Tales of Retirement
By Maryse Lafreniere
Retired June 2017
I’m lucky that I already have hobbies, that I’m already fit and active, that I have many friends, and that I’ve already started learning foreign languages; I’ve come to appreciate these things more and more as my retirement draws near. Five years ago I worried that I would be bored in retirement, that I wouldn’t know what to do with all that time. But, unfortunately (or fortunately), I had two long stretches of sick time, two years in a row, and it made me realize that I am never bored. I know that in retirement I will keep busy, but I will be okay with quiet times. I suspect that, as many retirees like to point out, I will wonder how I ever found the time to go to work.
I work in Assistive Technology, meaning I help adults with severe disabilities to use computers and communication devices. I have worked at the George Pearson Centre for a little over 30 years. It’s a long term care facility for adults with severe disabilities. Most of them are not seniors; all of them use wheelchairs (power or manual). Most of them don’t have complete use of their hands, some cannot communicate verbally, if at all, and about 40% are tube-fed. Most are intellectually intact; others have acquired brain injury or various degrees of dementia, mental illnesses, delusions, drug or alcohol addictions, etc. I remember on my first day of work, walking down the long corridor and wondering how I would cope with that level of tragedy. After a few weeks, I only noticed each individual – their particular abilities and interests. Working there has coloured my whole life. Far from being depressing, it makes me appreciate what most take for granted: being able to leave the centre at the end of the day to go home, walking, talking, eating, all the minutiae of ‘normal’ life. I also realize that our perception of quality of life can change. Most of my clients think they have some quality of life, even if it’s very different than for you and I. Human interactions are the most important thing, and I notice that the ‘nice’ clients are liked and respected by staff and their peers. I will use that knowledge to make a point of being nice to all around me, now and in retirement.
I want to remain involved in my work community after retiring. I like the staff and clients, so I will find a way to stay in touch, maybe by volunteering there – it is unclear to me at this point. The new developments in the electronic field are exciting and I want to learn about virtual reality and about communicating with brain waves, as it applies to improving the lives of people with severe disabilities.
Once retired, I want to spend more time with my 90-year old parents, making the trip from Vancouver to Montreal more often. My parents are still mentally alert, so I plan to ask them more questions about their childhood, our family histories, and life in the old days. I will continue to help sort through old pictures of long dead relatives. I will get to know my young nieces better; they so remind me of my sister and me at that age. I will visit friends residing in many corners of Quebec whom I have not seen in decades.
I plan to make more jewelry, maybe start an Etsy shop to earn enough money to reinvest in supplies. Or I will give my jewelry to friends, as I already do. I have sewing plans, refashioning old clothes into new. I have old bicycle inner tubes and tires; I will make something out of them. I have paper supplies, of the scrapbooking variety, and I make bookmarks and greeting cards out of old calendars. Thanks to Pinterest for all the inspiration, but I’ve always been creative.
I will write more, with a pen in a pretty notebook, and in a blog. Or maybe I’ll write a novel. I’ve always liked writing, and have decades of old diaries as proof of that.
I want to learn to sing, and to join a choir, maybe an impossible goal for someone who is tone deaf. But I need a challenge!
Speaking of impossible goals, I would like to be tidy!
I want to meditate longer, and practice mindfulness more consistently. I want to work on my mental well-being, I am an emotional French-blooded woman and I sometimes yo-yo into uncomfortable phases. Always a life lesson, never a boring moment.
I like the ‘random act of kindness’ movement; I am new at exchanging pleasant words with strangers, and I am impressed at how good it makes me feel.
I’m fascinated by birds of prey; I may volunteer at a bird rehabilitation centre.
Computers are a big part of my life. I plan to check out the Free Geeks, a place where volunteers take apart old computers, recycle some bits, then rebuild and program the computers for use by people who can’t afford new ones.
I would like to teach basic literacy to women, probably in Latin American countries where my knowledge of Spanish would come in handy.
Travelling and saving money
That brings me to world travel. I have travelled extensively and have saved a considerable sum of money to permit me to continue doing so. I also want to do more exploring, camping, hiking, and cycling around our beautiful province of British Columbia. My partner Barry and some friends want to be part of this.
To save money, we are applying to live in a housing co-op, as renting in Vancouver is becoming unaffordable. Once retired, I will have time and interest to participate in the running of a co-op, and will enjoy living in a small community of diverse people.
After a trip to Italy, I want to learn to make fresh pasta. It’s so much more delicious than the store-bought variety.
I don’t feel that retiring will put an end to my work identity, as a helper and a giver. I will continue to help people, through volunteering, and by caring for the people around me; I will continue to give of myself. I won’t be paid for it, but it will give me the chance to explore other fields and to know I’m contributing.
Retirement – I say, bring it on! I’m ready!