Retirement – Another View
by Rima Magee
What a lovely word is retirement. It translates into not having to work and the money still comes in regularly. There it is, on the bank statement at the month’s beginning. I can schedule bill payment and decide which delightful activity I can indulge myself with this month. I’ve never flown a kite. Maybe I can do that! There are a lot of choices for drives: North to gorgeous San Francisco; East to exciting Las Vegas; West to Catalina, and South to Mexico. Oh-oh! We’ve already done that and that’s another story.
But first, housework. There is one aspect of life that does not change with retirement — household chores.
Meals must be cooked, dishes washed, floors swept, clothes laundered and dust cleared away. Unless you are wealthy enough to live in a high-rise with a cast of servants at your bidding, you still must do these chores as you have done them all of your adult life. I’m speaking of us women, of course.
Our men retire to the golf course or the couch where their heaviest activity is pressing the TV remote. Forget looking forward to relaxing in the recliner with a cold drink and watching favorite movies together. Unless Himself has gone elsewhere, like to the lake to go fishing, I may be un-relaxed watching snippets of movies or old shows or parts of sports events as he merrily clicks away at the remote.
At this point, I go to the kitchen, open the refrigerator and stare at its contents. A voice floats in from the family room. “What’s for dinner, Honey?” An old familiar tune. Normally, I react as Pavlov’s dogs — a conditioned reflex. This time, I stomped into the other room, glared at him, and coldly remarked, “I’m retired. Fix it yourself!” I went out into the garden, after slamming the door, and started beheading the roses. Next I knew, a pair of tender arms were embracing me. “No problem,” he said. “Let’s just go out. There’s a new restaurant downtown I’d like to try.”
My next-door neighbors, like many seniors, have dispensed with the cooking part of it. They go out to eat dinner. Any cooking done at home is minimal. Go into any restaurant between four and five in the afternoon, and you will see most of the tables occupied by the elderly enjoying dinner at the luncheon rates. (Some restaurants have become aware of this trend, and have set their dinner hours starting at four instead of five.) Heigh-ho! So the elderly come out an hour earlier. No flies on us!
Eating at home means either throwaway dishes, or washing dishes. My daughter’s father-in-law asked one time, “Why is it dishes never come out of the dishwasher and clothes never come out of the dryer?” I’m told he asked this only once. A steely-eyed glare shut him up.
I fell into this trap, myself. Until one time Himself asked me, somewhat kindly, if he had any clean socks. He did, yes, but they were still in the dryer. He wasn’t being critical, you understand. Just curious. But I was doing something else when the dryer dinged and I wasn’t ready to take care of it. Then I forgot about it. I solved this problem by providing him with enough pairs of socks in the drawer to last about three weeks in event I got distracted again. I’m retired, right? The laundry can wait, dang it!
Then it occurred to me that we needn’t fight over the remote. Or anything else, for that matter. After all, we have been together for enough years to share the ups and downs. We do have more than one TV in the house.
Many couples get away from the chores from time to time. They go out dancing. They save up and go on cruises. They drive across country to visit relatives and friends. They eat dinner at other peoples’ houses. These husbands heed and react positively to the cry of “I married him for better or for worse but not for lunch!”
But you know what? It really is nice to have him home for lunch. After all those years when we were both working, raising kids and wondering which bills to pay this month. We have time to talk now and to reminisce about those things that made us a couple in the first place.
I may still have household chores, but I can do them at my own speed. And I can do things I didn’t have time for before, as does he. Maybe I’ll get my own set of clubs and play golf, too. And going fishing sounds like fun.
What a lovely word.