Rebellion in retirement 22



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We think of teenagers as rebellious, all those hormones charging about all that uncertainty and angst, it is part of growing up. But what about the other end of the scale?

I have become the mouse that roared in my old age. Next birthday I shall be 76 and it has taken me until my 70 to realise who I am, understand my strengths and learn to speak up at last.

I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth; my father was a carpenter and later a builder. I grew up in wartime and nothing was easy. Yet I had a loving home, good food and was well cared for. Mum was the sort who scrimped and saved to get the best she could for us. Imperial leather soap, pure woollen vests, and velvet collared coats. How she did it I don’t know. We lived in Bristol in the UK.

I married an artist when I was 19, he was on his way to New Zealand. So I got the permission of my parents and travelled 12,000 miles to a new life. Again a long story, and it was a rocky road, I had tuberculosis after being in New Zealand three months. Then when I recovered, had three children in just over three and a half years.

Every 10 years our lives took a different direction it seemed. Early struggles in those years from 1960 to 1964 were tough, with bare boards and managing our bills. Everything we needed was bought on a few pounds a week. We returned to England due to family illness; a horrific start with three babies and not much cash. But when my husband started his own business at last (in Bath UK), life began to improve; we had the good years and better homes as the children grew. Through all this I was still very long suffering, I accepted things however bad they were, and ‘ went with the flow’. I didn’t think I had choices. I was very, very shy at first.

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Accepting is how most women were then, they didn’t question the decisions made by those around them. But now I do. I have learned very late not to just ‘accept’ what is suggested; to not always agree. I hate friction but have learned that I too have value, the hard knocks we have encountered in 56 years of marriage have all taught me something. I don’t worry much about what ‘they’ think now, I just do it! I love people and have a wide circle of friends. We have started a branch of U3A here in a small town and it takes all my spare time, but it opens doors and is good for the old grey matter. I am learning the frustrating game of Mah-jong, helping to establish an art group, going on theatre trips, and trying anything offered, well life is short, I have to make the most of my time.

We arrived in Australia when we were both around 59, got jobs and made a life and we are still surviving. Due to some bad choices we are not exactly rich, but we are very happy.

At aged 70 I had a small tattoo, nothing too startling and I won’t have any more – it was my minor rebellion. I wear totally inappropriate clothes for my age sometimes, I have hair styles that old ladies should not have, but I grab life by the throat, as it is all I have, and I am making the most of all those minutes I have left. I spend time with friends who have a positive outlook, friends who like to laugh. Every day the sun shines is a precious day; I aim to go on rebelling quietly and enjoying life in our small town. If I am talked about – OK – when they talk about me they give some other poor person a break!


Are you like Jacqui? Have you learnt to embrace life in your 60s and beyond? What changes have you made?

Jacqui Lee

Jacqui Lee is 75 and now retired but the last ten years or so have been some of her busiest. She worked at a hospital, where she took several Certificated courses, she cleaned a school, helped to run two conventions, wrote short stories, started painting, and in fact is never bored even now, "I honestly feel we are lucky to still be upright and breathing, and my motto is, Remember yesterday, dream of tomorrow, but live today. I love fun, clothes, food and friends."

  1. Good sounds like a happy life now you have found your voice.

  2. Like you Jacqui, I am retired, and whilst I don’t consider myself rebellious, through social media I am more aware and vocal about many issues facing the world today. Almost daily, there is an opportunity to add my voice and thoughts for women’s or animal rights. To decide which charities I will support, to embrace change, and generally “do my bit” to hopefully make small improvements in an imperfect world. After the heartbreak of loss, I embraced new love in my mid sixties which has brought me expanded family and joy I never expected to share again. Sharing my life with old and new friends, taking up new hobbies and continuing with old ones. A few aches and pains doesn’t change the fact that life is wonderful, and I intend to make every day count. I embrace positive people, and try to understand why others are negative. (Not always easy!). I never miss a chance to tell my family how much I love them, and swamp my grandchildren with hugs. I am blessed.

    1 REPLY
    • You have the right attitude, love it! Like you I am now busier than ever, and I am happy; I care about human rights and animal rights and do all I can to further those causes. I also helped to start a U3A in our town and am now out every day! a bit too much perhaps, but am never bored. Life is not smooth sailing, but then who expected perfection at this age? The grandchildren are a source of pride, ours are now all launched on their own career paths, or almost anyway. I like the idea that they too are compassionate and caring, a small legacy to pass on. Thank you.

