Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 564 Upkeep

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery

Two of my fingers went right through the outer panel of the door on the refrigerator. I’m not exaggerating. I was standing in the kitchen of my mother’s house many years ago. She was in her eighties and lived alone. I lifted my arm and rested my hand against the refrigerator. Crunch. Right through they went. It looked good but was rotten with rust. “Oh, that’s okay,” she said, “It still works fine.”  “No mom”, I replied, “it is not alright. You need a new refrigerator”.

Her house was filled with furniture that was, “alright”. “It still works” she would say. At the same time, the house was falling down around her. Whenever we visited we bought something; hired someone to make some repairs; threw something away. “Upkeep” was not high on her list. I remember finding out that only one of the burners was working on her electric range. The mattresses on the beds had been in the family for 40 years – or more. My wife and I use to sleep in different houses when we visited home because we couldn’t find beds that didn’t cause sleepless nights followed by painful days; they were so uncomfortable.

Most of you can probably identify with this problem. We have told our kids that as we grow older we want them to always speak freely and bring us up to speed when they visit. Throw out what needs to be thrown out, and go shopping for things that could use replacing. Furniture ages right along with us. As we sag so does the furniture – the process is so slow that we don’t notice. My in-laws had beds for us when we visited that their kids slept on when they were young children: imagine forty or fifty years old. It was maddening. Chairs in their living room were contoured to their bodies – they were torturous.

We just painted a wall in our condo. It’s always something. We have one more wall to go. It’ll have to wait until next week. That’s one thing about retirement. We have more time to take care of things that use to slide. More time to do stuff. Some of the stuff is fun to do. Other stuff – not so much. That's why they have service people; to do all the other stuff. Our street, which has several retired folks living on it, seems to always have a service truck in someone’s driveway: Theil Plumbing, Ready Electric, Sumas Roofing, Lyndale Glass, Bathroom Design, Deck Specialist, Turf Tender Landscaping, Marathon Mower, Dean’s Tree Service. The list is endless. Retired people provide jobs. We need help.

My son is real good at upkeep when it comes to electronics. We always visit a computer type store when he visits. There is always something else that we, “need”. I hope this type of, “upkeep” will continue and extend to other needs in our life.  Occasionally he or our daughter picks out a book for us, a piece of music, a magazine subscription,  a computer service of some sort, or a piece of sporting gear that may encourage us to focus a bit more on our physical upkeep.

Of course that is a world in and of itself; the physical upkeep. I know that it takes up more and more of our time as we age. We seem to spend more time in our doctor’s office. We use to be able to walk with a heavy pack, ski for hours in the cold, or ride our bikes all day long. Those days are gone. Oh, we still carry a light rucksack sometimes, we ski a little bit, we ride our bikes for an hour or two. I’m afraid that if we stopped we would never get started again. We keep moving. It is fun, but more important at this stage in life, is that it helps maintain our health and general feeling of well being. In short, it’s nothing more or less that “upkeep”.

My wife pours over a crossword puzzle on a daily basis. Fun, yes. But, she says it is good for her mind. “Keeps me sharp”, she says. Articles in the paper make the same claim. I do a similar task every day when I take out my music and sit down to play the guitar. It requires a bit of mental work and coordination. It is fun, but it could be looked upon as nothing but, “upkeep”.

Perhaps that is why retired people like to volunteer. It is sort of a moral or ethical, “upkeep”. It is a matter of continuing some positive influence in the community. It keeps us tied to others. Without it we would retreat inside the house. Watch television or find some other pursuit that would relegate us to isolation – a sort of zero contribution to humanity.

Of course retirement is about much more than, “upkeep. Some of us are still building a new life; breaking old habits, making new friends, traveling to new places, falling in love again, discovering new abilities and interests. If you are listening to this podcast, it is probably a pretty good sign that you are doing more with your life than. “upkeep” You want something more. Trouble is: the bed sags, the fridge rots, the roof leaks and the paint fades at the same time. Upkeep can’t be slighted.

This is retirement talk.

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