Those quiet golden years?
I’ve decided to try it.
Since I took my last job a year past the age at which most sensible people retire, I don’t have a quarrel with the age factor. I am more than old enough to hang it up. And yes, there have been many days that I thought I stayed way too long.
So my problem isn’t so much the leaving as the doing. What to do about the not doing? Last week I stopped going to the office, making decisions and working late. I stopped co-signing checks, planning projects and writing copy. And one other small intangible also stopped – that of feeling worthwhile.
But I’ll get over it. I do have some plans that I hope will be fulfilling enough to sustain some sanity and daily satisfaction.
And then there’s my friend, Arthur Itis, who has been whispering to me for some years now about a few other reasons that it might be time to go. Actually, I think he’s been yelling but maybe that’s just my hearing on the downswing as well.
Arthur and his afflicted co-conspirators, the hips, the back, the barely functioning thumbs, the fused neck and all their little whining buddies have become annoying badgers. They yammer loudly in the morning and keep up the chatter through much of the day. They were especially noisy after my sitting for two or three hours at the computer and usually never shut up completely until after being placed in the reclining position at midnight. I guess now I’ll have time to pay more attention to their incessant nag, nag, nag. Yes, I can rev up the moving, walking, bending and hauling if you’ll stop with the pain already. I know, I know. I’ll tackle a bit more housework, yard work and running my own errands rather than counting on Dear Richard for everything.
I’ve been asked mega-dozens of times what I’m going to do now that I’ll have all this wonderful free time. I do know what I don’t want to do. I don’t want to fritter the freedom away nor do I want to just sit and watch it disappear. Years ago I watched an older couple retire – up close and personal. I learned from observing their golden years which were much too quiet for me.
My late in-laws were hard-working people. Pop built boxcars for the New York Central Railroad in Rochester, New York. He worked outdoors, every day, in every imaginable weather condition, rain or shine, blizzard or tropical rainforest. As hard as he tried, he couldn’t hang on until 65. Arthur Itis was a member of Pop’s family also. When he hung it up at 62, all he did was help Grandma around the house and putter a bit in his small garden – and attend the funerals of his co-workers.
Their quiet golden years were clocked by mealtime, the arrival of the morning paper and the mail and the evening news followed by Wheel of Fortune. Daily. Their outings in the car were to the supermarket, church and the myriad of doctors’ offices. I watched as their lives got narrower by the year and promised myself that I would keep widening the horizons, learning, going and doing as much as I could, for as long as I could.
At least I managed the work part, but then I also physically hit the wall, just a decade and a half later. I guess that means I think I still have a bit of the grey stuff left, but you might want to check that with the office staff I just left. They might not agree. There was that little memory problem . . . .
I guess it’s a good thing that the body and mind begin their slide at different times. Actually, they probably begin on the exact same day but the body’s pace toward the finish line seems faster, at least in my case.
I am, of course, the opposite of the senior joggers and distance runners. Their bodies are in tip-top fettle while I know for a fact their brains aren’t keeping up. If you’re a jogger or marathoner at my age, I’ve already admired your well-preserved body, but we all know you’ve completely lost your brain. You’re crazy. It is a definite trade.
Most seniors fall in the middle somewhere. A bit of exercise, a bit of learning, some reading, some cultural exposure and plenty of time for travel, grandchildren and hobbies. Those are the lucky ones. And I hope they realize what a gift they’ve been given.
So my gift of time, what’s left, is going to be spent putting my house in order, clearing and cleaning all this extra “stuff” away. Next, there are still a few community volunteer obligations, which I am not looking to expand and will gradually wind down. I do plan to work in a little fitness regimen which will include my garden, half of the year. My Fitbit has been indicating that neither Masterpiece Theatre nor the latest best-selling book is adding steps to my current “training program.”
Then comes the pleasure. There will finally be some time to travel, attend the theater, freshen up some old friendships and lastly do some serious writing. Three books have been simmering on the back burner for a very long time – two actually have working titles and one has been heavily researched.
There might even be time for more reading, a totally hedonistic pleasure for which I will have to overcome some puritanical guilt. I have read myself to sleep all my life. The idea that it is acceptable to sit in a comfortable chair, in the middle of the day, reading something other than a newspaper or periodical is going to have to be learned. Pleasure shouldn’t inspire that much guilt, but I’m ready to give it a go.
So today, this afternoon, I’m ready for one of those silent, golden days. Maybe on the deck. In the comfy chair next to the large hanging basket of flame-colored begonias. With the green-necked hummingbird. And a tall glass of some iced coffee.
Now if I could just find that book…
Marcy O’Brien is a longtime local columnist of the sign of the times, and longtime executive director of Struthers Library Theatre.