Thursday, August 26, 2010

Redefining retirement

One of the pleasures of parenting is meeting other parents who have kids your age.  You sit together at the sidelines of football, softball or soccer fields, cheering on your kid and theirs alike.  During halftime you chat about how busy the kids are, the demands of practice, school and family, and how crazy your lives as parents have become.

When the kids leave home, those casual, informal parent-gatherings are gone – and they leave a void. 

So what a treat to get an email out of the blue a couple of weeks ago from good friend of our college grad daughter, inviting us to a lunch with his parents. 

We instantly connected with that bond you get with people who are going through the same transitions and changes as you are.  Then we started talking about our own lives, now that the kids are grown and gone.

“You just have to redefine yourself,” said Ellen.  “You’re no longer first the parent – or even the professional if you’re retired like we are.”

“How can you retire?”  I blurted.  “What on earth do you do?  You can’t possibly travel, ski and shop all the time.  We’ve got a ton of years ahead of us - healthy, productive years.  What will you do?”

“You redefine yourself – and you redefine retirement,” she replied.

She reached into her pocketbook and pulled out a small book.

“Here’s one thing we’ve been doing,” she said. 

The book was a beautifully written and illustrated guide to learning to ski, complete with photos of body alignment and ski positioning.  Clearly, it had taken a lot of time and effort to create.

“We’re skiers,” she said, “and we thought, ‘Why not put our knowledge to use teaching other people how to ski the easiest way we can?’  So far, the book has been very positively received by ski experts all over.”

She turned the book over and showed me quotes of endorsement written by skiers whose names even I recognized.

We went on to talk about some of the other projects burning inside us, just waiting for the time to get out and get expressed – projects we didn’t have time to tackle when working and parenting on a busy, full-time schedule.  As we talked, I could see that retirement – redefined – could be every bit as busy and productive as our working, parenting years have been.

I must admit, I’m thinking about the whole concept of retirement in a new way these days.  I’m looking ahead to a day when I can devote the skills that I’ve honed, polished and refined over the years to making the world a better place for the coming generations – and have fun doing it. 

I’ll write a book, or maybe paint a picture.

I’ll happily care for my god-children (someday, hopefully, my grandkids, too) and give the young parents in our lives a much-needed break.

No doubt I’ll be busy.  With grace and luck, I’ll be productive and engaged in life – right to the very end.

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