Retirement isn’t for Cowards

Audrey and Grammy in the backyard

Every morning, while the sun gently slumbers in the eastern sky, my granddaughter Cora (sometimes it’s Sienna or Audrey) scampers out of her warm bed, and climbs into mine. By this time Looney is entertaining the neighbors with his perfected burpee, as he grinds his way through a virtual bootcamp in the driveway.

Languid is the word that comes to mind, a disinclination for physical exertion, I’m feeling slow and relaxed (not to be confused with lazy).

I sense Cora arranging the pillows, and she curls up next to me, as her puerile demands accost my foggy brain.

“Grammy, can I color on your phone?”

“Grammy, can we watch Ladybug?”

“Grammy, can I play with your hair?”

“Grammy, are you awake yet.”

“Grammy, can you go get my stuffys?”

“Look Grammy, I’m magic.”

I let her words ripple around me as if a bolder in a river, snuggling deeper into the covers, her soft thigh slung casually across my waist.

Try as I may to remain in a blessed fog, I feel my brain shift into action, like the movie we watched last night, Inside Out, I notice how bolder emotions vie for position, and thankfully joy slips boldly in front of COVID fears.

I finally sit up, turn on a light, get up to go potty, and grab a cup of coffee, before returning to my sweet little Cora.

Is there anything cuter than a three year-old?

She wants to color with my iPhone, I have this kids app, and she uses her finger to color unicorns, fairies, and frogs. Cora loves the rainbow crayon and uses it exclusively. I sip my coffee, gush over her colorful masterpieces, while considering my obligations for the coming day.

The thought crosses my mind, what will happen when Julie and Nic move into their own house across the street, and I no longer have my morning visitors?

She yawns with her whole body and says, “I love you Grammy.”

“I love you too Cora.”

The next thing I know she’s crawling over me like an experienced alpinist and races off to the kitchen for breakfast.

I glance at the clock, oh shit, it’s 7:25! Sue’s arriving at 7:30 for our walk. I leap out of bed, slip into my sweats, grab my tennis shoes, and plop my butt on the front steps, as I gulp down the last of my coffee, and double tie my shoelaces. Yes, I failed to brush my teeth, there will be serious halitosis, but damn I’m on time.

That is when I see Sue’s text, “running late.”

Huge smile, more coffee!

After my walk, I have to finish the laundry, water the plants, write a blog, start packing for the wedding, pick up Halloween candy just in case, update the grade book with late podcast submissions, and spruce up my lesson plans for next week. I need to grab some chicken breasts for dinner, make sure Dante calls the credit union, I’m sure the kitchen will need a cleaning before the days end, can’t forget my eyelash appointment, the spice cake I promised to make with Audrey, and I really should read that article Larry left on my nightstand a few days ago about retirement.

I write three words before I’m dragged outside to look for snails. Audrey wants a new pet and the last snail escaped in the middle the night. I know this because I could see a slimy trail on the cement leading to the grass. The things I do for my grandchildren.

We find two empty snail shells in the front planter, it’s as if all the snails have gone off to some Del Webb Sweetgrass retirement home in Florida, it is curious? I could youtube it.

Speaking of which, while making the bed, I glance at the retirement article languishing on my night stand, the first line says when someone retires, three substantial changes take place, according to Ken Dychtwald, psychologist and founder of Age Wave, retirees struggle with their identity, relationships, and activity.

Good to know.

He refers to retirement as the third wave, one where relationships, wellness, and purpose matter more than ever. What the hell? I thought retirement was all about traveling to exotic locations, my chance to drive the kids crazy for a change, take up yoga, or meditation. Retirement used to be a mark of success, the reward for launching the children, and paying exorbitant taxes for decades.

“All right! We did not die today, I call that an unqualified success.” Fear (Inside Out).

The general idea went something like this, now we have time to do the things we couldn’t do when we were working, and managing all those monkeys. (I still seem to be managing monkeys but that’s beside the point)

The good news is also the bad news, retirement is lasting much longer than say our parents generation, and like a honeymoon, the thrill of golfing every day, reading the classics, and traveling wears off after a few years. Come to find out many retirees are feeling bored and irrelevant?

That is not the plan people.

So what’s happening is senior citizens are extending their careers, starting up new charities, or reinventing themselves, and as it turns out they’re doing their best work in the third wave. Booyah, because I’m going to be a writer, and Looney’s taking up cooking.

Ken Dychtwald says, “I decided in my later years it was not going to be turn out the lights and devote myself to playing 24/7. I’ve come to see this evolving stage of life like a portfolio, and I now have the freedom and self-awareness to change and reprioritize my mix of activities.”

Dychtwald also says, “I’d like to be useful more than youthful.” Amen.

