I’ve been picking apricots (and more apricots, and then just a few more apricots). Summertime has just begun and the beginning of harvest time is here too. Retirement is a harvest. You’re reaping the fruits of your many years of work.
It makes me think of Neil Young’s “Harvest” album and a line from a song on that album, “I’ve seen the needle and the damage done, a little part of it in everyone, milk blood to keep from running out.” My thought processes travel circuitous paths. I like Neil Young’s music and I own the requisite copies, for anyone who was a teenager in the mid-seventies, of the “Harvest” album (both vinyl and compact disk). I wish I could say I don’t get the line from the song, “Needle and the Damage Done” but retirement has provided me with new insight. No, I have not used my free time to experiment with intravenous drugs, but I have developed an awareness of the false allure that addiction provides: ESCAPE.
Escapism is one of the insidiously seductive “isms” that become more accessible with the lack of workplace time management. There’s consumerism, isolationism, totalitarianism, and alcoholism just to name a few. This takes me back to Neil’s song. Maybe the little part of addiction in everyone is what we hold on to, to keep from running out… of energy, of hope, of motivation.
This reminds me of a line from another song. This one was popular in the eighties and nineties (before political correctness was so pervasive, and probably a strong argument for political correctness) on the local 94Rock, TJ Trout Morning Show: “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me, than have a frontal lobotomy.” The line is attributed to Randy Hanzlick in Google. It seems to me that this is another, less eloquent, way of saying what ol’ Neil was saying; addiction can provide the escape needed to cope with the challenges of existence.
We all know that alcoholism rarely has a happy ending, so let’s look at the “ness’s” for possible life sustaining, addictions: happiness, fitness, awareness; and for balance, let’s throw in some “ity’s” like activity, civility… We can still drink and buy stuff, just in moderationness (or is it moderationity?). And we can always eat apricots.
After years of being on a career track (I changed lines a few times, but I was continually on a track owned by someone else) I am having trouble identifying the track I should be traveling in retirement. I watched the “Lego Movie – 2” with some of my grandkids the other night, and I felt like my retirement track was similar to the roads the Lego characters traveled – thrown down in front of me as I go. I’ve been told that this is one of the perks of retirement, but I’m always afraid I’ll do the wrong thing (really, I’m always afraid… of making the wrong choices, of offending someone, of wasting time, of wasting money, of smiling too much, of not smiling enough; it’s exhausting).
I see commercials for financial retirement plans that promise to provide the right track for retirement. I don’t think I qualify for those plans. I’m not independently wealthy with a lot of money to put in to a retirement plan. I don’t want for anything: food, clothing, shelter, entertainment; so I am doing okay, I just doubt the longevity of my retirement track. What if my track ends before I end? What if, in a here-to-for luckless life, I’m experiencing a temporary moment of luck, manifesting as fiscal adequacy? I’m afraid it will come to an unexpected and abrupt end.
My daughter, in an attempt to maintain some maneuverability in my granddaughter’s room, periodically gathers up toys that are not being played with and gives those toys to charitable organizations. While staying at our house earlier this week, six year-old granddaughter Liadan was lamenting the loss of her doll houses . Although she hadn’t been regularly engaging in play with her doll houses, she immediately recognized their absence and mourned their absence throughout her visit with us. She began to worry about other toys that might turn up missing. She is worried that her Mom, in her next toy purge, might include her Marty McFly action figure. Liadan has been enthralled with the “Back to the Future” movie franchise from the age of three. When her Mom arrived to pick her up, she immediately brought up the missing doll houses and with big tears in her eyes said, “Just promise me you won’t get rid of my Marty McFly.” Happily, her Mom agreed.
