Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 777 Stepping off as Others Step On

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

High school graduation is so very distant. At least it is for those of us who are retired. But it has a way of coming back in the form of grandchildren who don the cap and gown and march down the aisle to participate in their commencement ceremony. The orchestra plays Pomp & Circumstance and tears begin to flow. Parents and grandparents realize the significance of the moment - a major milestone in life's passages. If retirement is one of the last major stages in life as we step away from the world of work, certainly high school graduation marks one of the first true stages of adulthood as they step into a world of work. As we step off, they step on.

It has been many years since I have given any thought to a high school graduation. Soon we will be sitting at our third grandchild’s commencement. The two previous grandchildren have now graduated from college. Time does not stand still.

There is something about ritual ceremonies that glue us all together. I had thought it was just a couple of hours to sit through and then present them with a gift and that would be it. But that wasn't the case.

As the first of my grandchildren's graduation, sitting sandwiched between my son whose daughter was graduating and my daughter who had also flown to Alaska for the proceedings I could feel the bridge that ties generations together. They were excited. As was I. They were proud of their graduate as was I. She was well prepared.

One generation melding into another. Cultural knowledge, traditions, customs and values have been passed on. This is a celebratory ritual of hope. Great effort has been extended by the students, parents and teachers. We like to think we have done all we can. It is time to take a moment to celebrate.

Retirement brings many new experiences to life and this is one that I had never considered. Student excitement and enthusiasm was in the air celebrating the completion of this phase of life. The traditional speeches are given congratulating hard work and encouraging high hopes. Some even ventured to offer a bit of parting advice. The chorus sings and then the names are read. Cheers follow. Everyone wishing and hoping for the best.

It is a time of solidarity. It is a time when we pause to realize and celebrate the eternal movement of generations. It is their time but it is our time too. Another generation is moving into center stage: the light is starting to shift and focus on them and what they may make of their life as full fledged adults. Some will go to work and have children within a year or two. Some will go to college and delay work and parenthood for some time. My mind is on those that have slept in homeless shelters and yet managed to hang on. Those that have gone to school hungry, that have suffered at the hands of abusive parents, those that have managed by hook or crook to get this certificate. Eyes tear up. Human resilience is hard to imagine.

Many are headed to college. It is almost a requirement. The statistics say 90% of them plan on some sort of continuing education. The statistics say that only 40 % will actually graduate with a four year degree. Things will happen. Luck will find some. Others will find a rough road ahead. We retired are able to use hindsight in this situation to extend understanding and support.

But on this night optimism reigns. Everyone in the building is hoping for the same thing. We wish everyone well. Hearts are lifted and tears of joy fill our eyes. We grandparents, we retired, have a role to play. We are the elders witnessing the passing of the torch to a new generation. We bear witness.

We graduate many times in life. We step up. We step away. We step into; and we move away. That's the thing isn't it. We move on. Hopefully we move on to something greater than that which we have just experienced. We wish that for all graduates and we wish that for everyone on graduation night. When that orchestra strikes up welds us all together in life's processional. We celebrate the bonds that tie one generation to the other. Take a moment to enjoy. 

Within a few weeks the first of my daughter’s children will take their high school diploma in hand. We will make the trip and take our seats and feel that tingle of anticipation and excitement that presents itself. We will be happy for him and us knowing that he is well prepared to turn the page. 

This is Retirement Talk.

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