Maybe we can have our cake and eat it too? Balance seems to be key. Making time for family, nurturing important relationships, engaging in gratifying work, allowing time for play, learning, volunteering, and of course travel if that’s what lifts your luggage. See what I did there?

Did you know the average American retiree watches more than 48 hours of television per week? No wonder we’re having an irrelevance spike, it’s contagious, slap on a mask seniors and get out in the world.

Apparently staying relevant has a lot to do with being current, as in technology, understanding modern culture, like why millions of people are following a guy named PewDiePie on youtube, or better yet, figure out the appeal of TikTok? Larry and I learned about all this by listening to a podcast on the way up to the lake called The Rabbit Hole, it was interesting, and quite frankly alarming. First and second wave people are obsessed with youtube. Who knew?

I use it for cooking and music, Larry figured out how to wire a dock once and reprogram a keyless car pad when the code was lost, other than that we don’t give it much thought?

So all this information is pushing me out of my comfort zone. Anyone else? “Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life’s problems.” Sadness (Inside Out)

Dychtwald suggests that an important activity in our new longevity is spending time and energy not just hoarding our lives and memories, but that we also actively try to be empathic to different people, especially young people.

Hello, I let them in my bed every morning. That doesn’t sound right? It’s not like I’m a female version of Michael Jackson? Moving on…

It seems to me our children are watching their boomer parents just like they did when they were small, except this time they’re scrutinizing our ability to manage the third wave, and I would like to put forth a favorable example.

Curled up on the couch last night, Audrey snuggled next to me, we’re watching the Pixar Movie, Inside Out, it gets unexpectedly touching near the end. I look down at Audrey, my eyes mist up in unison with hers, especially when Riley says, “I Know You Don’t Want Me To (expectations), But I Miss Home (youth). I Miss Minnesota (occupation). You Need Me To Be Happy, But I Want My Old Friends (the gang), And My Hockey Team (co-workers). I Wanna Go Home (the past). Please Don’t Be Mad (disappointment).” Sob.

So while I’m warmed by the thought of no longer playing competitively, if I don’t want a spike in my relevance, maybe it’s time to reboot my retirement goals?

“Who is in charge of programming down there? I know I’m not supposed to do this, but…We are not going to spend our retirement like this (adapted).
Don’t you worry. I’m going to make sure that tomorrow is another great day.” Joy (Inside Out)

I’m Living in the Gap, lounging in bed, worrying about my core memories.

Anecdotes:

  • Retirement at sixty-five is ridiculous. When I was sixty-five I still had pimples. George Burns
  • Often when you are at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else. Fred Rogers
  • Retirement is a blank sheet of paper. It is a chance to redesign your life into something new and different. Patrick Foley

12 Comments

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      1. I try to only watch actively one hour a day. I do one movie a week though, and sometimes I put on a home or food show while I’m doing housestuff, but I just think of that as background noise

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    1. Thank you Leigh, I love how you put it, “trying to navigate this new season while still having strings to the last one.” That’s perfect, I’m with you, seeking a future that is purposeful and joyful! All my best, C

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Seeing that photo with your grandchild reminds me of the joy my wife gets from spending time with her two. I didn’t have children, but her grandchildren regard me as their grandfather. That’s a strange feeling for me, but a good one. I try my best to live up to it.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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    1. Thank you Pete, my grandchildren are my greatest treasures. It’s an amazing privilege to watch the children of my child grow up and now they’ll be across the street! You have such a kind and nurturing presence with your followers, I imagine you’re a wonderful grandfather! Warmly, C

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  2. I retired early in August last year, however, my husband won’t retire for about 4 more years. I was so excited to write cookbooks, make videos of cooking and to do whatever I wanted. However, Covid changed all that as since my daughter a RN nurse working in ICU and directly with Covid patients, nobody wants to babysit my grandkids. So of course we stepped up. You are so lucky to have grandchildren too and age 3 is my favorite age. How nice they will be right across the street! Something tells me you will have visitors more than you think! Lol

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    1. Hi Diane, Larry and I were all set to retire, do a little traveling, visit the kids who are living all over the place, but COVID hits just months before we were about to disembark, so we canceled our plans and hunkered down. Then the kids bought the fixer upper across the street, moved in, and that added an unexpected layer of chaos and joy! They’ll be moving into their home around Christmas. Now Larry and I don’t know if we should keep working as travel is still highly restricted? We’ll most likely stay in our jobs which we can do remotely for at least another year?

      BTW, I wanted to let you know Audrey and I made your spice cake, it was delicious, everyone had seconds! Audrey was able to make it all by herself which she was inordinately proud of! Thank you for continuing to post such fun recipes while you care for your grandkids! You make me look so good in the kitchen. C

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