Once again I’ve bumped into an old school chum in a place I never expected.  For years she was behind the counter at the family pharmacy in the neighborhood where we both grew up. 
In this age of superstore chains, it’s comforting to see our little drugstore still in business whenever I get the chance to visit.  Though my husband’s and my prescription needs are filled by the Veterans’ Administration via US mail, I drop in now and then for sundries; the occasional greeting card, small items to stock the medicine cabinet and perhaps something from their gift line.
This past week I caught sight of Mary pushing the pharmacy cart through the corridors of the hospital where my husband was paying a visit on the Cardiac Care ward (the phrase, paying a visit takes on a whole new connotation in the preset health care system).
Anyway, there she was, 15 miles away from the little neighborhood drug store.  Turns out she gave up the job she loved because her husband was laid off in the cut backs that swept yet another of our local industries.  Also turns out that it’s much easier for an older middle aged woman to find a full time job with benefits than it is for a man in the same age range.
Great.  We finally win a battle in the war for equality when we’re too darn old to even care anymore.
I am struggling through my first semester of full time credits in over 30 years.  Each time I dissolve into tears over a new chapter in my Business Math book, I ask myself why I’m doing this.
My husband is 100% disabled due to an increasingly complicated heart condition.  There is about a zero to one tenth of a percent chance that he will ever improve, and that would only be if medical science beats the grim reaper by coming up with some way to Roto-Rooter human arteries without completely destroying them in the process.
Here’s the catch 22.  IF there is some great advance (angiogenisis is proving promising) and my husband is suddenly “cured”, the disability income stops (as it should) and he becomes an almost 60-something man looking for a job in a crippled economy.  Ever hopeful for the chance that his health can improve, I figure we’d better be prepared for the consequences.
So when I burst into frustrated tears over math equations that, to me, are a foreign language, I practice by figuring out what our living expenses are, how much I’ll need to earn and the statistics of job opportunities in my chosen field. I work endless calculations figuring the cost of my higher education and the number of working years I have left to recoup and pay that debt.
Running into friends like Mary is a double-edged sword.  She is an inspiration—an  example that we are strong and capable.  It is also a reminder that this isn’t the midlife we expected.
But, really, how much of life ever turns out the way we expected?

. . . . . . mid


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