Janet Sheridan: Heaven help me
The car was crowded, the trip long, the road narrow. Conversation stalled and died. Then 5-year-old Harrison fired a question: “Mom, MOM! I can’t spell. I don’t know how to study. What are they going to do with me in kindergarten?”
Transitions are tough. I recognized my grandson’s concern.
Since I retired, nodding acquaintances, third cousins and the man who bruised my toe with his shopping cart have asked, “What do you do, now you’re retired?”
Their underlying question: “What am I going to do?”
I wish the man I married had such qualms.
My husband, Joel, just retired. When my Dad stopped working after 65 years in mines and steel mills, he tried to rearrange Mom’s cupboards, took up knitting for the better part of a week and mailed his offspring articles touting the consumption of large quantities of raw garlic.
I worry Joel also might lose his bearings.
Most of our conversations about his retirement focus on activities he will no longer have to do: manage diverse personalities, keep early appointments, attend rambling meetings, shave.
When he contemplates new pursuits, Joel’s notions trouble me.
He hopes to augment our food supply by fishing. I like fish, but how much of it can be done day in and day out in a Craig year? Perhaps during winter he could stock an aquarium and dangle bits of hamburger from a string, though I might have trouble eating a guppy.
He wants to vary his fitness routines by originating exercises that work facial muscles. He studies me as he expresses optimism about reducing sagging skin through cheek, forehead and chin calisthenics.
He threatens to write letters to the editor. He is in the habit of sharing colorful vocal opinions about local, state and national events with me or, in my absence, the TV news anchors. Now he wants to publish his judgments.
I like living in Craig. I don’t want to have to move or wear a disguise.
Uneasy about Joel’s plans, I am prepared with suggestions – if he should ask.
He could slow down and enjoy small pleasures. For example, after I retired, I began to savor my shower; it was no longer necessary to see how quickly I could run the old buggy through an automated wash and dry.
Similar surprises await Joel. He has been navigating the workplace freeway for 38 years; now he’ll have time for enjoyable detours.
He could perfect how he listens and responds. To me.
He can be an entertaining conversationalist, but when he used to think about work, he would answer in single syllables and look at me without recognition, let alone adoration. I anticipate his retirement, when we can have more of the intimate, in-depth, rambling conversations we enjoy.
He could try a new activity, something he would need to practice: falconry, origami, ballet. Again, I have a selfish motive. Joel does many things well. Perhaps if he once again experienced imperfect beginnings, he’d be more impressed with my novice attempts.
Last winter, I clicked cross-country boots into impossibly narrow skis, grabbed poles in a death grip and shuffled forward, my body stiff and frantic, a robot on speed, chanting, “Kick-glide, kick-glide.”
I thought I deserved hallelujahs for my exertions. Instead, when I forced Joel’s feedback with a direct, earsplitting query about how I was doing, he responded, “Decent.”
But, perhaps my worries and my self-serving suggestions are unwarranted.
This morning, as I sat in my living room, writing, I looked out the window at Joel. He stood in the sunshine, watching birds flock to the feeder he had just filled. He seemed happy, in the moment, open to the day.
What am I fussing about? My husband will bring to his retirement, the same qualities that served him well throughout his life – intelligence, curiosity, appreciation, humor.
He’ll be fine. So will I. So will we.
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