I think this happens more with men than women. Men, perhaps, have their identities wrapped up in what they do, as in: “I’d like you to meet my husband Fred. He’s an engineer…” Women don’t do that so much. I was thinking this morning as I crawled back in bed after I let the cats out, how many times over the years I had thought, “oh, if I could just go back to bed for 10 minutes!” And of course, now that I’m retired, I can. (Although seldom do — but I can!)
Of course, there is the down-side to retirement. Money, for starters. Yes, you’re going to be living on a smaller income. On the other hand, you’re not going to be commuting to the office every day, you’re not going to be buying “work clothes,” (although the environment at my office had become so casual by the time I left that sometimes I wondered if people were wearing pajamas), and you’re not going to be contributing to the coffee fund, buying flowers for someone who just had a baby, or any of the other obligatory workplace money grabbers.
One lady in our office was way past retirement age; she had worked there since she graduated high school some fifty years before. “I don’t want to retire,” she insisted. “I don’t know what I’d do with myself.” She lived near the office, walked to work, walked home at lunch to get lunch for her doggies, and was in a very comfortable routine.
The admin officer, her boss, and the payroll clerk talked to her regularly to try and convince her that it would be the smart thing to do since she was, basically, working for ten cents on the dollar. Her retirement check would be nearly 90% of her current pay check. No deal. What finally got to her was the computer. When we changed over from typewriters to computers, when she had to start using a mouse, it was all too much. She was forced to leave.
We all sort of figured she’d live a sad, lonely life. But SURPRISE!
Her sister took her on a cruise to celebrate her retirement. They had FUN! Next thing we heard, she had taken a landscaping course and re-vamped her garden. She grew dahlias the size of dinner plates; she up-rooted the boring old bushes and planted borders of nasturtiums and lantana which bloomed in bright yellow and orange. Her fat little pooches slimmed down because now they took lots of walks. The last I heard, she sold her 25 year old Dodge Dart and got something more reliable since she was now driving more.
Of course, there’s also the other side of that coin. The mother of a friend retired, parked herself in front of the television and waited to die. She turned down every invitation — it was too far, it was too late, it was too expensive, it was too far AND too expensive. My friend occasionally coaxed her out of the house to a movie, but her mother complained about everything; the theater was too cold, too crowded, too noisy, the walk to the car was too long, she wished she hadn’t come. Eventually she got her wish — she stayed home and watched television and pretty much faded into the couch.
So perhaps retirement isn’t for everyone. The retired people I know are all busier than ever; volunteering, working in their gardens, visiting their grandchildren, exploring the world around them. I guess the saying is true: “Life is what you make it.”
As for me, I think I’ll go make that Salmon in parchment paper and open a bottle of Chenin Blanc. And hey, if it doesn’t turn out right, the cats will eat the salmon and I think I can manage the wine all on its own.