(Note: I am newly retired. The 2015-16 school year, which began the day AFTER Labor Day, marked the first time in nearly 20 years that I was not in the classroom at the beginning of the new school year. Here is the next part of what will be a continuing series: “Life After Work(ing).”)
I guess I am at that stage in my life where I’m wondering, is this the FINAL stage of my life?
When I was a child, everything was magical. Up until age 10 or so, every problem, every question, every concern could be answered by mom of dad, usually mom. While I did not grow up in what some would call a privileged household — definitely not the top 1% in the nation as far as wealth is concerned — I never remember a time when we didn’t have everything we needed. Summer vacations always happened, usually for a week, sometimes two. In my pre-teen days, dad and mom would always get together with dad’s side of the family and we would “invade” cottages somewhere in the Upper Peninsula or in Ontario, usually somewhere north of Toronto. I can still find some of those small towns on the map.
As we got older and the adults became less adventurous and the youth got bored with going different places each summer, we had a number of years where we would got to a spot on Sugar Island, just east of Sioux Ste. Marie. We had to take a ferry boat across a short stretch of the St. Mary’s River, then drive about 20 miles to where the cottages were. It was isolated and quiet, but the fishing was usually pretty good and a lot of freighters would pass through that way for our viewing pleasure. Access to the Canadian side of the Soo was fun, too.
High school was a brief stage where there was always an end in sight: either the end of the week, the marking period, the semester, the school year and and the summer. Then repeat. Twice. (Back then, my high school was only a three-year stint. As ninth graders, we were the top of the heap in junior high.)
After that, you moved into the working stage of your life, though I took three months off in the spring and summer of 1972 to travel around Europe with my older brother John. Then I got back and worked some more, easing finally in the marriage stage, the parental stage and, eventually, the empty-nesters stage.
But now I’m retired and though I am working a bit here and a bit there, I don’t have the regular hours my wife does at the 35-hours-a-week position she took on when she retired from education five years ago. Wow, it’s been that long! She’s collecting a pension and a paycheck; I’m collecting a pension and Social Security, albeit a couple of years away from “full” benefits, and a check from time to time from the newspaper for which I still work once or twice a week.
I don’t have to get up and go to work anymore, though I’m usually up on weekdays by about 8 a.m. to fix breakfast for my grandson who gets dropped off here and then I give him a ride to school. I do some stuff around the house — between visits to facebook and battles with acquaintances on Words With Friends — then I usually go out and run some errands or walk or whatever.
But the stress of getting up at the same time every day and going through the same routine, even though I loved my job and most of my coworkers, is gone. I probably don’t do as much around the house as my wife would like, but I’m not lazy, either. I record The Price Is Right to watch later in the evening as proof that I’m not “sitting around the house.”
I guess I’m at the stage of my life where, as my father once said, “I’m busier now that I’m retired than I was when I was working.” I’m not only finding time to do other things, I’m finding other things to do.
This is the time of life when I, as an older adult, have time to serve. I did eight shifts at ArtPrize 7, three more than I did last year, and I had a ball. I’m on a couple of “committees” at church that I wasn’t on last year. I’m doing yard work my wife doesn’t have time to do. And I’m helping people, like our 80-plus year old neighbor who is showing his age.
If these are the “golden years,” I’m liking them. I just hope they last a while.