For ten years or more before I retired, I was mentally making plans for the days when I finally would have time for myself and my family. I spent a lot of time on my job, on commuting to and from my workplace and thinking about work even when I wasn’t at work. I had a long commute and it wore me out.
The last few years I had the added complication of parents (especially mom) who needed my help but lived thousands of miles away. I worked with my employer’s EAP program to try to get some long distance help, and I was permitted to use some work time to make phone calls or go to lunch time seminars about eldercare. Still, it was putting a lot of pressure on me and I was anxious to retire.
The last 2 years I was employed, I also had to take advantage of the Family Medical Leave Act to help mom when she was hospitalized. Starting at that point, I kept careful track of how much sick time I had available and if it would be enough. I had to renew my application on the FMLA forms annually so I would be able to fly at a moment’s notice to care for mom.
There were some goals I wanted to achieve before I retired, so I wouldn’t have to work on them afterwards. First, I wanted to lose some weight. I joined a weight watcher group at work and reached my goal more than a year before my retirement date. Check one goal off!
I wanted to focus on my health and have adequate health insurance after retirement. I started discussing this with my personal physician. She referred me to some specialists for check-ups and tests while I still had my good work insurance. I found more problems than I had hoped and had to spend more time visiting doctors than I had planned. I also saw my dentist to make sure everything was up to date there.
Weeks before I retired I flew across the country to spend 2 weeks with my parents. (My boss would have preferred I wait till after I retired, but I had the time built up and I needed the break.) I needed to get away and see mom and dad. That was an eye opener as I could see mom and dad were going to need me more in the coming years.
While I was concerned about caring for mom and dad, I also had other plans as well. I never had more than 3 weeks of vacation per year and until the last few years, I had less. Thus I had a long list of things I wanted to do and places I wanted to go. Finally I reached the date I was eligible to retire and turned in all my paperwork. I had a nice party and was ready to move on to the next part of my life.
One of young men (twenty something) on our staff couldn’t understand why I was counting down to retirement. He thought it was like “counting down to die!” I laughed at him and said, no – it is more like a graduation and after that I will be free! I will be free to do what I want to do and not what someone else wants me to do.
Since I would no longer be commuting to work, I didn’t need to live along the express bus routes any more. I wanted to move to a community where I could rent a home where others would be responsible for the maintenance. Home ownership was fine when I was almost always at home. But to travel, I needed to be free of worries about my house.
I spent my first year of retirement fixing up my home to sell. In addition, I took some “me time” to join the senior center and take part in some local trips. I expected to do a lot more once I had my house sold.
Then my daughter said she was moving across the country for her husband’s job. That left me as the only one on the west coast. I decided after I sold my home, I would move to the other coast as well as now all of my family – parents, children and grandchildren – lived there.
After my move, I went south to spend a couple of months near my parents. Immediately I could see that their health was deteriorating faster than I had realized. Mom needed help making medical appointments and finding transportation to get there. Dad had given up driving only a few years before.
While I didn’t move into the same mobile home as mom and dad, I did live in a similar mobile home community within walking distance. I was able to visit every day and to do my own activities as well. I took part in one week-long tour of the nearby area that included seeing the wildlife that I loved to spend time with. It was a great and necessary vacation within my winter vacation. Soon after I got back to mom and dad they had some small health crises that I had to help them overcome.
The rest of the winter was taken by eldercare issues with mom and dad. While mom and dad stayed independent for another 18 months, I started putting in a lot of time obtaining home care and overseeing their care.
My plans for a carefree retirement have been postponed almost from the beginning. I am still glad that I retired when I did (though I wish it could have been sooner). I am not really free to do what I want when I want, but I have much more freedom and flexibility than when I was working.
I live in the type of senior community I had been dreaming of and near some of my children and grandchildren and my dad as well. I can visit them and other family members more easily and more often now. Over the weekend I was able to spend time with my son and grandson while visiting dad, and later to go out to lunch with my daughter.
I still get away for several winter months, but now I have to hire caretakers to visit and check on dad in his assisted living facility while I am away. Mom passed away just a couple of years after my retirement. I am thankful that I was able to spend more time with her during her last few years than would have been possible had I still been working. But, the freedom to travel and do what I want when I want still eludes me. I think about that saying: “If you want to see God laugh, just make plans.”
My time will come. For now, I can still say that I am glad to be retired. I don’t need to use special forms (Family Medical Leave Act) to get away to help my family. I just do what I need to do when I need to do it.