Temporary Retirement

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temporary retirement

I am sitting at the airport on my way home from four days visiting my grandfather in Florida. I feel rested and happy and I’ve come to a realization. There is something even better than a family vacation (or staycation), self care, a date night or girls’ trip. What a mom really needs to experience is a temporary retirement.

Four Days, Zero Worries

I stayed with my grandfather for four days and during that time I had no one to take care of and no responsibilities. No pressure to see touristy sights, visit a museum or dance at a club until 3:00 a.m. I experienced three nights of sleeping in a bed alone—no husband, no kids, no small dog demanding 90% of his body be touching me all night long.

I went to bed when I was tired and woke up when I was rested. No alarm clock to answer to or school bus to catch. No risk of having to rush my little one to school and still get to work on time. And while I’m thinking of it: four days of no work.

Okay, I did have my usual writing deadlines to meet, but how glorious, how obscenely easy it was to meet those deadlines when I had nothing else to do. Usually I write whenever I have the opportunity. Thirty minutes in the morning. A couple of hours in the afternoon. Another hour after bedtime if needed. It’s all so stingy and hurried. But on temporary retirement I wrote in long chunks of uninterrupted time until the job was done. 

Oh, and for four days I didn’t blow dry my hair or wear any makeup other than a quick swipe of mascara (just to assure anyone I came in contact with that I do, in fact, possess eyelashes). I brought a gift bag of beauty product samples that my mother had scored at Blue Mercury and I tried out luxurious, high-end cleansers and moisturizers, charcoal masks, cucumber gels, and one body wash so thick with the scent of honeysuckle that I felt like I was showering in a garden. 

Running Errands

If you could even consider such a thing an obligation, I did drive my grandfather to run a few errands–buy groceries and cash a few checks at the bank. But picture this: you’re at the store with Grandpa and not your usual brood of children. He’s in one of those electric scooters, gliding alongside you, always nearby for you to deposit an item in the basket attached to the front of the scooter. No need for you to appease a whining child by pushing a boat-sized, car-shaped cart up and down the over-crowded aisles, constantly glancing over your shoulder to keep an eye on your child and your purse while you look for an undented can of soup. 

Grandpa’s shopping list included bread, butter, and pasta sauce and every time he passed something sweet he asked if I wanted to get cookies or cake or ice cream. At the bank, he flirted with the teller and no one demanded a lolly pop.

Plenty of Time

The rest of the time, I filled my days with whatever I felt like doing moment-to-moment. I went on a couple of long, leisurely walks. Not for exercise, but for the pleasure of listening to a favorite podcast while wandering through a nearby park with ducks and herons and warnings of alligators that might inhabit the pond (though I suspect that might just be a way of scaring away anyone tempted to go for a swim). Sure, there was a sports bra involved, but that was mostly to sop up sweat (spoiler alert: Florida is humid).

And I read. I read stretched out on the couch and made my way through long chapters without stopping to attend to a small person’s wants or needs. While turning page after page out on the screened-in patio, I listened to the rain pour down from the sky. I read when I wasn’t so tired that I was just reading the same sentence over and over. 

Oh, and I feel like I might be bragging a little bit with this one, but I saw a movie. At 1:40 in the afternoon. On a Tuesday. There were eight other people in the theater and I hid in the back, lest they discover that I was only a retirement tourist and not the real deal. (The movie was Downton Abbey. I was the youngest person there by at least 25 years).

Not For A Lack Of Trying…

I did try to cook, but Grandpa doesn’t require big meals and turned out to be a big fan of Stouffer’s. While I considered warning him about sodium and preservatives, the man is ninety-three. He totally judged me for the salad I threw together to accompany our frozen Fettuccine Alfredo.

I also tried to wash my sheets after my last night, but Grandpa assured me he had plenty of time to take care of it after I left. Ah, retirement. When the sheets can wait because you have plenty of time.

A Less-Cluttered Mind

Of course, I missed my family. But temporary retirement allowed me to let go of the mental gymnastics of being a parent. Gone were the schedules and meal prep and searching the hand-me-down bins for fall clothes that fit and the never ending sink of dirty dishes. 

But soon I will be home again and I’ll be a better version of myself.  More relaxed with a less-cluttered mind. I will be grateful that my retirement was only temporary. That every one of my son’s wants and needs are my pleasure to provide. Except for that boat-sized, car-shaped shopping cart at the grocery store. Man, I despise that thing. 

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