I wish I could implore the stock market not to devalue my retirement stock holdings. To whom can I cry, “Just promise me the value of Home Depot stock won’t fall”? And here I am back at the depot for my Retirement Track. I think I need to be laying tracks that embrace frugality (this is a component of my Retiree Position Description). Maybe my Retirement Tracks need to be made of recycled aluminum. There will be no golden spike in this track. I’m pretty sure that’s okay. Truly, I have enough money, I just don’t have MORE than enough money.
There are LOTS of great money quotes out there. The common theme is that it’s not about quantity or even quality, its about how you use what you’ve got. There are quite a few “time is money – time is better than money – spend time before spending money” type quotes out there too. Which brings us back to retirement, where any lack of money is compensated by availability of time.
So I will take my time (currently, my most readily-available resource) and leisurely lay my Retirement Track, except while working on grout-related projects, because there’s no “leisurely” in anything related to grout.
I hoped, when I retired, that my opportunities to behave stupidly would decrease. As I hung upside down behind my dryer which sat atop my newly-installed washer, my head approximately four feet from the ground, I realized that that was not the case. Punctuating this realization, was the fact that I was stuck. Sadly, this isn’t even the stupidest thing I’ve ever done, and yes, I did this to myself.
Last week, my washer, that has been squealing as if in severe pain for months (and which I believed would continue to do so for many more months while adequately extracting the dirt from our clothing), let out one last ear-piercing squeal, and then joined me in retirement. This necessitated another unexpected withdrawal from our retirement savings to replace the washer. Happily, Memorial Day appliance sales were still in effect. Life is good.
We purchased a washer online, and awaited its “free shipping” delivery. Frankly, I’m surprised there are still so many trucks on the streets. This whole “free shipping” thing is practically negating the need for individuals to own trucks. We do own a truck, but we don’t possess the muscles needed to lift heavy items on to and then off of the truck so we take advantage of “free shipping” when available.
Speaking of muscles, we had the delivery men put the newly-purchased washer in the garage until our son, Zachary (who does possess muscles) could help us with the exchange of the working washer for the non-working washer. The washer purchased was a different brand from the one that retired (after only three and a half years, which is why we went with a different brand), so we thought the whole dryer stacking thing, necessitated by the space available, would be a challenge. We were right.
Zachary manipulated the washer and dryer so as to unscrew the brackets holding the two appliances together, lifted the dryer off of the washer, moved the old (that’s a sad adjective for an appliance that was only three and a half years old) washer out of the tiny space that serves as our laundry room. The door to the room had to be removed in order to accomplish these tasks. I scrubbed up the disgusting mess of lint, liquid laundry soap, and deceased insects that we found beneath the washer while Zachary loaded up the new washer. He brought the new washer in, hooked it up, and put the dryer vent hose on the dryer in preparation for mounting it atop the washer. The brackets previously used would not work with the new washer, so we went with industrial-strength Velcro (thank you George de Mestral). They don’t sell it in the box anymore, so it must have permanently attached things that were not supposed to be permanently attached and was then taken off of the market (we took this as a good sign as to its dryer/washer coupling capability). Zach lifted the dryer on to the washer, squeezed behind the washer to connect the dryer vent to the outside outlet, pushed it back, climbed on top of the newly-erected laundry-handling structure to peer behind it ensuring that all connections were in place. All of this had taken much longer than I had estimated when requesting his assistance. His family rushed off to a Little League end-of-season celebration, armed with our sincerest appreciation. I popped a load of laundry into the washer, which was washed with no appliance-emitted squeals of protest. I then transferred the load to the dryer, and this is when the excitement began.
Within a few moments of putting the clothes in the dryer, I noticed steam on the laundry room window. I suspected that the dryer vent had been blown off of my blow-hearty dryer. I brought in a ladder, climbed it, with the top of my head briefly colliding with the top of the door jam, continued on to the top of the dryer, peered down the narrow space between the back of the dryer, and the wall, and confirmed that the dryer vent had come off of the dryer. My first thought was, “DRAT.”
