How to Survive Your Husband’s Retirement

Published in HerWord on October 20, 2015.


pic for blog 05My husband Anthony retired- or shall I put it more accurately- was retired in late July of this year after almost 26 years of service to the company. I suppose you could say we were surprised when it happened, but, in truth, with the change in ownership in 2013 and the merger of two papers this year, it was no longer quite as shocking or unexpected.

Amazingly, he took it all in stride. This was not to say that he was happy with the decision, but always the optimist that he is and, between the two of us, always the one who saw the good in people’s actions and intentions, he respected it and chose to dwell on the experience of gratitude. He was indebted to the Boss, Mr. Raul Locsin, and Mrs. Leticia Locsin, his first employers, who saw potential in the fresh college graduate he was in 1989. And he focused on the privilege of working with people he considered his second family. These thoughts carried him over fear and worry.

In the beginning of July, he said goodbye quietly to his closest friends even as he started to dismantle more than half his life into boxes. On his last day of work, he gave back the keys to his office, had lunch with a few of his colleagues, and drove back home with the last of his personal boxes. At the age of 47, he jumped, once again as in the beginning of his journey with the company, into the great unknown.

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Lunch with some of his colleagues on his last day of work: a farewell, not goodbye to good friends

We’ve all read the same studies: retirement is never easy. My father retired in his sixties after a series of debilitating strokes that put him longer and longer in the hospital with each stay. In the last few years of his life, he would often wake up disoriented and unable to recognize his caregivers. But he remembered, quite distinctly, the work that he did all his life. He would rifle through old papers and books, looking for his ledgers and checkbooks. He remembered the names of his suppliers and how much business he did with them. And he would often end up in a state of panic as he scrambled to locate papers he thought he needed, from a business then more than 10 years closed. Even as his mind began to wander, he never forgot his work. It was what defined him most of his life.

If retirement at old age is problematic, then retirement at middle age is doubly difficult. No one ever quite prepares to lose his/her job in his/her forties or ever dreams of having to look for one again. For many, there is an unexpected void to their daily lives. There is boredom and lack of socialization to contend with. The sudden freedom that comes with the absence of structured activity may be exhilarating at first but wears down quickly with time. And though foreseeable financial issues weigh in heavily on the retiree, especially for single-income families like ours, there are far greater things at stake than the loss of a paycheck; the absence of an integral part of their days begins to rub raw the definitions of self and worth.

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photo from Groovy Grandmas on Facebook

For the spouse who is left to deal with the newly retired husband/wife, the sudden change in your routine as a family may throw you off balance. Your plans, both for yourself and for your family, may have to change, putting undue stress in your long term goals. It may even put a strain in your relationship, as the hours of interaction become forcibly longer. Problems you could avoid when one or both of you were at work suddenly turn into problems that stared at your faces 24 hours long.

I can only speak for myself and how we dealt with the changes in our lifestyle, household, and family since the end of July. I do hope, however, that this piece of insight we gained over the last few months makes others realize that retirement does not necessarily have to be a bad thing.

It helped that in 24 years of marriage, my husband and I have always had open lines of communication. We don’t hold back thoughts; we don’t keep secrets from each other. We discussed the situation rationally, keeping our emotions and personal opinions in check, but allowing each other the space and time to vent, if necessary. Again, between the two of us, I was the one with the unrestrained hostility to work out, and he took this as a challenge to help me get over my anger and indignation.

Once we got over the first hurdle, we discussed what we were facing head on and decided to implement changes to keep our household working, a sort of a post-retirement game plan. Since we have a severely disabled child who requires 24/7 care all his life, we resolved to keep the most important parts of our child’s life consistent. From scheduling, to decisions on education, to treatments and medications, we agreed to sacrifice just about anything but we would not touch Alphonse’s life unless it was absolutely necessary.

We made a loose time frame to follow for the period he was home but other than that, made no demands of each other’s schedules. We kept each other busy by tending to chores and errands we could do together. In his now “almost all” spare time, I noticed he read a lot, watched movies, wrote his sports columns, and caught up on his sleep. I ended up chucking my chores just to sleep with him when he did (it was so tempting), and within a few days of his being home, our body rhythms, once so disparate (he was an early riser and I was a late sleeper), were in sync.

We decided to take a long trip together. Although I worried about leaving our son, I also felt my husband needed the distance to heal and recharge. We entrusted our son’s care to my family and took the trip to reconnect with his family abroad. Seeing my husband with his father, the joy in their faces so palpable, I knew it was well worth the time and money spent. My husband went home tired, but happy; a little broke, but also richer in love and experience.

