Saturday, July 13, 2013

Over the Hill

Over the hill - the beginning

This post and all others in the Over the Hill series first appeared as a Column in the Good Living section of The Press, Christchurch

Ken Strongman

Retirement is an event that looms for months if not years before it begins.  There is to be an occasion of some sort; a dinner, a party, some type of farewell function.  It is a moment or two during which a presentation is made of something that one would probably never otherwise own.  And there are speeches, the best of which sound disturbingly like obituaries.  Although, with luck, the retiree also has an opportunity to speak, even to recount some scurrilous and embarrassing stories and to say a few things that have long been waiting to be said.

The event occurs and is borne with a mixture of dignity and good humour, a nagging feeing of wishing to go disgracefully held at bay unless the drinks have slid their way too easily into an empty and somewhat tense digestive system.  But that this event is not retirement becomes apparent during the next few weeks and months.  The farewell event has been nothing more than a rite of passage, a way of being eased from one state to another, from being a vibrant member of the work-force to being a marginally less vibrant member of the non-work-force. After the wedding comes the marriage.

Retirement is a process that simply starts with the big event and then extends in numerous directions for some indeterminate length of time. It begins with a feeling of having broken up from school, with the prospect of the holidays to come.  And so it is for a few weeks until one realizes that the holiday is perpetual, or at least that it will last as long as one lasts oneself.  This realization is the first of many that come thundering into consciousness with a clash of cymbals echoing somewhere in the background.

Thoughts then turn away from holidays to vague ideas about what is expected of one in retirement.  The spectre of the gradual approach of a Zimmer-filled life enters unbidden.  Odd little prompts occur at the time when one would normally have been rising from another night of semi-refreshing sleep to slide through the daily ritual that led one to work.  But these prompts lead nowhere other than to existential thought.  Oddly, the world seems to be continuing without one’s help.  How can this be?  Morbidly, is this what death will be like.  See how the thought processes are tending to deteriorate.  Of course this is not like death, since one will presumably not be around to experience its aftermath.

So, inevitably one starts to look ahead, which is, after all., what one has been doing throughout life.  But one rapidly learns not to look ahead too far – the inevitable end-point starts to approach too fast for comfort, without much light shining at the end of that particular tunnel.

Fortunately, the alternative soon arises from whatever bit of creativity that hangs over from a lifetime of misuse.  Retirement allows a whole new set of possibilities.  One is free to roam the world in search of almost anything, with nothing other than the exigencies of domesticity to get in the way.  The world at large has expectations of retirees and it might be fun to see what these are and to dispel them.  And the good thing about it, is that it gets one out of the house, much to the relief of anyone else that remains in it.

An end-point.

“The trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off.”  Abe Lemons.

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