I cocked my head one way and it cocked its head the other, and we stopped and eyed each other like that for a moment. And then the mama keck-ed, deep in her throat, and the baby deer sprang away. The two of them were grazing side by side in the neighbor’s backyard when I walked by. They raised their heads to look backwards at me, and I waved.
Around the corner, ungainly bumblebees were busy at the wonderful shrubs that border a lush lawn. I call them doll-skirt bushes; the huge blossoms start out tightly fisted and deeply pink, and as they unfurl, their color gets lighter and the petals swirl out like the kind of outrageous pleated outfits trim dancers kicked around in, in 1940’s musicals. The flowers turn a creamy white. By nightfall, they’ve curled into tubes and fallen off—limp and dirty cigars laying sadly on the gravelly shoulder. Derelicts, fallen to the curb after a splendid day’s showing…
The bees sent one of their comrades my way on reconnaissance. The fat thing burbled menacingly around and around my head; I had to stop and turn slowly along with it until it got bored and went back to nectarizing.
I pushed on to Dresden Road and headed north. I stopped again at the big white house, which has gone from neglected to sparkling. It’s huge–during the long interval it was on sale, I think we read in the listing that it has six bedrooms. It has a newly painted in-the-city farm barn, appropriately bright barn red, and all the accoutrements–the wicker furniture on the sprawling porch, plant stands, outside wall art–pop in that same deep color.
In the front yard, there’s a real, old-fashioned wooden sledge, the kind horses might have drawn in the northern backwoods in 1880. Some days, it’s being pulled by pink flamingos. Some days, the flamingos are sitting on the wicker on the porch. Today, the flamingos shared the driver’s seat, and one had the reins on its beak.
Satisfied that I knew where the flamingos were, I pressed on until I’d walked about three-fourths of a mile, and then I turned to head back. I like to walk on Friday mornings, just a little bit of a stretch to start the weekend. The weekend, I thought, and felt the heady absence of work in the three days ahead.
And then I had one of those moments. It was just like when I’m using Siri for directions, and I willfully make a wrong turn. There’s a pause–I always think she’s biting her electronic tongue to keep from barking obscenities at me–and then she snaps, Make a U-turn! Make a U-turn! And then, when I don’t, I imagine Siri’s digitized sigh, and the whole picture shifts, swings around, encapsulates a brand new vista. I was heading back down Dresden, and my horizon just completely morphed. It was almost physical, like picking up my foot and expecting it to touch the ground as usual, and finding it hits the ground someplace else entirely.
Because,–although the weekend is still two days, of course,–I DON’T have to go back to work on Monday. I’m taking Monday off, and then, on Tuesday, I am officially retired.
So, although I will not ever be a lady of leisure–neither by inclination nor by financial reality–it could be true that I never actually ‘go to work’ again.
Whoa. The hard cement wall called Work-On-Monday just burst, and time went flooding over it.
My father retired in his mid-50’s on disability, and he was lost without the schedule and the sense of being needed work gave him. For the first months, he drove my mother crazy. He followed her around, helped her make the beds. Asked what was next. Then he hit his stride and started doing woodworking and refinishing furniture. But it was a tough transition.
I have other role models, though, who make me think this change won’t be so hard. Take my friend Teri, who wasn’t even 18 when, a skilled high school graduate, she slid into a civil service job. Teri retired at 50 and never looked back. Now she works when she wants to and does amazing things at home. She mothers her still-at-home teen-aged daughter. She travels. In the last years, she’s become a grandma with all the joy and busyness that entails. She savors the pension she paid into from the time she was a young girl, and she embraces the after-working life.
I was picking up some signed certificates in the president’s office this week and talking to my colleagues Brenda and Kathy. Kathy will also officially retire on Tuesday, and Brenda asked the two of us, “What are you going to do with all that time?”
I looked at Kathy and she looked back, and we shared a charged understanding.
“I’m going,” Kathy said to Brenda, “to do all the things I’ve been putting off until this day arrived.”
Amen, Sister! I thought, and I slid my certificates into their manila envelope, waved them merrily, and went off about my way.
I went walking later than usual this morning because James and I made an early trip to the library. It occurred to me I could stop making excuses and plan a weekday trip to the Clark Gable birthplace museum in Cadiz, Ohio, about an hour and a half from here. So, while Jim was browsing the DVD’s, I found a Gable biography and began reading about his early years in Ohio. I grabbed a copy of the Mutiny on the Bounty DVD too: there’s time now, to do a little research.
Later, I checked the weather on my phone and was pleased to see happy little sunshines–and reasonable temperatures–next to the next five days. This weekend, I’ll finish painting the car port–where the ceiling fan looks so festive and moves, still, so glacially.
I can clear out the weedy old flower beds and put in last minute annuals, schedule the planting of bulbs and seeds and pretty hydrangea bushes.
James and I will sketch out a plan for his bedroom, move him into temporary quarters, and repaint–the ceiling blue, like a limitless sky, the walls a fresh cream.
I will uncover my neglected sewing machine, and it and I will become, again, partners in creative projects.
And in the quiet of the morning, I will write.
Those are the top bullets on a long, long list of things that have been waiting, sighing and patient, for the time to come when there’s time to act.
I’ll start, I keep telling my family, as I mean to go on: with a schedule and a plan.
And then I’ll walk forward into loosely woven days–the only deadlines or restrictions ones I’ve chosen to embrace.
It’s going to be different, retirement. It’s the first time I’ve left a job without another to step into, and I feel daringly untethered, a little bit anxious, a whole lot excited. Time now, to step into the next phase, and to determine the shape of things to come.