Upon the newly sprung clover was a somewhat deflated balloon, blue with white writing, "Happy Retirement." I guess the kids really do have the wheel now, don't they. I guess our job really is to get comfy in the back seat and answer any questions should they ever have need of our wisdom. As for me, I hope retirement brings more hugs, more love, more inner serenity from having fought the good fight. Yet, as with all retirees, I have a need to volunteer and be of use, to have that good "mother" and good "grandmother" vibe.


I had dreaded retirement for so long, I guess that's why I kept on working at the office. I was Rose who filed the paperwork so perfectly, Rose who got everyone's coffee order just right, Rose who handled the difficult customers so well that they became Mister Insurer's most evangelical supporters. Who was I without all that? Just Rose? But when I met Sarah all that began to change. She took me on walks in the countryside with her spaniel and we talked about nature and poetry. She invited me to help out at the church mother and toddler group and after only a few weeks I was leading the singing time. I was surrounded by little kids, something I never thought I would even like and I was loving it. I had enough money in the bank, so I cut my hours to part time and even then I found it difficult to “fit work in.” I was daydreaming in the office about ways to bring the rhymes alive for the kids. At the group some Mom's would seek out my advice and to my surprise I recalled more than I ever thought I would. It was advice from a Mom of yesteryear of course, but mixed with the wisdom that only time can bring.

When I was staring down seventy I gave in my notice to quit. I'd wondered for years if I'd have a lingering sadness on that day, but instead it was like feeling the first kiss of warmth after winter. I had no-one to impress, no schedule but the one I wanted to keep, I can't have been this free since I was a toddler myself. I found other retirees who flew small planes, played golf with friends and volunteered at the mission down town. They had time to be philosophical, to notice the small changes in society, to reawaken their inner idealist.


As a child retirement was synonymous with death. It was that thing you did when you were too useless to work at a "real job." Now that I'm there I see it's all backwards. Retirement is when you get your life, for the first time ever, should you make it that far. I wish I'd been a hippie and made my life my own all along instead of following the corporate path like some damn nodding donkey. I wish I'd had the courage to walk my own path, make a difference. When I look back, now that I have time to think instead of working twelve hour days and being distracted with television and the internet, I see my path like a bulldozer, nothing but wreckage behind me.

I was an idealist as a child, a nature boy. Sure I played shoot'em ups and made guns, who didn't? But I never wanted to be one that harmed the Earth. I could have been a tiger, bravely weaving through life's jungle, leaving not a mark. It would have been hard, it would have meant sacrifice, but then maybe now I'd be like that Indian guy who single handedly replanted a forest instead of having a home full of the latest gadgets. Maybe I'd have been home more when my kids were little, maybe we'd know each other better.

Like everyone else I bought the McMansion as soon as I could and kept it so warm that even in winter a sweater wasn't necessary. I bought red meat and drove not the most efficient car, but the most prestigious one to impress the guys at work. I went on foreign vacations, flying all over the world. Every thing I ever enjoyed or bought caused pollution. Now in retirement I feel that inner child stretch and yawn, look around, rummage my head for memories and ask me what the hell I did. It's a great question, what the hell did I do? What did I sell out my principles for? Money? I can't take that with me. My kids and grandkids will make their own way just fine, wouldn't it have been better to leave them with a planet that wasn't dying?


For fifty years I was corporate climber, eating up-market ready meals with sitcoms, living vicariously through movie stars instead of leaving my condo. I laughed at my sister and her “greenies” with their alternative lifestyle, baking their own bread and dancing improvised music in town halls and forests alike. I had the designer outfits and the most perfect shoes ever made. I had the granite counters. I had teeth whiter than fresh paper. I could find lovers on the internet as easily as ordering a pizza. Then I retired.

It was fine at first, I spent more time on the internet, ate more pizza. My soft middle became softer and then the depression began. I wanted to go back to work, I had status there, I was someone. Now what was I? Some over the hill woman desperately buying hair dye and expensive wrinkle reduction creams? I'd lived the independent life, I'd had the best of everything. I wasn't annoyed by kids or weighed down by a husband. But my “friends” scattered when the depression deepened, it was mental illness after all. They didn't go all at once, but their calls became fewer until they stopped all together. So I did the only thing I could, I called my sister and she came before morning, still smiling like a twelve year old. She said “welcome back” and I cried, I don't know why, but I did.


Retirement was never an option for Davy and me. It wasn't that we never worked, we worked so hard sometimes we wondered if our love was even still there. It wasn't that we didn't save, we did, we saved every month. But then lightening struck. Our daughter was hit by a car and brain damaged, she was still our Raina but everything she had learnt since pre-K was gone. So at fifteen she needed physiotherapy, speech therapy, intensive lessons from specialists – and that was just the basics. The list of recommended treatments went of for pages of close-set typing. After her hospital discharge nothing was free.

The driver was uninsured and our savings were disappearing fast. The community was generous, fundraising tens of thousands, but it was gone sooner than we ever could have predicted and still the bills keep rolling in. Now one of us must be home for her twenty-four seven or we need a “baby-sitter” she knows. We sold the house, moved into a condo, we have one car and eat the cheapest food. There is nothing left in our bank account, not even for our own funerals, but what can we do? Give her up to the state? I'll be in my free-coffin before I let that happen. Brain damage or not, Raina is the joy of our lives and we love her infinitely.

She's starting to read again now, just small words. She bakes bread and paints, she is kind to the dog and laughs freely. Her brother says he'll keep her when we're gone and I know he will, he's a good lad, patient considering all the attention and money that got diverted to his little sister. He says he has everything he needs from us already, he has a solid core, he knows who he is and in that way he's richer than most. I can't think how he got so wise or what we did to deserve a boy like that, but we thank God for him and his sister every day.

Family Life

Granny fought retirement like it was her final chapter before death, like she could push back the inevitable by punching the clock just a few years longer. She and Grandpa had more than enough to sit back and drink darjeeling every day, natter with friends and walk their toy poodle "Snow." Grandpa had asked Ben and Grace for help and together they tag teamed her into submission with ideas of things to do. The next chapter would her life as a volunteer, a helper of her friends and someone with enough time to take leisurely bike rides along the sea wall. It was a chapter where she would be able to dedicate time to her husband and family, really making the most of her golden years. Instead of having two hours a day to do what she wanted there would be no restrictions.


A mouth full of hairpins was all the retirement that was coming for Ivy. After years as a soldier her pension barely covered her rent. Sometimes she'd be standing in the salon so long she'd feel the ghost of the shrapnel that tore into her knee ligaments, simple shards of metal that ended her service career. The years that stretched ahead were all of new brides and getting their hair just right was a matter of "life and death." To her credit, Ivy gave every impression of agreeing with the sentiment and each one emerged for her big day as a story book princess.


Olive was born retired. She went from a luxurious childhood to a well appointed marriage. Motherhood that was assisted by a nanny per child as well as a housekeeper and groundsman. She was the belle of the manor and always wore the slightly harassed look of one under pressure. It was "work" to organize the staff, to keep them productive and on task, upholding the standards she and the duke expected. Every two or three months she'd leave on vacation to relax from the stress of it all in a five star resort.

Mystery & Detective / Police Procedural

Retirement was a four letter word to Mac. Every year at his appraisal the matter was raised, over fifty-two, adequate pension, when was he handing in his badge? Every year he'd make light of his age and smile, his mouth returning to a grim slash as he made his way to the brown formica door. The job was his life. What was retirement with his wife gone? Would he be spending more quality time at her grave?