When Maureen Met Janet
Maureen Szostak had a long career in Finance. Maybe a longer than some as she kept on working for several years past 65. Her husband was and is still working as a commercial fisherman so there was no rush, and she liked keeping busy. Once she succumbed to retirement, her idea was to volunteer. Looking for something new to do she found out about the Village of the Coastside and joined up. They asked her to help with "finance." Not something new exactly but certainly something she knew.
Janet Crist-Whitzel had also delayed retiring, working part-time after her official retirement. She envisioned that she and her husband would travel. However, he died two months after she retired, and she found herself in a wheelchair after having her legs amputated below the knee due to an autoimmune condition. Not exactly what she had planned.
Having worked "over the hill," she didn't have a lot of local friends. Then she read on NextDoor about the Village of the Coastside. She decided that it would give her an excuse to get out and meet some people. After checking it out, she joined and volunteered to help. Looking at her background as Financial Services Manager for Countywide Mental Health Services they asked her to be part of the finance committee.
Clearly the two women had money and numbers in common. As they worked together they found became friends. Maureen learned that Janet hadn't been to see the doctor in a couple of years. It was a hassle organizing a Para-transit ride and figuring out how to get to appointments. Maureen, the proud owner of a competition orange Mustang convertible, offered to give her a ride. Then they were off to the races.
Maureen has always loved sports cars. In 2016 when Ford released a retro version of the Mustang based on the design of the classic 1964 model she was ready for a new car. Old style, new safety features, bright orange - Mustang Maureen was sold. What could be a better car for a nice retired lady with platinum blonde hair?
Long and Winding Road - Hwy 92 and More
Janet can maneuver herself in and out of the car and once Maureen folds up the wheelchair and puts it in the trunk they are ready to roll. Village events give them plenty of excuses to hit the road combined with the ongoing series of Janet's medical appointments. They made the most of these outings, finding places to stop for lunch and adding in shopping excursions. They found they also shared a taste for travel, adventure and exploration.
When the Village to Village network held its conference in San Diego, Maureen encouraged Janet to get on a plane and come along. They had a great time and met with Villagers from all over the country. This prompted a rush of energy and a consideration of possibilities. They started talking about a road trip.
Seattle fit the bill. Janet has relatives near there and remembers driving that route in her RV (with 2 dogs and 2 cats.) Maureen was eager to revisit the sights from when she lived there. They packed up their trail mix, popcorn and tootsie pops and set out. Thelma and Louise had nothing on them.
The countryside whizzed by with brief stops for food and fuel. They put in as much as eight hours of drive time in a day. Upon arrival they split up. Janet spent time with her relatives and Maureen grabbed a bus to get a taste of once again being a Seattleite city-dweller after years on the Coastside. She visited the Pike Place Market and got a warm reception from the fabulous fish throwers.
Oh, the places they'll go
What's next? Moving from highway to the high seas. Janet is working diligently on her physical therapy with her prostheses to get to where she can walk with just a cane. That will give her enough mobility to get her around a cruise ship and ports of call. She is up for the challenge, "After several years in the wheelchair I had almost given up on travel again. It's largely due to Maureen's encouragement that I'm learning to walk again and am able to travel."
Village of the Coastside is about older adults connecting and helping each other. Janet also benefits by being a Member Plus. With this she gets additional help from Village Service Volunteers, who run errands, do minor repairs, provide rides and other services.
Deborah Harter Williams is a writer and volunteer at Village of the Coastside, a community of active older adults who share activities, skills and support for aging in place. Contact them at info@villageofthecoastside and learn more at villageofthecoastside.org. Phone: (650) 440-5030.