A few minutes ago, I waved goodbye to George, then came in the house to put away the fixings from the supper I packed for him. He’s on his way to one of his regular music gigs, almost like other men head to “regular” jobs.
Now, I’m sitting in his chair–the big chair, the “man chair”–because the dog is in mine. She’s snoring, and I’m marveling at how different the quiet becomes when someone you love is gone.
Many is the time I’m here in the living room, laptop on my lap, just like now, and George is in the office, working on music or playing a game on the computer. It’s quiet then, too; but when he’s gone, the quiet is louder.
I like this quiet time, though, especially on a day like this when I have no other obligations awaiting my attention. The hours until George comes home stretch out before me like treasure that I can spend however I want. I could fold clothes, or iron, or finish a little craft project I started a while ago. I could write a letter or write a blog. I could read a book or say my prayers. I could visit with friends on Facebook, or post some of the photos I took on our walk with the dog after lunch.
All of this is the reward of being retired. At first, it was hard to get used to waking in the morning and facing a day with an uncluttered schedule, to get comfortable with the idea that my time belongs largely to me and George. Because his music gigs are usually in the evening, we spend our days together, with writing (me), music (him) and photography and dog walking (both).
I almost squandered all of that, however. This year, I fell into the trap that catches many retired people: I got too busy. One freelance writing job turned into two, and then three. Two more jobs popped up, none of them taking much time alone, but all of them eating away at the hours. Add to that a few volunteer jobs, and suddenly it felt like I was working full time again.
I soon realized I didn’t like it. I spent too many years as a newspaper reporter working all hours of the day and night. I used to laughingly say that the hardest people to reach for a story were those who were retired because they were always running somewhere. Now, I felt like I had become one of them.
The jobs have tapered off, and next year I won’t renew them. I won’t become a recluse, but I intend to reclaim the slower pace that retirement first brought. I intend to see that I have more days like this one.
The skies outside the window are gray, and the air is pregnant with the threat of rain. The atmosphere shrouds my home, turning it into a cozy little retreat, silent except for the sounds of my keyboard, and the words whispering in my head. Unlike many people, I relish quiet, and do not feel the need to fill it with radio, television or even music as “background noise.”
This is the kind of day I envisioned when I was in the work force, the kind of day I treasured because it was so rare. I am delighted to discover that I still treasure it, alone or with George, even though it is my new norm.
But I had to almost lose it before I could find it again.