Thursday, August 22, 2013

R and R

The last time I went to visit my folks, we mostly hung out, talking about 'stuff'. Once in a while my dad would say something like, "This is what retired people do." Mostly, he said it in an apologetic tone, like he was doing something wrong.

My dad is 83. My mom is 84. Here's what I think. If they want to sit in their recliners, dozing, watching TV, working find-a-word puzzles, or playing the violin, so what? They've earned it.

There's something going on in this country--a whiplash against retirement. Second, even third careers are lauded. Strange folks who do incredible physical feats in their 70s and 80s are extolled all over the internet. No one praises that oldster who's enjoying his or her well-earned rest. Instead, they're forced into feeling 'less', less worthy, less important.

My folks were born in an era where people worked from before dawn to waaaaay after dark. During my early married life whenever they came to visit, they were always working. Mom wandered around collecting laundry so she could wash and dry and fold it. Dad was always fixing something, or mowing the lawn, or changing the oil on the cars. They were never still.

It used to annoy me until I finally understood that urge to be working was built in almost from birth. They didn't know how to be still. Small wonder that my mom used to drop off to sleep the moment she sat still in church. Bam! She'd be out like a light! It's still the same whenever she rides in a car.

Now they rest, vaguely uneasy when they're caught in the act by unexpected visitors as though they should be up and about. No. This opportunity to doze in the afternoon, to sleep late and go to bed early, is their well-earned right.

It's mine, too.

The hunk and I sleep until we feel like getting up. We go to bed when we want. Maybe we have a nap. We both spent well over thirty years rising before 4 A.M., working all day until we finally tumbled into bed around midnight. I once estimated that I spent over six hours in the car every day. That was life then. Now we're retired. During the day we putz around doing whatever we feel like. Sometimes we go out to the store or medical appointments. Other times we read or crochet or cook or simply talk. We may not leave our apartment for two or three days.

But always, underneath, there's this vague sense of unease that we should be doing something. SOMETHING.

Yesterday I came to a long overdue conclusion. Retirement is my job now. It's whatever I make it. If that's writing, then great! If I choose to climb Mt. Everest, well...I should probably start saving up for the travel costs. In either case, I have the freedom to do something I want because I'm retired. I've worked hard to earn this freedom. I refuse to apologize for the way I use it.


  1. Amen, my friend. Well put. Rats in a cage, running in circles and tiring ourselves out, just looking forward. And when we get "there," we don't know what to do. Just be.

  2. Unfortunately people are thinking less and less for themselves so original thoughts and beliefs on life, work, age, death are all at the hands of the advertising manager for Pepsi of Coke.

  3. I agree, Anny. You know what? Stay at home moms experience the same kind of pressure and rush to judgement. Hey, I was a stay at home mom and I'm grateful I could be there for my kids. Yeah, it meant we didn't go out to eat or take fancy vacations - we camped. Worth every single minute - and yes, I did work part time but managed it so my husband was home when I worked.
    My parents are retired and they have never been happier!