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With Daddy, in one of my favorite stores (heehee)

They say that in marriage, “give as you would take,” and we took this to remind us to be kind and loving to each other even when the 24 hours of imposed togetherness sometimes took its toll. I have to credit my husband for his extended patience when mine wore thin and I vented on him, as I did on our third day in New York.

It was beastly hot, the walk from subway stop to the theater and back was tough under that heat. Worse, I had a migraine headache to deal with. At the end of the day, I was snarky and irritable, certainly not the best person to be with, 13,000 kilometers away from home. I threw up twice in the hotel bathroom. Livid at the weather and helpless at its relentless effects on me, I grew angry at him instead. Nice “logic,” right? My husband helped me undress as I crawled under the cool sheets and ignored him deliberately. I fell asleep sullen and cross.

I woke up at two am, finding myself cradled in his arms. He had put his arms around me and I was too out of it to even notice. He woke up when I squirmed and said “I’m sorry, honey. I hope you’re feeling better now.” I grew ashamed of my own actions. Think about this: when spouses become victims of their husbands’ or wives’ anger, how many would be able to draw on love and not pride to carry them through? Over the past couple of months, there would be times my husband would lapse into bouts of unusual and unnerving silence and the memories of that day helped me to reach out to him in patience and love. Give as you would take.

Remember the synced body rhythms? This worked great for us after our trip, when jet lag kept us up at three in the morning. What did we do then? We talked a lot, nonstop for hours, it seemed. We cuddled. We prayed for our children and for each other. We held hands. And when we found ourselves drowsy, we held hands some more till we fell asleep.

In the end, his retirement proved to be short-lived. Going back to work was an easy decision for him. Perhaps, and we say this thought out loud, that were both our children independent adults, we would have no second thoughts living simply with what we have. We could run away to the province, live off the land, and experience Henry David Thoreau’s Walden in action. Still, the reality of our situation makes us take stock of our decisions. Parents of children with special needs cannot afford to be foolhardy.

We realized that because our child would need care all his life, we would need more resources to help him and his older brother manage in the future. We disagreed on when, however. I wanted him to stay at home longer. He insisted he needed to get back to work, for fear of losing our little savings to inaction. After a period of thought, we established a timeline we could both live with. I am proud to say that my husband has gone back to work, as of this writing, for a very reputable firm in another industry, a decision he made with purpose.

Losing work is not easy, more so when it is almost a lifetime’s worth. The reentry to the labor force is another period of adjustment that can also be difficult under the circumstances. Still, it is wise to remember that when faced with the prospect of change, whether favorable or not, there is no wall as easy to breach as a fragmented front. Communication and planning are key elements to holding your family together in times of crisis. Most importantly, a marriage that is strong in love and held together by faith, fidelity, and a steadfast belief in each other’s abilities will always thrive. Looking back, I can honestly say that I loved every second of my husband’s time at home with me.

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I not only survived my husband’s retirement; I aced it- with him!


To Anthony

I woke up this morning giggling myself silly. For some strange reason, I awakened at five in the morning, still laughing about the last thing we said to each other last night. The barely-there light, filtered softly through dark curtains, was urging me to stand up and start our day early but the bed was still warm and inviting. I reached out in the darkness to touch your face. You stirred gently in your sleep, eyes still closed, but your hand found mine and drew it to your chest.

In one seemingly innocent movement, one we’ve done over and over again for many years, you reminded me that wherever we may be, for as long as you are with me, I am home.

For you are my home.

A few minutes later, you woke up too. Our bodies are now so in sync that a movement from one instinctively sets off a corresponding reaction in the other. You pulled me closer for an embrace; I closed my eyes and wrapped my arms around you. And then, awake and already hungry, you spent the next twenty minutes talking me into getting breakfast. At six in the morning. *groans*

We were among the first in the restaurant, thanks to our early start. Most days, breakfast would be part of our ordinary routine but today, well, today is different. It’s our 24th wedding anniversary, and each meal, no matter how simple it is, feels like a celebration.

Over breakfast, I found myself sneaking glances at you repeatedly. I looked at every line, every mark of your face, and marveled how each is a measure of our life together. Alas, we have grown old, honey. But we have grown together, forever changed from the young innocents we were at fourteen to the middle-aged adults we are now.

I am grateful, honey, for each day of the last 24 years. For while many things have changed, so many more have stayed the same. I wake up each morning with you by my side, still holding my hand throughout the night, keeping the bad dreams at bay. Yours is the face that wakes me up each day and sees me to dreamland each night. And your love- for me and our children- is the constant that drives me to see the beauty and mercy of each passing moment. I am forever changed by your love.

Thank you, Anthony, for being my love, my comfort, my home. I love you.

