By John R. Greenwood
It sounded simple enough. Retire from the daily grind of being a transportation manager and enjoy the easy life. No more sick drivers, broken trucks, or damaged products to cover, fix, or replace. I'd have 24 hours a day to sit at my desk and write. Well, things haven't worked out as planned. Yes, I enjoy life and all the benefits retirement has afforded me, but the easy part was a myth. The one thing I wasn't prepared for was the world deciding to turn upside down. Anger and discord between my fellow citizens have replaced the stress and strain of accident prevention and timely product deliveries. Nothing quells the desire to write about a simple home improvement project or anecdote about a rambunctious grandchild quicker than reading about a crazed lunatic bombing innocent people just for the hell of it.
What I've come to realize over the last three years is that life is only as good as you perceive it to be. You can choose doom and gloom or embrace dry feet and a cool breeze. Letting the daily news soak into your skin is unhealthy and will give you a headache. Mulching maple leaves or changing the oil in my truck have become my new happy places.
I still get up before the sun does. Enjoying that first cup of coffee has remained my favorite chunk of the day. I sip it slowly while watching Youtube videos of "Mustie1" reviving an old Volkswagon Bug, Jimmy "Diresta" forging a bowie knife from a leaf spring, or Jim Baird on an eleven-day adventure running the Bonnet Plume River through the Yukon wilderness. Living vicariously through the lives of others sometimes dampens the excitement of my own self-anointed achievements, like installing a new motion light on the garage. The point is we all have our own ladder-height successes.
The "simple" fact is decisions on what to do and when, what to do and for who, and what to do and how have muddled my once perceived life of leisure into a daily sorting of priorities and head-scratches. Writing has taken a backseat to almost everything in my field of vision. As I write this, my mind is in a dozen different places. I'm trying to decide whether to keep tapping keys or snap close the laptop, throw my jeans on and snatch up that leaf that just floated by the window. Years of living by the hands of a clock are hard to shake. Mrs. G. is struggling with the same dilemma. When you spend your entire adult life with guardrails and wake-up alarms, it's hard to adjust to having choices on which road to take.
I'm not complaining; I'm blessed to have options. Retirement automatically places you in direct contact with people experiencing the same emotions and facing the same weighted concerns. Grandparents subbing as occasional daycare or transportation providers is a common theme, as well as being a qualified volunteer for any number of competing organizations. Choosing who and how often you can avail yourself can be more difficult than sorting through sixty years of memorabilia trying to decide what to keep and what to send packing.
One activity has brought my wife and me some unexpected satisfaction after retiring. We both purchased Ancestry subscriptions and immediately began researching our family histories. We've found ourselves spending a lot of time in cemeteries. Because we've remained within a six-mile radius of where we were both born and raised, we are fortunate to have most of our previous generations interred close by. Along with locating the sites of long-forgotten relatives, we began the process of cleaning, restoring, and maintaining the gravestones of several of them. This pastime led us to dozens of unexpected discoveries within both families. It also became a therapeutic and rewarding way to honor our past. We follow the National Cemetery Administration protocol for cleaning government-furnished headstones and markers. You'd think spending time in cemeteries as you enter your AARP years would be unhealthy or depressing, but it has morphed into the opposite. Along with paying homage to family and friends no longer with us, it helps strengthen your appreciation for being alive to do it. The calm and quiet are just an added bonus.
I think it's time to end this long overdue post and go snatch up those few leaves that fell during the days it took to finish it. The temperature has dropped, and Thanksgiving is fast approaching. Soon the roar of snowblowers will replace the whining of leaf blowers, and there will be more time for writing.