  3. I don’t consider myself rebellious.
    I always pursued social justice taught to me from joining a union at a young age & learning team work & social responsibility.
    I was encouraged & supported to the point of immersing myself in the legalities & impact & at the same time, spreading myself too thin over my life in general.
    My father had a strong work ethic that he transferred & I began earning my own money when I was 9. By the time I went to sea at 15 & had done more jobs than most people would do in a life time.
    My entire life was a responsibility for what ever I touched.
    It came to a point where it descended to carer status & total commitment.
    I was addicted to work & struggled to cope with both.
    At 70 I became completely miserable. I lost interest in most things & had bouts of severe depression. I had become neglectful & lazy.
    I would not go into my workshop for days & I found that doing nothing was the lesser of the two “evils”.
    Then I discovered that I was simply “all worked out”.
    That I had lost my inspiration & my desire to achieve.
    That I wasn’t as smart as people thought, I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was & my failures were due to over extending myself, & even more enlightening than anything else about this discovery was, I decided to not GAF.
    Three years have past since my life stalled on that railway crossing. Fortunately the train never came.
    These days I just wait for some motivation to dabble in something, or take my wife for lunch, sit in front of the computer, or just, spend, not waste, time, I didn’t know I had saved up.

    1 REPLY
    • I was sad to read this, and think there is more for you out there. Have you offered yourself as a volunteer? we did meals on wheels, belonged to Lions, helped with Rotary art shows, and now we do information service duty. We have sort of left the other clubs as we can’t honestly afford to keep up with some. I have become secretary of a branch of U3A, a very small branch as we live in a small town, I run an art class we play Mahjong, (still learning) and have historical walks around the town, all of this is with the help of tutors who offer their services for free. You must have so much to offer after your experiences. Think about helping and passing it on perhaps? By sharing skills you gain as much as the person you help.

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      • Jacqui, I am a full time carer for my wife who is a severely handicapped stroke victim, so everything has to work around her.
        It took me 15 years to understand what I was told by medical staff after her release from hospital & rehab in 1995 “Take care of the carer” I just didn’t know how to, until I got my priorities worked out.
        It was another way I figured out how damn thick I was. LOL

        1 REPLY
        • Oh I now understand, and the advice you were given is important, ‘Take care of yourself” allow yourself a small amount of time, get respite care when you can? I have worked in aged care for about 20 years and the carer is often ‘burned out’ trying to do it all. With some illnesses the fact is you are never off duty, you need those small windows of pleasure . I really hope you get them now and then. Its a hard job you are doing. I really wish you well.

  4. OOPs small mistake in this piece; when we came to Australia I was nearly 50 and husband was 52. Came in the worst year ever 1987, property and mortgage rates hopeless, and the world a financial mess. Our mortgage was 17% which was a tough way to begin again at that age.

  5. Many in our age group have seen tough times, but I think this makes us stronger people. I too, have found my voice in my mid sixties, previously a shy person, I have confidence now that I have not had before. We were brought up in the days of being seen and not heard, being submissive, etc, etc. Now I am retired, a volunteer with our local community, run our local annual Biggest Morning Tea, take part in craft days (occasionally as teacher), support charities, knit for a cause, and generally stay busy. Love being a bolder older lady! I enjoy your posts, Jacquie, I think we are of like minds!

  6. Oh, and by the way, is that your wedding photo? Gorgeous!

    1 REPLY
    • Yes our wedding, 1959 on a cold winter day, Bristol, UK. six weeks later we sailed on the Rangitoto to New Zealand, never regretted it either.

  7. Love the sparkle in your eyes Jaqui. I too belong to a small U3A and although shy I am their Social Coordinator! I don’t belong to many organisations now but enjoy my art, pottering in my wild garden and catching up with friends.

    1 REPLY
    • Nice to hear of U3A helping you too,we have a small art group, art is my passion too, I am self taught. But love it …when I have time. Even being shy can be overcome.

  8. “Through all this I was still very long suffering, I accepted things however bad they were, and ‘ went with the flow’. I didn’t think I had choices. I was very, very shy at first “. I have only just found my own voice in the last few years, I am 57, thank heavens I woke up!

  9. Love the wedding photo, and you don’t look In your seventies and now your a rebel with a course ! You go girl.

  10. Jacqui, would love to here from you, looking in your eyes, is looking in mine. Bit scary , not blue or green, something in between!! Life is for living and that is what I intend to do, I’m 63 young!!!!

    1 REPLY
    • Nice to hear from any of the Starts at Sixty people, I am on FB if you want to chat. Hope life always allows you to be a gentle rebel. Have a tiny bit of Irish in my family tree, probably the eye colour comes from that!

  11. Good on you Jaqui. You know what life is about. We’ve had some similar experiences and I feel much the same as you in some ways. I am not really a people person, but wish I was. I have decided recently that I must try to connect more with others.

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    • Hope soon you get brave and do that Glenys, most people are great once you approach them, the first step is the hardest, and we all have our battles to fight, what we learn from them helps us to understand others..go for it, and don’t be put off if the first is not perfect.

  12. I have rebelled at different times and in different ways all through my life but in the end basically did the “right thing”. My life has not always been smooth but the choices and decisions were mine so there is no-one else to blame. I have been extremely fortunate in having a long, and mostly happy, marriage, a career I loved and had success in and friends who have supported and cared for me but I have also made bad errors of judgement, hurt people who didn’t deserve it and caused my parents many grey hairs. My rebellions now seem to take the form of shouting at the media beat-ups from my lounge room

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