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Happiness is… (xvii) The Perfect Boyfriend

It’s one of the most common things in the world, and one many all over the world complain about. When people get married, the little niceties begin to disappear from their relationship. Moreover, as they settle into the routine of parenthood and making a living to sustain a family, their personal relationships often take a back seat to more pressing needs.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that love is gone. More often than not, both are simply caught up in their everyday responsibilities. They see each other more as comrades in their journey of life, and while this is not a bad thing, it can sometimes change the way they treat each other.

Sometimes, though, one runs into a quirk of nature, an aberration in the normal course of life. The Perfect Boyfriend Material.

The Perfect Boyfriend Material is the type who offers a perfectly shaped leaf as a souvenir of his love, because he thinks of your delight at green things. He is the young man who gives you a lovely rock, engraved with both your names and an infinity sign on it. He gives you your favorite books, prefacing each with a love poem. He is also the one who gets a good friend* to help him record love song duets, because you are sick in bed and in need of entertainment. The Perfect Boyfriend Material is not only attentive and faithful; his strongest suit is his innate thoughtfulness. His gifts are always given with love. Some cost him months of saving; many more are simple, creative things- poems, letters, songs. Each one is given with you in mind.

This is the same man, who 21 years into a marriage, still does the same thing- over and over and over again. This the same man who, just yesterday, passing by a small stall on the way to lunch, thought of you again and saw a wonderful possibility to making you smile at the end of a long day. And he thinks of you often, even when he is burdened by work and responsibilities. On days when he feels like gnashing his teeth and hitting his head on walls, he confesses that you- 21 years and flab, gray hair, glasses and all- gives him his impetus to keep going.


I don’t know what I did in my lifetime to meet The Perfect Boyfriend. Whatever it is I did, Lord, I thank you for the kindness of Your gift.


*Just in case our old friend gets to read this: I still have that casette tape- thank your or letting A coerce you into singing for me! (FYI, this friend is now a very well-known Math professor/columnist of a national daily.)

The Mini- Reveal

I only have a few minutes in front of the PC as our household is shorthanded these past few days. Two nannies are in the hospital right now; one is sick and the other serves as bantay (literal translation: watcher or guard). Since I am unable to leave Alphonse for long stretches of time, I call them regularly to check on their needs and visit daily to bring food and clothing.  With our household decimated and short of manpower, we’ve had to do a lot of double-casting and role reassignments. Alphonse senses something is amiss in our home, and as such, feels very unsettled and insecure, sometimes even acting out. So even as I worry about the nannies in the hospital, I have to be on my toes with Alphonse all the time.

With the flurry of events overwhelming the entire household, we all seem to have very little time to destress. I am taking my little window of Me time right now with a little cake (itty-bitty, Mommy, I promise!) and coffee. As you can see above, my sweet husband also gave me Kitty cake from BreadTalk. It was bee-yoo-ti-ful! We tried to hold off eating it till the last possible moment, but the kids insisted that cake is always their territory. I saved the ribbon for today and while I am waiting for the spaghetti sauce to simmer, I savor these few moments of relaxation. 🙂

I did finally get the boxes opened and boy, were they everything I wanted and more! Unfortunately, I haven’t had enough time to sort them out and take lots of pictures. Late last night, when everyone was asleep, I got some photos sorted out, resized, and labeled. I hope you all bear with me as I do a mini-reveal first. I’ll try to update as often as I can get pictures loaded.

My Sanrio friends are here! 🙂 These three furry Build-A-Bear creatures jumped right out of the box upon opening. I can’t believe they endured all that time in that stuffy brown box. They were squished and a little manhandled so they were not too friendly at first, but a little kiss for the booboos made them a lot more friendly.  Everyone, I introduce you to KerokeroP-Noy, Jejocat, and Mai (as in Mai Melody, haha, this play on My Melody’s name courtesy of Alex- thank you, baby).

 A didn’t get me Hello Kitty anymore because the new Kitty was virtually the same as the last one, but he did get me new clothing for her.  Aside from the leopard print PJs (rawr!), Kitty got the ruffle tee, the tropical tank top, an extra 35th anniversary shirt, and another 35th anniversary dress. You can also see the bag clips that he bought extra (BAB did not give the freebie clips and it was too late to complain about it, the box having traveled all the way to Manila by then).

I only have one more picture in this lot and these gifts did not come wrapped. These were just there the next day, the way they seem to magically appear before me, haha. It seems I only have to think a thought and voila! There they were! 🙂 

Seriously though, I love that my husband outdoes himself each time. Not only that, he gives them with such flair that I never really know what to expect. Some girls get petals on the bed and candles on the tub; I get magic boxes strewn around me. Best of all, I love that he loves me still, today, 19 years after, with warts and all (figurative warts, mind you), cellulite and thunder thighs included (literal fat, honestly), bossiness and mushiness not exempted.