I was as determined not to bother my son, as I was to finish my laundry (a second load in the washer, awaited its turn in the dryer). I climbed off of the dryer, grabbed a flashlight, a roll of duct tape, and climbed back on to the dryer, leaving whatever little bit of sense I had behind. With the flashlight hanging from one wrist, and the roll of duct tape around the other, I wrapped my foot around the previously combative door jam, and squeezed my head, arms and torso – head first – behind the dryer. After unsuccessfully trying to attach the vent hose to the dryer, the top of my head throbbing as the blood rushed to the door jam inflicted knot, I attempted to remove myself from behind the dryer. This is when I realized, that my propensity for doing stupid things had accompanied me into retirement. I was able to dislodge myself by performing a semi-Spiderman-like wall climb combined with a spastic-snake-like slither.
Before attempting to hang upside down behind the dryer again, I used the dolly to move it a few inches further from the wall into the room to provide a wider dryer-vent-attaching work space. After three more tries (bungy cords, industrial-strength Velcro, and back to duct tape) it appeared that I was successful (the ol’ duct-tape-on-the-end-of-the-vent-with-slotted-overhang-rolled-back-on-one-edge-of-each-tab-all-the-way-around-allowing-it-to-be-pushed-up-to-the-dryer-surface-without-gathering-in-upon-itself technique). I have had to reschedule a mammogram, due to multiple painful bruises across my chest, but I promise you, that I was never so happy to be small-breasted as I was while wedged upside down behind the dryer.
I’m drying a load of clothes right now. I think there’s steam building up on the laundry room window.
Yesterday, I successfully emptied my little RV’s waste tanks. I was simultaneously proud and disgusted. I was equipped with vinyl gloves, Clorox wipes, gallon jugs of water, and anxiety. Happily, no one was watching. Once the tanks were empty, I flushed the drainage hose thoroughly, wiped everything down with Clorox wipes (including the bottoms of my shoes); disposed of gloves, empty water jugs and soiled Clorox wipes; came home and showered. I still haven’t decided whether to wash the clothes I was wearing with a generous amount of bleach or just burn them.
I was touched and proud when my dearest friend told me that she felt I have earned wings (this was even before I had successfully removed the waste from my RV). Sadly, I know that any wing earning I’ve cooked up has been well seasoned with pride, self-pity, resentment and a bunch of other stuff that I’m too embarrassed to list. In the greatest display of friendship, my friend chooses to focus on the positive aspects of my behavior. It did get me started thinking about what kind and size of wings I may have earned. In keeping with my Retirement Position Description which includes writing, I wrote the following short, semi auto-biographical story (of course, I am still alive).
Tina died. We all will. Tina had been a moderately good person. She hadn’t been bad or evil, because that would have taken too much energy. She hadn’t been great or wonderful, because that would have taken too much energy. She watched a lot of television.
As far as earning wings goes, her wings reflected her life. They were small; incapable of supporting flight. When she jumped, they took her higher, and kept her elevated longer, than she could have managed without them. They could best be described as “hopper wings.”
Television is not broadcast in the afterlife, so Tina had much more time on her hands than she had while living. She spent that time learning how to use her hoppers. She hopped. Since her hoppers could not lift her high into the heavens, she hopped around the world seeing what was going on. Some of it was good. Some of it wasn’t good, but it was real and it was interesting; sometimes even entertaining like television. Like television, she couldn’t change the storyline. The difference was that she truly cared about what she saw. She wanted to comfort the sad, laugh with the happy, and share the joy she felt when she saw things that were good. She hopped. Maybe, she hopped a little higher.
One time, while hopping, she encountered a low-flying, impressively wing-endowed, heavenly being. She had just enough time to ask a question: “How’d you get those wings?” Luckily, the answer was just one word: “Love.” Tina realized what she had begun to suspect; love lifts us up. Love is “Miracle Grow” for wings. Tina realized that caring about others was love. Tina realized that she loved and that she was loved and Tina’s wings grew.