By putting emphasis on different words and adding different punctuation, the above title can be read at least four different ways—dismissive, defensive, emotive, or introspective. I think my mind is geared more toward the last—just a statement, a lead-in to thinking about this stage of life that my husband Bill and I find ourselves in right now. Not total retirement, like never-work-again retirement. It’s work maintaining the woodpile for our woodstove, the garden for our own food, the used vehicles, lawnmowers, weed eaters, etc. And then there’s Obi, the puppy. Paying attention to our mixed breed, high energy, just a couple generations away from a wild dingo puppy, doesn’t allow for much sitting on our duffs and reading our books during daylight hours. What were we thinking?!
Bill’s still preaching at least one Sunday a month, and I’m still editing life stories for an elderly friend, not to mention our everyday chores of cooking, doing dishes, sweeping floors, washing clothes, and cleaning the toilet. Is there really any such thing as retirement for those of us who don’t employ gardeners, mechanics, maids, or dog whisperers?
And I can’t leave out the business of being family—that takes up a lot of time. My parents, 89 and 90, still live on their farm in Southeastern Indiana. I try to spend two or three days with them every month, and catch up weekly with their comings and goings and, mostly, their staying at home these days. Our daughter and her family live several miles east of us and we usually see them once a week when we pick up our teenage grandson from school. We share land with our son and his family, so they are in and out of our lives on a daily basis, and this next-door grandson spends one night a week with us. And you know how families are, and friends, too, for that matter. There aren’t any set rules, retired or not, about when we’re needed or wanted or expected. It’s all apt to change at any given moment due to sickness or celebration or spontaneous combustion.
So…what do I not like about retirement? Realizing that we weren’t really prepared for the financial downsizing, considering our utilities, mortgage, phone bills, etc., still have to be paid. Realizing Medicare isn’t free and supplemental insurance is a necessary evil. Accepting the fact that the price of gasoline, groceries, sunflower seeds for the birds, shoes, underwear, and chocolate fluctuates, and that it’s impossible (for us anyway) to stay within our budget.
I also don’t like it that Bill is home, in our less than 700-square-foot house, most of the time, and that he watches TV—news, sports, documentaries, even commercials, for heaven’s sake! —much of the time, when he’s not on his laptop, or talking to his twin brother on the phone. Yikes! I miss my quiet space. My alone space.
What do I love about retirement? That we actually don’t have to go to work every day, punch a clock, or remortgage our land to be able to squeeze by—even if it is just squeezing by. And I love Medicare! And a low enough deductible with our supplemental that we can actually justify going to the doctor to get an annual exam, not just when it’s a life threatening emergency. I love the fact that we are both skilled at this homesteading business, this ability to take care of most of our own needs. I love it that we have flexible time for our family and friends, and, hopefully, time and patience enough to bring our little dingo up in the way that she should go. (I think that’s one of the Ten Commandments.)
I also love it that Bill is home most of the time. No contradiction here—just the both/and of relationship. And that he enjoys being more involved with the gardening and the everyday business of home and family. I love his political commentary and am more involved in the day-to-day happenings of this presidential election because he’s so plugged in. I couldn’t care less about the unbelievable touchdowns or game-winning basketball shots that he tells me about in great detail, but he probably doesn’t care a lot about the difference in the size and color of the eggs I bring in from the chicken house either.
I especially loved this particular Sunday morning. We didn’t have to be anywhere but here. We ate a late breakfast of homemade biscuits and gravy, let our puppy lick the plates, then took her and ourselves for a long, leisurely walk in the snow-covered woods. The bright winter sun highlighted the glitter and sparkle, the shadows and contrasts, the swirling ice patterns on the creek, the flashing woodpecker wings, and the dozens of wild animal footprints. Obi made us laugh with her hill-climbing, stick-chasing, creek-running, critter-trailing enthusiasm—all at hyper speed. Once, when she was a good distance behind us, we hid behind a couple of trees and waited quietly for her to catch up, run past, then turn around wiggling and wagging at the joy of finding us! We slid around on the ice and made patterns in the snow on our frozen-over lake. And when we came into our warm little cabin, we turned our phones off, took a long nap, and still had half the day before us.
So what about retirement? We seem to be figuring it out without too much wear and tear on our 46 years of marriage. There’s an honesty and easiness about our companionship that just keeps getting refined. We haven’t reached perfection yet but I doubt if either of us will be around to write about that. This stage of life is perfect enough.
Glenda Breeden for The Poplar Grove Muse