The Life of Riley

Ah retirement, or at least the concept of it. Now a days no one really retires. We just become a different kind of busy. I chose volunteering, someone else might pick a part time job, which by the way is what a lot of volunteering turns into these days. It started out as promising to show up a few days a week, but as they figured out how smart all that experience seem to make you coupled with an insane work ethic, and well, there you have it. “I’m sort of retired” becomes your standard reply to “What are you doing these days?”

For me, I was always only sort of retired. I jumped into volunteering for a nonprofit almost immediately after turning in my retirement notice. That was coupled with my seeming inability to walk away from a seasonal teaching job that had consumed the last twenty years of my career and has now morphed into it’s fifth last year of doing it. I am trying to determine if they are that desperate or I am that good, pretty sure it’s desperation. Either way, I have been cajoled into contracting a year at a time for the last five years. But there is light at the end of the tunnel, a very long tunnel. I am slowing down and finding other things to occupy my time. I am in short heading towards the “actually, pretty much, retired” phase.

So what do retired people really do with all that time. The answer is a little of this and a little of that. When truly enjoying the art of retirement, you can actually answer the question “What are you doing today?” with “Nothing.” If reminded that you did that yesterday, just reply “But I wasn’t finished.” On those days when all I have scheduled is nothing, my day starts when I wake up. Follow that up with a couple slow savored cups of coffee, a perusing of the newspaper, including a few puzzles, and then a discussion about what’s for lunch while discussing what’s for dinner.

Alright, I exaggerate. Retirement, other than our Covid-19 quarantine period when the previous statement was pretty accurate, HAS been the life of Riley. I have traveled, albeit for the most part by car, to several of my bucket list destinations. (for reference see a few of my blogs, “The Call of the Road”, “Steel City”, “We’ve Reached Atlanta”) I even got out west for a ski trip with several friends half my age, I think they felt a need for adult supervision and truthfully, their selection might have been poorly thought out. The body may be old but someone needs to explain that to my head and heart.

I think that the best part of retirement has to be the lack of a hard and fast time frame. You get to go to bed when you want to and if you feel like it, get up in time for sunrise or sleep in if you don’t. When traveling, unless you have those required boarding times hanging over your head, you can take your time. You can even stay a few days longer or just stop to visit old friends along the way. You will get home when you are ready to be home. The freedom of not having to look at your watch to be sure you are where you have to be when you need to be, is freeing. My watch is used more to see how many steps I got in than to tell me the time of day. My activity choices now revolve around whether it’s light outside or dark.

Case in point. Today is one of those glorious nothing on my schedule days. I have found time to savor my coffee, listen to some music, do a little fiction reading, get my Valentine’s obligation done, and even write this piece. My only questionable act so far, I reserve the right for one or two more, was to take a walk around the block. Why is that questionable? It is five degrees outside and that might be tolerable for a polar bear, but there’s also the infamous windchill making it feel like seven below. I am going to tell you that the difference is negligible since five degrees is cold, period. But, it was necessary, or so says my doctor who has prescribed it. Did she know it was going to be this cold and why wasn’t she out walking with me? I guess she was hanging out at the emergency room waiting for them to bring me in frozen. But the good news is that this too shall pass. A week from today, my wife and I will be headed to much warmer climes where we will replace today’s ice under our feet with white sand and surf. I think I can already feel it oozing up between my toes.

Ah, the Life of Riley.

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