Our retirement plan came straight out of the many guidebooks that we had read leading up to the big day. We had met with the financial people and received solid advice. We had downsized our living situation to one we were comfortable with and could manage for much, if not all, of our Golden Years. We had planned and budgeted for a big trip to celebrate and decompress a bit while Joe adjusted to a new routine. (See previous Easin’ Along posts for trip info). We had projects to putter over, books to babble about, and music to mumble the words to. We were set.
Throughout the guidebooks and the advisor meetings there is one consistent piece of advice…always plan for the unexpected. Well…the unexpected came quickly enough, and it was a wake up call…fortunately a gentle one.
We returned home after being on a wonderful five week journey along the east coast of our beautiful country and began the process of establishing a daily routine. For Helen this was no big deal. Within hours of waking on the first day back, she was planning a week that included Bible study, pottery class, exercise class, lunch with friends, choir practice, and an occasional kiss blown in my direction.
For me, the script was totally different. I stared at the walls for most of a week. To be sure, the fact that I had done the majority of the driving for five weeks presented a need for a little down time, but the most pressing need was for some structure…the question arose “What is my daily routine?”.
I have had a “real job” ever since I was umpiring Little League Baseball games at age 15. Now, 52 years later, I found myself confronting life as a healthy 67 year old man no longer in the work force, and with only a few interests that could pass for hobbies. I was unsure I was passionate enough about any causes or charities to volunteer my time to them and, not yet ready to take off on another road trip adventure. What was apparent was that the answer to what comprised my daily routine wasn’t going to jump out of the walls surrounding me in the man cave.
Knowing that I’m among many in the first wave of Baby Boomers forced to face this dilemma, I want to explore the subject of structure in our lives within future posts of Easin’ Along. As stated earlier, Easin’ Along is not intended as a “how to” for retirement. There are already several million of those out there. We’re simply going to approach the Golden Years on a slow walk and see where the need for structure and a daily routine takes us. Knowing myself, and the few interests I have at present, my structure will probably have a foundation based on Fun, Food, and the Fundamentals of Faith and Family. We will have a small touch of Finance inserted on occasion whenever lessons learned about money and planning work their way into, and become a part of, the structure of life and a daily routine. My hope is that others with join us on this Slow Walk and let us know what activities give structure to your life and how you work them into a comfortable routine. Post your comments, so we can share them here. It will be fun.
Now, about that gentle wake up call….
On the second day back from our trip, we decided that we should give ourselves a “welcome home” present of a big spaghetti dinner. This really is a treat, because Helen makes a sauce that is world class scrumptious. She prepares it in large quantities in an oversize soup kettle and then freezes it in dinner size portions. We call it “BeBe’s Beefy Spaghetti Sauce”. Cute, huh?
I went out to the garage and opened our freezer to grab a container. I noticed that the sauce was still frozen, but a little soft. I turned the temperature down a notch and reminded myself to check again the next day.
By the next morning, it was apparent that the freezer had taken on a “death rattle” and was close to expiring. By that afternoon, a bugle sounding taps would have been in order…the freezer had died. Thankfully, the freezer waited for us to return home rather than conk out four weeks earlier.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. We had taken that dependable old Sears freezer for granted for over 35 years. It had purred along every day of those years without so much as a hiccup. I still have the original invoice from when it was delivered in 1980.
This appliance had cradled popsicles for the kids, fish we had caught, deer somebody else had shot, and leftovers from food we had tried once (but never again). There had been ice cream sorted by the flavor, chicken sorted by parts, and bread sorted by date. We even kept packages of Southern Beaten Biscuits that an aunt gave us for Christmas one year and we handed out as gag gifts to the family for many years thereafter. It was always good for great laughter.
I would venture a guess that no one has specific plans for a dead freezer. The freezer just quits working and you deal with it as you choose, then move on. Nevertheless, this was a wake up call we needed…nothing lasts forever, and part of any plan calls for a plan for the unexpected. The loss of the freezer was a subtle, yet sudden event that helped us to focus on the fact that unexpected things do happen and that we need to be prepared for them. Fortunately this was only a freezer and not a fire or an automobile accident that was not adequately covered by insurance, or even worse, an illness affecting a loved one. Yes, our 35 year old, very dependable freezer, made us focus a little more intently on the need for contingencies in the future.
As for moving on, we agreed that we had to have another freezer. We also agreed that we could do with a smaller size. After all, space was at a premium after downsizing to a smaller home, and we needed some room in the garage for the bicycles.
After a little research I discovered that September was a great month for a freezer to stop working because they were on sale at Home Depot for the entire month. I went to the store and picked out one that was a perfect size for the garage. I paid the reduced sales price minus the much appreciated discount that Home Depot gives to active and retired Army veterans. The very helpful sales clerk made arrangements for delivery as well as the pickup and disposal of the old freezer. Done!
Two days later and the space for the new purchase readied, the delivery truck arrived right on time. There were two deliverymen, but only one got out of the truck. This prompted a raised eyebrow because I was curious as to how one person could manage a freezer by himself. I then learned that freezers have shed a lot of weight in 35 years and this one was light as a feather compared to our old friend.
The new one was put in place and the old one carted out and loaded on the truck. I waved to it as it was driven out of sight.
Silently, I paid tribute to an old friend for its many years of dependable service and for a job well done . Even though we don’t have as much room as we once did for ice cream, we’re now a bit more focused on having a plan for whatever comes next.
It’s all part of Easin’ Along.