Last week, I glanced over at my dining room table and smiled. Over the years, that table had hosted countless gatherings of family and friends. Pampered Chef parties, home décor parties and birthday parties were celebrated upon its surface. My daughter spent years at that table as she did homework and projects for classes at Woodland Elementary. The table served as a catch-all for Christmas gifts in need of wrapping, as well as piles of mail that we swore we’d someday wade through. During a power outage, my husband, daughter and I played games by candlelight as we listened to a scratchy old transistor radio. During the quarantine, we spent many hours at that table as we put together puzzle after puzzle. The old dining room table, with its clawfoot chairs worn from use, has also served as my husband’s home office since the beginning of the quarantine.
I made a pass with a Lysol-laden cloth earlier today as he toiled over his work. Spread across the table’s surface were hundreds of papers with computations that he’d made over the past few months. As I gingerly cleaned around his work, I thought to myself, soon. Soon, that dining room table would once again be free of paperwork, computers, screens and calculators and adding machines. Soon, we would be able to use the table for which it was meant. Soon, the computers would be gone, and the papers would be shredded. Soon, because something new is on the horizon.
Hubby is retiring in a few short weeks. After more than 30 years of dedicated work for the Missouri Department of Revenue (MODOR), he decided it was time to enjoy his life. Living through a pandemic will do that to a person. It elicits appreciation for those in one’s life, it restores feelings of gratitude. It also enables one to realize which areas need work. In Hubby’s case, it was the need to enjoy every moment with unbridled joy.
Hubby and his coworkers had the opportunity to take time off from work in exchange for time worked. If they worked through lunch, they could take part of their Friday off. My sister often remarked that my husband was home more than he was at his place of employment, or so it seemed, since employees were also given free time for any travel time made. We rarely took long vacations, so he had accrued quite a bit of vacation time. Although he’d been able to take time off and had made long weekends with his free time throughout his employment, he’d never fully enjoyed the time. Always, the nagging thought of having to return in several days felt like a stone around his neck.
This year, we faced several challenges that helped my husband realize the importance of being truly happy. He enjoyed working in the garden and decided it was time to dedicate himself more fully to it. He was completely finished with office work, a place that was devoid of sunshine and warmth and floral fragrances that could brighten the darkest days. And so, several weeks ago, Hubby put in his papers for retirement.
It’s exciting and frightening at once. I’ve been home for quite some time since my illness and have created a routine that keeps me happy and sane. I’ve watched my husband with his free time. I’m hopeful that he will create a routine that gives him fulfillment and purpose. He told me that I inspired him with my dedication to yoga and exercise and remarked that he’d noticed the improvement in my symptoms. He mentioned that he wished to begin a program that would bring him the same satisfaction. He mentioned his desire to travel locally more frequently, as well as his need to be outdoors. When the last paper is filed and he is truly free of MODOR, I’m sure he’ll find something that will bring him joy and help him to find satisfaction.
I listened in on one of his morning meetings the other day and realized that soon, he would no longer be a part of that world. I felt happy and sad at once for him and for how our lives will change quite quickly. I also felt gratitude for the friendships that he’d made over the years that had sustained him when things weren’t so great with the state. Although we will keep in touch with those friends, it will be a big adjustment for him not to see them on the daily. As anyone who has retired knows fully well, retirement is a tremendous adjustment.
We have a long-term goal, now that our daughter has moved on with her life. But in the short term, I’m looking forward to summer nights where we don’t have to go in early because of work the next day. I’m looking forward to day trips and excursions, even if they lead to nowhere. I’m looking forward to having my partner full-time. I didn’t realize that I’d waited my whole life for this moment, but here it is. As I glance over the precipice of his impending retirement, those butterflies in my belly aren’t feelings of dread or worry. They’re filled with excitement for a wonderfully new beginning that we’ll be taking together. As one of my dear friend’s license plates states, “It’s about time.”
Patty Servidio is an Anton Media Group columnist.