There was good and bad news this week.
According to our new financial adviser with the fancy software, I — along with my husband — will be able to retire! Not that my withdrawal from the workforce is immediately imminent, but a life of leisure is definitely in the cards. Hip, hip, hoo-freaking-ray!!! The flipside? In the next few years, I need to find something to occupy all that time.
“So, what are you going to DO every day?” my daughter asked, upon hearing the news over dinner.
“Oh, you know,” I replied, picking at my Brussels sprouts. “Sleep late every morning, putter around the house, volunteer here and there…”
The reality is: I have no freaking clue.
First of all, I don’t sleep late. That went out with my teens. If I can snooze until 7 a.m., that’s a banner Saturday.
Secondly, puttering isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. I know. I’m already a world-class putterer. Every weekend, I putter. And you know what? There’s never an end product! Why do you think there are 28 freaking unfinished projects in my bedroom alone right now? It’s taking me 15 years to organize one freaking closet!!
Clearly, I’m freaking out over the notion of a permanent sabbatical.
Ironically, I used to get paid to fill people’s leisure time. In the ’70s, I worked as an activities director in a retirement community. (Anyone remember Clearview City on old Highway 10?)
I organized potluck suppers and tea dances, taught craft classes and water aerobics. Heck, I even called BINGO three times a week. (I was actually very good at it, too. I had a joke for every call: “B-4. Not after!” “G-55. Gee, officer! I was only going the speed limit!” “B-9. Not malignant. Good news, Mrs. Jones!” Oh, I was a laugh riot.)
Under my guidance, the retirees’ days were filled with macramé workshops, dinner theatre outings and “Stay Fit While You Sit” classes. In the mornings, I’d hang out with the old guys in the billiards room — sipping Sanka, smoking Luckies and shooting the breeze. In the afternoon, the gals would crowd the ceramics studio to glaze ashtrays and cookie jars. They appeared so happy, so content.
“I can’t wait to retire,” I’d say to myself, though the milestone seemed light years away.
Then, in the late ’90s, my father retired after a long career in the insurance business. He spent less than one week puttering, then — banished to his study by my mother (who was obviously freaking out, too) — accepted a volunteer post that occupied every 9-to-5 moment spent not puttering on the golf course.
This was more blessing than curse. Dad wasn’t a good putterer, either.
“Just think of all the things you’ve always wanted to do. Then do them!” a friend said over decaf.
“But that’s just it!” I replied. “Left to my own devices, I’ll never get anything done. I can fritter away 24 unscheduled hours like nobody’s business.”
Times have changed, I told her. These days, you have to have something to SHOW for your retirement. Build a house for Habitat. Join the Peace Corps. Enter the Senior Olympics. It’s a lot of pressure, I tell you.
“And don’t make me think about the old man constantly underfoot. I’ll kill him before the first social security check arrives!”
A sense of dread washed over me. Or was that the coffee? I suddenly had to pee.
Returning from the restroom, I glanced at all the gray-haired patrons of the coffee shop, updating their Facebook statuses on their laptops. It hit me — the idea that would take me into retirement and beyond: I would become the world’s first personal activities director, helping clueless baby boomers fill their days with random stuff to do. I could set up shop right there in the café — a concierge for the gold watch set — guiding aimless oldsters to lectures, Zumba and Chinese classes. All I’d ask in return is that they’d take me with them.
So there you have it: My retirement plan. I’ve got a few years yet, but I can’t wait to get started. In the meantime, if you need a good Bingo caller, I’ll work for free.
“B-8. B-8. I don’t know what she ate, but I’m sure Bea ate it.”