Hazlett: What is retirement?

This week marks three years since I left my corporate job and entered the world of retirement.

My husband and I snicker at that term “retirement.” What does it mean exactly?

When I was working full-time, I had a fantasy retirement would bring more leisure time and less stress.

It’s true my morning routine is different now. Before, I raced down the stairs and hopped in the car, eager to get to the office early. Today, I cautiously creep down the steps, listening to creaking sounds not coming from the stairs but from my knees, and I eagerly shuffle to the bathroom, hoping to make it there in time…

Instead of discussing upcoming work assignments, like my husband and I used to do, now we say things like, “Do I hear the garbage truck? He’s early today.”

Some retirees may tell you retirement is really just trading one set of responsibilities for another.

For instance, as a professional person, I frequently gave presentations to groups, sometimes as large as 200 or 300 people. Today, I put my speaking skills to good use by giving programs at the nursing home where my mom lives. Yes, the residents occasionally nod off or turn down the volume on their hearing aids, but at least they don’t read their email while I’m talking.

Ironically, the man who hired me at my corporate job all those years ago retired the same week I did. We chatted on our last day in the office, and compared notes on the adventure ahead.

“I’ve been doing a lot of preparation for retirement,” he said. “My wife and I set up things in the house since we’ll both be home. You know, like two computers and two printers. We have a plan in place …”

Preparing for both spouses at home, you say? (You mean like being in the same room or on the same floor?)

“What action have you taken?” my former boss asked.

Uh, nothing?

“Well, what big plans do you have?”

I thought the point of retirement was freedom from plans. You know, like going to Wal-Mart at 10 in the morning if you want.

“Honestly, I just want to live a little more simply and help my family,” I said.

“Well, good luck,” he cheerily offered. As we parted, I knew he was off to do something great, like start a yoga salon in Los Angeles or be a consultant for Netflix or something.

At that point, I just wanted to get the big pile of dirty clothes in the laundry room washed and folded. Maybe even put away?!

Perhaps I’ll write a book, I thought.

On the first day, I opened a notebook, fresh and clean. Wanting to write something inspirational, I pondered a moment and then jotted, “If my last day in the office was Friday, does retirement officially start Saturday or Monday?”

Hazlett: The tale of the hydraulic log splitter

Satisfied, I closed the notebook.

There was no idle time that Monday, however. I had invited myself to tag along with my parents at a doctor’s appointment to assess Mom’s early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Why are you here?” she asked as I walked into the reception area.

“Since I’m not working, I can spend more time with you,” I said, smiling. Doesn’t every aging parent want unrequested help from their well-intended but occasionally bossy daughter?

“You mean like every day?” she asked.

The answer to her question was “yes,” although we didn’t know it at the time. And, boy, what a blessing that turned out to be. Just a few months after I left the workforce, the world changed. We all lived through a pandemic and global shutdown.

I spent nearly a year visiting my best friend who later passed away from cancer and another year helping my stepdad care for my mom at home. Those are memories for which I will always be grateful.

I have yet to read the stack of novels which has been sitting for three years or knit the afghan from skeins of yarn I bought in the summer of 2019. And, I have yet to write that book.

Maybe the first chapter will be called, “Life Lessons Learned: Sometimes Plans Change.”

Wall of signatures near the green room at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts

Contact Susan Hazlett at susanrhazlett@yahoo.com or write to her in care of The Pantagraph, 205 N. Main St., Bloomington, IL 61702-2907.

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