It was my birthday recently. Which one is strictly on a need-to-know basis, but I will say this; it was my first birthday since retirement. It was a strange day. Over its twenty four hours there were both up and down moments. After some serious wrestling with my advancing years through one long night, I had a small epiphany.
Retirement is a milestone most of us hope we can afford when the time comes, although the odd person will adamantly declare he will never retire, talking about it as if it’s an enemy to be fought to the death. I, on the other hand, longed for it as I might a friend whose arrival time kept being pushed back. Since my elusive friend made it to the station, however, I’ve discovered that in a funny kind of a way, it came with a bit of luggage. That is to say, the end of my career wasn’t all retirement entailed.
Let’s look at motherhood for a moment.
We know that a mother is a mother as long as she lives. However, when her little ones become adults, a mother’s role undergoes modifications. I really hadn’t thought too much about that until, at retirement, I moved in with one of my daughters. (She doesn’t live with me, I live with her; it’s a distinction we both make.) She took me in to her home and gave me a lovely room with complete freedom to enjoy the amenities she pays for–although I help where I can, of course. Perhaps because we were under the same roof again, I found myself in “mother mode”. I forgot she’s been a capable adult taking care of herself for many years. Habits die hard, I guess. Gently, she reminded me that before I moved in with her, she managed to pay the bills and keep a roof over her head for a long time.
I found her to be most thoughtful of me. She texted me often, ostensibly to let me know whether she would be late getting home, or tell me her plans. I thought all my admonitions of years gone by had finally paid off. Then I noticed that if I failed to answer her text, she immediately phoned the house to make sure I was okay. This was new. Finally, it dawned on me that rather than me watching over her, she was keeping tabs on me. Looking back, it all began after I scorched a pot I left on a hot burner and forgot about it until the aroma of something cooking reminded me. She was calling to make sure the house was still intact, and I was still standing.
It didn’t bother me; rather, it amused me to see the shoe on the other foot. Being of advanced years, I didn’t catch on right away that it also meant my role as chief cook, bottle washer, and caretaker had undergone a subtle change. I was no longer in charge of the household; I was a guest, an invitee. On the surface, that might seem ideal; retire from your job, and be taken care of for the rest of your days by your grown up children. (I have three; they can take turns spelling each other off when necessary.) It’s not as easy as you might think.
My small epiphany
As my birthday approached and sleep eluded me, I couldn’t quite pin down what troubled me. I only knew I felt sad. Then it came to me; I was grieving. My career was over, the child-rearing portion of motherhood was over, and a good deal of my autonomy was gone as well. Moving in with my daughter was mutually beneficial, it’s undeniable. Yet, I am here by her grace. On my part, I intend to love, support, and if solicited, advise her, but not to take over. (That intention will apply to all my children, should I be passed around; because who knows how tiresome I might become in my dotage?)
The long night of wrestling ended at first light. I resolved to enjoy the new arrangement. What comes down the road remains to be seen; but for now I move cheerfully into the next phase of my life. Maybe giving up control isn’t so bad. To be honest, serving in an advisory capacity is far easier than being head of the company.