Tales of Retirement
Airline Reservations Agent
Retired April 2013
Hard to believe that four years have passed already since I retired in April of 2013. As I look back, I realize that I have become accustomed to being in charge of my days. It did take time to adjust. For so many years, most of my waking hours were spent working for a large company where even lunchtime and coffee breaks were regimented. Taking holiday time involved a complex computerized process of bidding for certain weeks, and your chance of getting your preferred time off depended on how much seniority you had. Now I’m on permanent vacation. Monday has become just another day, as Sunday night no longer involves bracing for the stresses of another work week. And I have a coffee just about whenever I choose to have a coffee!
Getting up at 6:15 a.m. has slid more often than not to somewhere between 7:30 and 8:30 in the morning. I still enjoy having the leisure time to read the newspaper over breakfast and a cup of coffee; my husband and I debate over whose turn it is to do the Sudoku. There are still days where I have no plan for what I want to do. I find that I am happier with specific goals for the day, even if they are a series of errands: shop for groceries, take stuff to Value Village, clean out the hall closet, start on our income tax returns. The idea of finding part-time work has not come to anything. Maybe I just don’t want to have a job anymore.
Keep moving; something may be gaining on you
My martial arts classes form the framework for the week. I take Karate, Kobudo and Tai Chi, so most days include a session at the dojo. For my sixty-fifth birthday, I bought a broadsword, having already acquired a beautiful Japanese katana for Kobudo, and a Tai Chi sword. May I add that none of these swords are lethal weapons; they are used to perform various dance-like forms.
Since retiring, I am proud to report that I have achieved my third Dan in Karate and my second Dan in Kobudo; soon I will be tested for my third level in Tai Chi. As well as keeping me fit and active, the dojo connects me to a community of cool people who enjoy each other’s company. I do my bit to pass on to the younger generation the joys of keeping fit and active by assisting with a Saturday class for kids seven to nine years old.
In March, we celebrated the dojo’s 25th anniversary. The event was a team effort that included martial arts demonstrations, a magician for the kids, speeches, singing, and dinner at the local Legion Hall. The day ended with crazy dancing into the night, to the musical accompaniment of the Shaolin Temple Pilots, a band whose members all belong to the dojo.
Sundays still include my weekly 7K run before church. I continue to help organize the volunteers at the 10 a.m. Mass, but I share the responsibility with two other women, so my presence is not required every week.
Counting my blessings
More and more I am realising the value of family. When my sister developed severe anxiety and depression in December of 2015, the family rallied round and got her immediate medical attention. She was admitted to hospital for several months of treatment. When it gradually became apparent that she was actually beginning to suffer from dementia, family members arranged the enormous job of selling her house, winnowing down her belongings to a manageable amount, and helping her choose a long-term care facility. I shudder to think what might have happened to her if she had been alone in the world.
I now take her out for lunch at a nearby restaurant once a week, and do some kind of artsy-craftsy project when we return to her room at the home. It’s a sobering experience watching someone only a year older gradually lose more and more of her ability to remember. The fog rolls in more frequently. During our most recent phone conversation, she asked me to remind her what her own name was. Simple tasks like getting in and out of a car, or choosing the correct utensil to eat her soup, have become a challenge. As a result of observing the disease’s progression, I value my own health and independence more. The lesson seems to be: appreciate everything and everybody; don’t take anything for granted.
The kindness of non-strangers
Recently I became the recipient of my family’s generosity. The troops have rallied round to do a complete down-to-the-studs bathroom renovation at our house. As neither my husband nor I have much handyman experience, it has been great to watch six willing, experienced siblings and in-laws take charge. With their help, I have learned to drill screws into a sub-floor with a power drill, cautiously saw two-by-fours with a power saw, and recognize the difference between PVC and ABS pipes. (My brother informs me that ABS stands for All Black Stuff. I believe him. Why would he lie to me?)
Not only have the renovator-relatives taken charge of demolishing and rebuilding the bathroom, one kind couple has invited us to their home in the country while the worst of the dust and disruption occurs. So, as I write this article, I am enjoying a retreat full of walking in the country, watching wild turkeys foraging, observing grazing sheep flocks and horses, and indulging in exploratory car trips. Doesn’t get much better than this. Instead of an alarm clock waking me up, I hear two deluded cardinals try for the umpteenth time to poke a hole in the bedroom window with their tiny red beaks.
Recently, I enjoyed my first Monday morning watercolour class at a nearby seniors’ centre. The instructor turns out to be very experienced and helpful. My husband and I have also registered to sing with a small choir once a week. And Friday mornings now start with a joyful session working out to music with perpetually cheerful Zumba instructor Tammy.
Now that I am free from a regular job, I hope to eventually travel to such places as the Grand Canyon and Costa Rica. However, my husband’s health has continued to deteriorate. He walks with even greater difficulty than before. He will likely require surgery sometime in the near future for another medical condition. So we will see.
We recently bought a new vehicle so that I could continue my weekly trips to see my sister. I am in love with this low-slung black Kia Forte with the sporty flowing lines. I still chauffeur my husband to and from various musical rehearsals and concerts. Both the car and the renovations were made possible by my share of the inheritance from our parents. Thank you, Mum and Dad.
Children and grandchildren
Recently, a new grandson was born in Vietnam. We made the baby’s acquaintance via Skype, as we had done with his older sister. (Long-distance communications have improved dramatically with the new technologies.) It may be that we will see the two little ones in the flesh only if their parents can travel to Canada. This will happen within the next few years if we’re lucky. It would be so nice to cuddle the new little grandbabies.
All three of our own children are now living in other cities. All three have found partners who fit right in, and who get the seal of approval from both of us. I suspect that five years from now there will be grandchildren for us on this side of the Pacific. Having children requires such a commitment of hard work and patience that we avoid putting pressure on any of our children to produce offspring. If it happens, it happens.
Moving in the right direction
Retirement has not turned out exactly as I pictured it. I envisioned a lot more travelling and acting and painting and writing than has happened yet. Inertia still manages to dig its powerful claws into me. I am moving in the right direction, though. Perhaps two years from now I will be able to report more progress on these four fronts. What I have learned from my first four years of retirement is this: to enjoy the company of those I love, to do what makes me happy, and to appreciate and nurture my good health.