Looking back at the year, I have picked four things that made 2008 special for me.
1. I became a grandfather on my birthday. That's right, Jack Ryan Mason was born on my birthday to my daughter and her husband in Folsom, California. I was able to visit Jack in April and July of this year. I guess that I will always be able to remember his birthday.
2. I started Social Security benefits. In May I applied for my SS benefits. I have not reached the "full retirement age" of 66, but after my son did a financial analysis, we determined that there was no real advantage for waiting another 3 years to start. After 2 in-person visits, numerous phone calls, and finally one call to the SS office in Madrid, my monthly SS payments are deposited directly in my Spanish bank account. With all my investments taking a big loss this year, I am really happy that I can live on my SS payments, something I could not do in the US.
3. I became a legal resident of Spain. It took three years, several trips, much time and money, thanks to the bungling of the Spanish Consulate in San Francisco. Now I have my permiso de residencia (residency permit) and ID card with my NIE (foreigner identification number). Renewal of the permit is an easy process. Some advantages are reduced bank charges and access to the healthcare system (although I carry private insurance.)
4. It has been three years since I met my partner. We first ran into each other around 3 in the morning on Passeig de Gracia in Barcelona, but it wasn't until the following weekend that we formally met, just after Thanksgiving Day in the US. We will be celebrating the end of the year traveling with a friend to Sevilla and spending a week sightseeing and bringing in the New Year.
As they say in Spain: ¡Felices Fiestas!
and here in Catalunya: Bones Festes!