Honey, if you are reading this, I want you to know that as seriously mushy, maudlin, mawkish, and schmaltzy as this sounds,  ikaw pa rin ang pangarap ko. Thank you for wanting to grow old with me.

The Night Before

Nineteen years ago, on the very night before my husband and I got married, I remember talking to him for a few minutes on the phone. Before we said goodbye, I asked him if he was sure, really, really sure, that this next step was what he wanted to take at that point in his life.  He said, “I have never been more sure of anything in my life than this. I want a life with you.” I wept for joy. The next day, with my hand in his, we took a step forward into building a life with each other.

Fast forward to tonight, towards the end of our dinner date, I asked him this question: “What do you think are the two best things in our life from these past 19 years?”

Without batting an eyelash, he said, “Alex and Alphonse.””

“I would not have thought to answer it that way, hon, ” I told him, thinking of my own answers and how different they were from his.

“You and I are a constant. That would have been the easy answer, hon.”

I looked at him from across the table and I was overwhelmed by my feelings for this man before me. My eyes welled in tears. Nineteen years into this marriage, we have only scratched the surface of forever. Thank you, A. I truly, deeply, madly love you.

For A

loveI haven’t been sleeping well these last three months. It’s a long story, something for another day. I am in physical pain most days and I know I can’t be an easy person to be with on days when the pain is toughest. But I’d like to thank A for his patience and encouragement, his thoughtfulness and constant concern. Throughout these long, trying days, you give me a glimmer of better days. I am forever grateful.


I woke up this morning with this on my mind and I wanted to write it down before I forget:

Your hand on my bosom
Your breath on my shoulders
We sleep together
Like fingers entwined
Serene, comfortable
Our bodies meld
Into one

I’ve loved you since the first day I met you, 27 years ago.
I didn’t even know it then. Yes, it may have started out as a different kind of love, but I also know that because of you, it was always made of stronger stuff.  And as we grew, it grew with us, shaping our lives and who and what we are.

I woke up today with the quiet knowledge that I have never loved anyone before you,
that you are my life, before and today,
that my best dream is still growing old with you,
your hand on my bosom, as we sleep, together.

The One Who Got Away

I wrote this a few weeks before Valentine’s Day, with the intention of posting it as soon as it was finished. Somehow, the days slipped through my fingers and I forgot.

This is for you, A –  the one who stayed – for all the Valentines you and I have been together. Even through our sometimes difficult life, I have never had a single moment of regret with you.

hk-unbreak-my-heart2We often wax poetic over “the one who got away.” Memories are tricky that way. Like light that passes through a prism and breaks into a rainbow of colors, memories often pass through a sieve that breaks our remembrances and filters the past of its unpleasantness. And through these tinted lenses, we remember things a little differently, a little wistfully, perhaps, with a tinge of nostalgia and a bit of longing.

We remember the good times we lost. We romanticize the hours of pining and sweet aching. We idealize the nights of wondering about an imagined future. “The one who got away” becomes our life’s ultimate unanswered “what-if?” We think about where he (or she) could be now, what he (or she) is doing at this exact moment. Is he  thinking of you too? Do you even cross his mind? We wonder if the life we lead now is where we were meant to be. We second-guess our decisions. We live in the past.

Yet, in that rose-colored haze, we often forget that “the one who got away” is usually the one who broke your heart. The one who dumped you once, even twice. The one who cheated. The one who couldn’t commit. The one who lied.

He wasn’t perfect, that much is obvious. And so what if the timing was a little bit off?  For true hearts in love, time and space are ephemeral. You would have hocked the universe just to make your relationship work; why couldn’t he have done the same?  Timing, or the lack of it, not being emotionally prepared, not being committed —  these are all cop-outs, excuses people make up to rationalize their wanton disregard of another human being’s feelings. If he was not ready to commit, why bother to go through the whole thing? The truth is, and take it from an old hand in love, it does matter who you’re with, whether he (or she) is a jerk, a coward, or just a complete fraud. Timing’s the least of your worries.

I can’t totally promise this, but one day, “the person who will not go away” will come. This is the person who will not lie to you. Who will not make you cry. Who will not break your heart.

You and he may not be both ready but it will not matter one bit. When love comes, and I mean true love, nothing else will matter. Not your fears. Not your doubts. Not the inconsequential little things that people seem to worry so much about.

I know too that when that day comes the “what-ifs” will no longer be important. You will realize that reality is so much cooler than imagined expectations. Chuck those clouded eyeglasses for a reality check and just heave a welcome sigh of relief. Thank God, that one got away, for indeed, you are lucky.

You got away too. ♥