I am over four years into retirement, and I am amazed by how my life and, even more profoundly, my outlook has evolved. The outside observer, and perhaps my old self, might consider my life to be too simple or boring or that I am now lacking in drive, vision and purpose. All of which might be true. But I no longer feel the need to defend or explain like I did in the beginning. But here I am defending and explaining.
I have discovered that the simple, boring, routine things I do can be extremely satisfying. I am a big proponent of the beverage progression of the day. That morning cup of coffee (thank you, Benny) sipped hot as I read the paper and plan the day. Lunch is accompanied by what Lo would call “soda” and the rest of us know as seltzer. Big fan of black cherry. The afternoon green tea, soon to be iced green tea often enjoyed while reading. And the liquid highlight of the day – cocktail hour- ideally served on the patio watching birds take advantage of the bird bath. Birds drink and bathe in the same water, and the bathing is a fascinating display of flapping, dipping and more flapping. I am by no means a bird watcher, but it makes me happy to mark the daily visit of the cardinal couple or have a rare hummingbird siting, paired with a glass of rosé. Not boring.
We continue to watch the granddaughters on a regular basis. From one angle this is certainly a boring activity. A three year old’s taste in movies is terrible. A six month old is on a endless loop of sleeping, diapers and feedings and has a notoriously short attention span. And yet, there is little to compare to the joy of a holding a warm, smiling dumpling of a baby or making her laugh by shaking your head at her. Even the way that Cora painfully pinches as she clutches you is a joy.
Lo had a sleepover here this past weekend. It was 24 hours filled with all manner of grandparent treats – a trip to the park, “soda,” “special” cookies (frosted animal crackers) and exploring the corners of this old house. In a bowl of sea shells collected over the ages, Lo discovered a hidden trove of shark teeth – dozens – and squealed “Shark Tooth” over and over. I have no idea where they came from. I have no memory of finding them. As she tucked one into her pocket to take home, the wise Lo suggested “you got them from your grand-muvver” And I wondered if it was true. My Nana appears to me in mysterious ways every day.
All excitement and soda and special cookies aside, I dreaded one thing about the sleepover – the potential lack of sleep. I am an early-to-bed person. Even in college, I did not stay up late. I do not ring in the new year, because I don’t want to stay up until midnight. Alas, my fear was realized. Lo slept a couple of hours and then woke up crying around 10:00. Unable to convince her to lay back down, I made the mistake of bringing her into the guest room with me (figuring no need for my husband to also suffer in that he might be needed on the early shift.)
As you can imagine, the ever enthusiastic Lo recognized the opportunity in front of her. After a few moments of “resting” (having traded sides of the bed twice and rearranged the pillows), she announced that “I think I am done with my nap now.” With some semblance of discipline, I did not heed her multiples calls of “lets go play now.” The longer the night went on, the more I adjusted to the situation. How many times will I have the opportunity to spend the wee hours with a 3 year old who amused me with lines like “Nana, you go sleep. I gonna rock in the rocking chair for a wittle bit.” Or “Nana, I want to snuggle your heart.” ? Which was followed by her plopping heavily onto my chest. I sang to her, pulling out a surprising number of lullabies. I told stories. And “one more story.” I told her that now it was time for sleep. It was 1:00 in the morning. “I don’t know how,” she replied. I suggested the path to sleep included thinking of things you love until you get sleepy. I suggested puppies, the people you love, running outside, coloring and painting as worthy ideas. A few minutes later, she whispered: “Nana. I am thinking about mermaids. I want to go back to my crib.”
Lo will not remember that night. She barely did the following morning. Yes, I was exhausted the next day. Was it boring? Probably. Was it simple? For sure. And yet, it was filled with joy and humor and love.
I maybe thought retirement would be filled with travel, with dining out, with indulgences I had put off while working full time and raising the kids. There has been some good travel and more is planned. But we eat at home most every night because my husband insists the food is better than nearly all restaurants. (Bless this man). I spend less and less on things. I am finally ready to let go of the clothes I was “saving” for some unknown and unlikely purpose. We are slowly getting rid of unneeded and unloved things and recently donated to a local fund-raiser hundreds of CDs that we don’t remember buying and don’t remember playing. However, I won’t deny that retirement is indeed full of indulgences. Except now I recognize that the true indulgences might be watching birds take a bath, appreciating the wonder of shark teeth of unknown provenance, a midnight heart-snuggle and an occasional soda with a side of special cookie.