I used to have some pretty cool retirement plans. They would have required a whole lot of strenuous not doing much. I figured I’d go to movies with my wife, ride my bike around the neighborhood, play a video game or two, cruise the Danube River, and all that kind of stuff. Take it easy and appreciate life. But I was kidding myself, just like some movie producer who’s out there planning to make money on Highlander V – in 3D.
Life rubbed my face in this fact recently. A while back happened to have some time on my hands. My regular work scaled down for a while, so I found myself in a mini-retirement. I thought to myself, this will be cool. I’ll kick back and have some fun. It’s been a tough year, so look out world—the fun train is rolling!
Since nobody cared whether I accomplished anything or succeeded in any way, I gathered up my high spirits and took on a small, fun project. That was so much fun that I moved right into a big project. And while that was going on I tacked on a huge project, which was also fun but really damned huge. By now I’ve given up all the leisure activities I had before my mini-retirement started, and it’s common in the evenings to hear me say, “Sorry sweetie, I can’t watch that movie with you tonight. I need to get some work done.”
So, you can see that mini-retirement didn’t work out for me. My retirement plans were as solid as the prediction that the Lost City of Atlantis will rise, and that UFOs will tow it to Disney World while Godzilla rides a unicycle through its streets.
My dad is retired. I’m pretty close to my dad, but something has gradually separated us. When I was younger we worked closely together for thousands of hours, and we did it comfortably and with a like mind. My dad made his living in the construction business most of his life. Before construction, he climbed out of helicopters and shinnied down ropes for a living. Before that he shot at young Chinese men for a living, and their friends shot back at him, as you might expect.
My dad lived his life in a world of things, of doing things and of making things. A very smart guy, but he didn’t graduate with the rest of his high school class because he failed English. He wouldn’t read the fiction books because he hated reading about things that weren’t true. But he unofficially attended graduation so he could receive all of the sports awards. Like I said, he’s a “doing things” guy. And as I’ve gotten older I’ve dealt more with “non-things” like numbers and words, and my life has moved gradually farther away from his.
Circumstances forced my dad to retire pretty young. A bunch of broken bones from his days of jumping out of helicopters caught up with him. His ability to do things and make things dropped to almost nothing. He never displayed much emotion—when his mom died he didn’t show much grief. One day not long after he stopped working, the city was repairing streets in his neighborhood. You could hear the construction equipment moving earth around. My dad walked outside, and he stood in his front yard and wept.
I don’t understand much. But I’m getting a sliver of understanding of what my dad’s world became once the doing of things and the making of things were taken away. I hope that separates us a bit less. Also, I guess I’d better get my shit together in case the things that my life is about disappear for me someday.
Just to let you know, this funky piece is pulled from my e-book Bring Us The Head Of The Velveteen Rabbit. All the other essays in the book are far better than this one. You’ll be shocked. I chose this one because I didn’t want to build your expectations up too much. You might particularly like”The Least Romantic Man in America,” and “Days of Wine and Mammoths.” Check it out at either Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Now I’m going to take my unapologetic, grasping, mercantile ass home and mow the yard.