68: Love Versus Adversity

68: Love Versus Adversity

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough People

Love Versus Adversity

Friendship makes prosperity more shining and lessens adversity by dividing and sharing it.

~Cicero

The stock market collapse of 2008 hit my husband, Tom, and me at the worst possible time in our lives. We were both retired and in our late fifties—too old to re-enter the job market (what few jobs were available) and too young to receive Social Security. We didn’t even have a second car or any gold jewelry to sell to raise cash (as a financial guru on the Nightly Business Report had suggested).

Because we had retired early, we were already living lean. We shared one car. If I needed some clothes, I went to the thrift shop. I bought groceries on sale and stockpiled them in our basement.

In January, 2009, I met with my three best friends for our quarterly dinner. 2009 was to be a special year for us—we were all turning sixty. One friend suggested the four of us go away for a “60th Birthday Bash” to a bed & breakfast. It would be a fun chance to celebrate friendships that have endured forty-five years.

Tom and I had agreed we would deal with the pain of losing much of our retirement money by cutting back on vacations and eating out. Excursions were to be limited to destinations within a few hours of home and hotels where we had earned free nights with our credit card points. But I felt this trip with the girls was important.

At dinner one night, Tom listened as I detailed the plan for the girls’ special weekend—restaurants, soaking in the spa, shopping, etc. He looked at me intently. He didn’t say “no,” but he didn’t say “yes” either. We continued eating in silence and I thought about our new financial arrangement. “You know,” I said, “maybe I won’t go. This little trip could end up costing a couple hundred dollars.” Then Tom admitted, “It really wouldn’t be fair for you to take a vacation when I have to stay home.”

I knew I had made the right decision. Tom and I were a team. I understood his feelings completely and bore no resentment. As much as I loved my friends, I loved my husband more. The next day I sent my pals an e-mail saying I was sorry, but I wouldn’t be able to go on the weekend getaway.

A few weeks later one of my friends, Marilyn, called. “It just won’t be the same if you’re not with us on this adventure,” she said. “Life is so short and this may be our only chance to travel together.” Grandkids were starting to arrive. We didn’t really know if we would all still be living in the same city in a few years. “I have a deal for you,” she said.

Marilyn had just moved into a condo and I had offered to divide my perennials and grasses, fill in the empty spaces in her flower beds, and give her some pots for a container garden on her porch.

“I know you offered to help me with my landscaping. Since you’re doing that work for me, I want to pay for your room on the weekend away. And breakfast is included.”

A lump formed in my stomach. I knew she shouldn’t be offering to do this. She, also, was retired and couldn’t be that secure financially. I didn’t know what to do. I was grateful for her generosity and deeply touched. But it didn’t seem like a fair trade.

“Gardeners love to give their plants away. That’s what we do,” I said. “It’s no big deal for us.” But Marilyn was adamant that this was her way of paying me for my help. So I thanked her and said I would talk to Tom.

After I told the story to my husband, he had no problem with me going on this trip. In fact, he actually seemed happy for me. Maybe he just needed to know that I was taking our “change in lifestyle” seriously and willing to stick to my end of the agreement.

As I happily look forward to the “60th Birthday Bash” with my best friends, once again I am reminded that the bonds of love, be it for a spouse or friends, are much stronger than the chains of adversity. Always!

~Kat Kitts

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