The most frequent question any retiree gets asked is “What do you do all day long?” sometimes followed by a forlorn statement of “I don’t know what I would do without work.”
I know you think I’m going to wax on about all of the obvious glories of retirement that include things like travel to exotic places, making the world a better place by volunteering for organizations that no one has ever heard of, or training for that ultra-marathon that no one in his right mind should be thinking about doing.
All of those are great things. But all of them take a lot of time, and/or planning, and/or money.
No, the best thing about being retired is taking care of shit around the house that you’ve just never had time to do. Believe me, if I have prepared well and constructed an excellent “to do” list, I can putter about with the best of them and not feel a moment of existential angst over whether my life has meaning. I have important things to do.
Feeding the birds
I have taken on the responsibility of feeding all of the birds of Spring Valley, my community. Ever since I hung, not one, but two, wild bird feeders on my back fence, the word has gotten out, and birds come from far and wide to pillage my feeders. What used to last all day now gets savaged in a couple of hours, and then they line up along the fence, moping and staring at me inside the house hoping I’ll come out and fill them again, ignoring the two inch carpet of seed they have wasted, throwing it left and right as they look for the good stuff, whatever that is.
I went out last night to talk with them about the wastefulness, the expense, and their apparent lack of gratitude.
“Cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap,” was all they had to say.
Cleaning stuff up
Do you have any idea how many years it has been since I had cleaned out–I mean really cleaned out–my workbench drawer and cabinet? No one with a real job has time to do that sort of thing. I actually took everything out of every container on every shelf and threw away a full trash barrel of stuff and ditched a Christmas tree holder that I have come to loath but have been too cheap to replace. I went so far as to wipe down each shelf. The grime was impressive.
The drawer was a revelation. It too had plenty of trashables, but more remarkable was how many things of value I discovered. Like, why can I never find a tape measure when I need one?
Why can’t I ever find the right drill bit?
The result of my many years of disorganization has been me frequently storming around the house in the midst of a project, angry that I can’t seem to keep myself equipped with even the most basic tools. By the way, has anyone seen my Phillips screw driver?
I am in a continual war to create enough space in the garage for both of our cars. The battle began in ernest when the kids started moving away to college in 2000 and using my garage as their free storage unit. Well, to be fair, it was the ripple effect caused by their leaving and my wife and I reclaiming the two bedrooms that we had loaned to them for eighteen years. This meant boxing up all of their toys, trophies, games, and books so that we could re-take the house.
The lack of wall space available because of their boxes of stuff means that I’m continually looking for creative solutions of where to put everyday household stuff that we are continually tripping over. There are just not enough corners to pile this crap into. Part of every day is coming up with solutions to complex problems that can only be solved by a simple 29-cent hook.
I like to grow things. It started when we bought our place in 1980. It was move-in ready on the inside and a barren wasteland on the outside. One of my greatest joys has been watching my pine trees grow from one-gallon twigs to the 80-foot sentinels that surround the front yard.
On a smaller scale, I try to keep a vegetable garden going year-round now. Most recently, I rescued this tomato plant from Dixieline. I felt sorry for it because it was sickly looking with drooping yellow leaves, sort of dried up and spotted. Kind of reminded me of me. I brought him home and replanted him in a pot with some good soil and home-made compost, and as you can see, he is no longer the 98-pound weakling of the garden department. I can’t wait for the yellow tomatoes he is going to give me as summer comes on.
So, you see, it doesn’t take much to fill up a day. This doesn’t even include exercise, yoga, reading, napping, and doing absolutely nothing–all things at which I excel. But just getting through a few items on the ever-present to-do list can leave me feeling completely fulfilled and satisfied, ready to reward myself with a cold brew out on the back deck where I can relax and listen to the sounds of evening coming on.
“Cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap.”