Monday, August 4, 2008

This Old House- An Exercise in Reflection

Over the last several years I just didn't notice much. Oh, from time to time something would rise to the level of a random thought- and there were even a couple of conversations with Don- and probably others. But mostly I just went about the living- and after all most everything was fine- well maybe.

Max and I are both 59 years old. We are too young to retire, but not too young to at least know that it's not too far away. But what to do in retirement? Those of you that know me know that I don't "relax" very well. If I'm not doing something, I look for something to do. And I'm not tired of working at P&G. My 31 years there have been 31 years of learning and experiencing new opportunities in the health care industry. All in all it's been a wonderful career.

Max on the other hand has been teaching nursing for the last 14 years at U. Cincinnati, and before that 7 years of teaching nursing in Oklahoma. That's 21 years and 3 semesters every year of teaching young students to give bed baths, take temperatures, take blood pressures, hook up i.v. lines, and give injections. Of course she also taught a lot more complicated and complex aspects of nursing, but those new students were always there.

And then your life is whiplashed to San Fran- and the routine that is so comfortable- is swept away- and you see with eyes that just never found the clarity back in Cincy. It wasn't that we didn't know that there was work that needed to be done on the house- And for me I certainly had a sense that maybe I was often just "going through the motions" at work. But mostly I just kept busy. Or rather I just never found the energy to make any real changes. I was comfortable- or comfortable enough.

And I was always very busy at P&G and just never enough time to spend on our 113 year old house. We knew it needed work and knew we would get to it eventually, but after you see it day after day and year after year, you just don't feel the urgency to get it done. It becomes the same routine that Max was experiencing at U.C.

But the experience here in San Francisco is finite- it will end- it will be over- and I'm not clear I will ever journey to San Fran again even for a visit and certainly I will never live in San Fran again- the life that I know here will be forever gone- whatever I might want from this place, this time, must be molded into this finite experience. I give this thought daily- weekly- we often talk about what we want- and how we might make that happen. Now that our remaining time here is around 7 months, we are making plans to spend our free time seeing the parts of this beautiful state that we just haven't done yet. Max has been so busy with her new job here and I've been trying to learn about the world of venture capital so that we haven't expanded our horizon beyond the Bay Area.

When I went home to Cincy in January I was shocked when I saw the house- I saw with new eyes- and I was frustrated that I had paid so little attention- And how much that place called "Home"- that place that is still "Home"- needed serious attention to bring it back to the beautiful house it is. In fact this house will be the only place I can so clearly use that label "home"- after all, I have now live on Wentworth Avenue longer than I have ever lived at any address during my 59 years. But at this visit I so clearly saw the peeling paint, the leaking gutters, the rotting wood, the stained carpet. The seeing was oh so distressing.

But it isn't just the house- it is rather how seldom I examined how I spent my days- how I made my priorities. I think about that now. It was Socrates who said "The unexamined life is not worth living". It is just so easy to fritter away the minutes, the hours, the days.

So today was my first day in semi-retirement. The full time job just wasn't working anymore. So I'm not doing it anymore. I'll still work- but half time- and on the schedule I set for myself- I'll say NO to more than that!

This semi-retirement seems so very strange- I started working- working full time- as a nurse in 1971. I did take a 2 year break for Brandy- and then an 8 week break for Clint- and finally a 4 week break for Amber- But that was it. I worked. Why I even worked full time and also went to graduate school- and there was one year that I had one full time job and two part time jobs- all at the same time.

But it doesn't work for me anymore. So today was the first day of my semi-retirement.

I have plans- more lazy walks- I'm going to practice the piano again- I'm going to cook more- Don tells me I can now help him clean the apartment since I will no longer be working all the time- now that is a real "Semi Retirement" gift if you ask me- Huh?

And there are plans for the house- my Home. We met with the architect- and the plans are ready- at least the first ones- and the work will begin sometime this year.

Our house will get new porches on the front and back and the screen porch will get completely redone with glass instead of screens. We plan to use it throughout the year instead of only during the "nice" days when sitting there was comfortable. The house will also get new gutters, a new coat of paint, new windows, refinished wood floors, and new rugs on those wood floors. It will finally be as it should.

As for when I return Home to Cincy. I did resign from University of Cincinnati when I was Home in June- And I really don't know what I'll do when I return to Cincy- But whatever I do I will remain in semi-retirement. Oh I have least for the house.

But I'm just going to let the rest of it unfold in its own way- in its own time.


fiddleheads said...

congratulations max on your first step to retiring! part-time work sounds great. now you can play more in the kitchen and on the piano and enjoy your time in san francisco before you have to leave it.
i personally LOVE your house in cinci. i really look forward to seeing the new porch. i think the porch is my favorite part of the house. maybe thats because i never had a porch myself. i've got so much "sitting on the porch time" to catch up on.:)
i can't wait to come see you guys in october!

Anonymous said...

Hi Mom, congrats on semi-retirement, I know you are excited. Good blog, can't wait to see the house in Cincy when it is finished! love,b

Anonymous said...

Fantastic! I certainly think you have earned this time off from teaching! And I can't wait to spend some time at your fantastic home after it's "facelift". It's always been a comfortable peaceful home, just now it will feel a little better about itself!