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Other old men

Interim Report on Retirement No. 3 (or is it 4?)

Other old men, not having seen me for a few years, seem obligated to ask, "So how do you keep busy?"

The clichéd answer to this clichéd question is: "I'm so busy I don't know how I had time to work." That's gilding the bagel a bit.  At least one old man I know, and you do too, complains periodically about being bored, especially when winter hangs on and the temperature aggravates Raynaud's syndrome.

But to the answer of this old man to the perennial question of another old man...

For one thing I maintain a fleet of family cars.  This afternoon, for instance, in preparation for a grandson's trip, I checked the oil in the Honda CRV, reset the idiot light telling me to check the engine maintenance, and finally learned how to elevate the driver's seat for use by a vertically challenged spouse, for whom the car was purchased originally with the thought that, like its bigger brother, our Pilot, she could sit up high and not have to drive looking through the steering wheel.  Maybe.

Said Pilot recently came of age and required a heavy application of green stuff to enable it go the second 100,000 miles. And the twins' carriage (Valley Streamers will remember their first one, in which Mom strolled them all around the town), a Ford Fusion with 50,000 miles and several scratches on it, is due for new front brakes.

In mid-life as an ecclesiastical functionary I was asked if not that, the pastoral thing, then what?  My reply went in two directions.  One was Wall Street.  The other was service station.  The Howard gene has a mechanical aptitude. Grandpa was a machinist with nine fingers.  Uncle Jimmy had patents for differentials. Cousins Jay and Paul were graduated from engineering schools.  Bobby's mid-life reassessment might have been the Howard gene asking for a hearing.  And now getting it at eighty-three.

What do I do in retirement?  Tend the pet dog.  Tappy needs a lot of tending.  Barbara and I share the demands she makes.  On most mornings, after a night when I have twice lifted her on to our California king, she waddles into the bedroom while I'm dressing and eyes me balefully.  As if she needs my attention and wishes she didn't.  I know her moves and moods almost as well as she knows mine. I grab a couple of New York Times plastic wrappers, stuff them into my down jacket, and invite the bichon frise to accompany me to the snow berm which in warmer season would be a curbside lawn. The dog diddles and piddles and finally does something else, after which she leads me back into the house where, too often I must admit, a treat awaits her.

Then she wiles away the day snoozing at my feet, beneath the desk or alongside the recliner, and, as the need arises and I offer my own baleful gaze, she accompanies me to a small room on the first floor where she keeps watch while my feet are covered (check the KJV for an explanation of this euphemism). Maybe she thinks she's doing to others as she would have others do for her, in compliance with the doghouse Golden Rule. 

Other than cars and dog there's computer.  Four or more hours at it daily.  Everything important.  Weather, as in the eternal quest for a run of days above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Finances: reconciling bank accounts daily; tracking retirement funds; checking balances on credit cards; preparing the IRS returns; tracking the stock market.  Correspondence, electronic and snail mail. And, of course, this present endeavor, maintaining the website, which involves not only composing words but finding pictures and repairing worn-out programs becoming in the process something of a guru in a program now abandoned by Microsoft.  The Howard gene helps.

Most of the other endeavors which fill my days are familiar to you.  Concerts, fifty-five this season.  Crossword puzzles (I am especially fond of the Acrostic every other week in the New York Times). Baking pies, like yesterday's deliciously tart black plum.  Arranging for others to maintain the inside and out of our colonial.  And, of course, church, or, more accurately, churches, since we substantially support two, neither of which has been subjected by name to my critical inquiry; but which, if you know how to read between the lines and had been there praying with me, inform my occasional sorties into the ways Christians practice their faith.

Yep, reviewing what I've just written, I could endorse the verdict previously rejected, that there's so much to do I don't know how I ever found time to work.



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