It’s been ten months since my dad died and as many months since I retired, these two events followed by a string of unfortunate incidents and other losses, difficult to measure against those major ones.
When people ask me how I am enjoying my retirement, I tell them I am only semi-retired now, having returned to work two days a week, cutting that loss to a little less than half its value.
Work days start off with black coffee and culminate in a sixteen hour fast. I am much more disciplined with the rigidity of structure. I keep a few ginger lemon drops in my pocket for the drive home to break my fast, my reward for getting through the day.
Days off start with pain in my right hip as soon as I slide off the bed and hit the floor. That’s a long way down at my height. To save my hip, my husband carries one of our elderly dogs, who is lame and low vision, down the stairs. I feed the dogs and tend to our four birds. I pour a little black coffee in my cream. On unstructured days, I need the comfort of cream like a buffer for the day. I sit in my chair by the window and bend my back rather than my knees to hoist the needier of my two dogs onto my lap. He’ll jump down a few minutes later, then whine to be picked up again. I do the New York Times Wordle, always starting with the word « aloud » to take care of three out of five vowels. Then it’s the mini crossword while my cockatoo screams for attention, my cockatiel whistles her flock call, my Linnie does a soft wolf whistle and my parrotlet forages noisily for seeds. A morning person, I no longer exercise in the morning; it is the beginning of my demise.
There are always lots of chores and errands to do on my days off and every day off or thereabouts, I visit my mother at the senior’s residence where she was placed after my father died. It is a beautiful place filled with light, birds, dogs, caring workers and good intentions. It is the place I chose for her, five minutes from my house. As wonderful as I think it is, it is not home. Rather, it is where we dropped her off when caring for her became inconvenient.
To grow old is to lose everything as your life winds down and you are waiting to die. It is to be forgotten if not by all then by many.
What is semi-retirement like when you are caregiver to a parent? It is dutiful love or loving duty, heartbreak, anguished guilt on the days you don’t go visit.
I sandwich the days off with coffee in my cream and chocolate. I wear boyfriend shirts to hide the filling. My husband carries our gimpy dog up the stairs. I set the alarm for another day.