspired to achieve goals I thought at the time were important as many were. In younger days, developing a career, financial stability were right in there with raising good healthy children. My husband I lucked out in having great children who raised themselves and us. It is a priceless blessing. Just like having a closetful of clothes and not having anything to wear, many a time, I failed to see the forest for the trees and to savor the moment because I was too busy getting ready for the next activity. There were some relationships I failed to nurture; the phone call I had been meaning to make; the letter I wanted to write, all when I could make time.

We are a culture of doers. We measure our self worth by what we have done. We act as if tomorrow is a certainty and not just a promise. We postpone the joy of being for the clutter of activities. We have great difficulty in being present where it counts, in savoring the moment as if it was the last, and in simply being. Like most I have to learn just to be. Seventy might not come but today I'm here. I choose to retire from the clutter of everyday life. I cherish good memories. I count my blessings. I promise to rekindle friendships and relationships. Today I empty my mind and heart of clutter so I can be open to just be.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Baby Boomers Postpone Retirement

Group runningKathleen Casey-Kirshling applied for social security retirement benefits online on October 15, 2007. This signal event marked the beginning of baby boomer retirement, Casey-Kirshling having the distinction of being the first baby boomer eligible for retirement. She was born on the first second of January 1,1946. Many baby boomers followed suit in anticipation of happy retirement. The US government estimates a total of 8 million retirees over the next 20 years or an average of 10,000/ day, the so called "silver tsunami."

Little did these retirees know that a year later, the economy would collapse, their 401K and other nest egg investments would be demolished, and plans for travel in retirement would have to be scaled down if not postponed. Indeed, many baby boomers, men and women born between 1946 and 1964, who have applied for retirement benefits are either staying in or returning to the work force. There are varied reasons for this.
  • On a positive note, many older adults are healthier and more energetic. While they enjoy happy retirement, they also feel free to pursue other interests, go back to school, this time for fun, or pursue other careers.
  • There are positions in industry and other employment that cannot be filled by younger workers who are either lacking in training or have not quite matured with experience. Some skilled craftsmanship such as chimney sweep, shoe repair, musical instrument making and repair do not attract enough young people that the skills are in danger of extinction. For these, older workers may have to keep filling in.
  • There is of course, the loss of retirement nest egg which has forced many potential retirees continue working it can be built back up. Some with plans to move into retirement communities must opt to remain in their present homes. Some lost their homes in the mortgage crisis.
Employment for baby boomers can take on different forms. Some opt to keep working full-time for a few more years. Others choose to work part-time and leave room for recreation. Part-time can take on different forms as well. Some might choose to work a couple of full days a week or half days several days a week and still have time for recreation like golf, tennis, gardening or charitable work and, of course, the spoiling of grandchildren. Some work a few weeks or months out of the year leaving options for travel in retirement.

Whatever the reason, it is clear that more older adults are staying in the work force and that can only be a good thing for the country.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Letter to Family and friends

It has been four weeks since my husband Felix died and were it not for your love and support, the enormity of my loss, our loss, would have been too much to bear. While I will try to thank you all personally, I am writing this so as not to dilute the sincerity of my gratitude.

I would have said Felix passed away but he didn't pass away, he died. Death is so final. I still cannot fathom how someone I slept and awakened with for 43 years was here one moment and gone the next. Of course, he had to leave in his typical style, just up and go when he felt like it. No "Sorry, honey, I have to go now. I'll wait for you on the other side." It's just a Felix thing.

For all the years I spent my waking moments away from work, looking after him, it is still disorienting that I have so much time on my hands. My house is quiet. The TV's are not on at the same time as the radios. He is not here to laugh at slapstick comedy, give opinionated comments or watch the food channel, Anthony Bourdain and Judge Judy. He is not here to meddle in all our affairs or to buy us stuff because he liked them, never mind that we didn't. Nonetheless, I sense his hand in things like how his last services went so smoothly in a Felix kind of way, how effortless his estate is getting settled or how somehow I feel protected. Closing out his credit card accounts has been a painful endeavor. I could only do one, one week at a time. It is like closing a part of a life. When I get to the last one, where will he be? But would you know, the one credit card with a large balance is the credit card he forgot to stop the credit insurance after the trial period? The company is refunding my payment. Serendipity? While his health kept him from taking care of me in his lifetime, I like to think he is looking after me now.

Felix touched so many lives. You all know how undeterred he was by infirmity and disability. He kept teaching, mentoring, spoiling family, making people laugh, scolding, and mostly loving. He loved his children and grandchildren and so he kept going until he could no longer. And through it all were all the people who worked with him, helped him, humored him and took care of him to make his last years memorable. There are so many people who loved him and by, extension, loved me. There are those of you who love my children and my family and who were there for us. There are my family at home and work, near and far. There are my friends. There are my children and grandchildren, who, despite their own pain, call to make sure I am all right. And there are the random acts of kindness by kind people. Felix and I have been so blessed. To you all, I am forever grateful.

Please know with certainty that I will be fine. I am not depressed. I am just sad. I weep in the shower, when I'm driving or at odd times and places. But I sleep well and eat well. I walk and exercise. I am competent at work. Felix and I were as different as night and day. While he thrived at being around people, I value my solitude. I choose to be alone and alone does not mean lonely. How can I be with all of you out there. I choose, for now, not to be comforted. I want to hold on to my grief just a little bit longer for it feels he is just slipping away from me much too quickly.


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