On a bright Monday morning years ago, I received an email from my friend Ellie. The message read, “Four years, three months and five days to go…”.

Ellie had begun her countdown to retirement, to that coveted place which said NO WORK, no getting up at 5:00 a.m. I might add that I’d already gone into that hallowed ( or so I thought) precinct called the “Big R”. When we met for lunch one day, she outlined her plans for that gold-at-the-end-of-the-rainbow day. She would keep her double-wide trailer home and use her savings to buy an RV.

“Ellie, you mean LIVE in the RV?”

“Uh huh!”

“”You serious?”

“Uh huh”.

“Where will you go?”

”Woman, you don’t listen. I’ve been telling you for years. I will travel.”
“Just you? Alone?”
”Uh huh!”

So the clock ticked down and at last, the fateful day came. The double-wide had been renovated and her son and family would live in it. The RV had been given the once-over. She was ready to roll. When we met for our last lunch, I cried.
Ellie had dipped her fingers in the pot of her gold. The thing is, that she knew years before she retired what she wanted to do when that day came. And she did it.

She had planned.

But me? I had made plans but they were all amorphous, nebulous, nothing concrete.
Sitting at my desk thinking of retirement, I dreamed of sleeping in, morning coffee on the back porch swing, my book open, my iPad nearby looking through the window at the morning sun on the trees and looking for the swallowtail butterfly I had seen.
Dream on.

I must get up to cook, clean and do grocery shopping, and laundry and ……

If my swallowtail butterfly ever fluttered by, I don’t know. But I have my suspicions. I think it left because it had seen my husband spraying the bejesus out of the butterfly eggs and the caterpillars. To cut this story short, I put the spray can in the garbage, dusted off my hands and later, studiously pretended to help him look for it.

I have coined the phrase “gainfully unemployed” to describe my present state of being. My family understand that “Unemployed” refers to my retired state. “Gainfully” refers to all the things I must do and don’t want to.

You see, all of this comes because, unlike Ellie, I didn’t plan. I should have bought an RV.

Retired means that you are not young. You are an established member of AARP. You get the monthly news paper and you read all the articles on Medicare and Medicaid, and how to not get scammed and how to save on utility bills. Retirement can be synonymous to being “stupidee” or in a state where your grand children take pity and must explain slowly and patiently how to navigate the unknown maze called the internet.

Talking about that specie of humanity called “grandchildren”. They’re lovely but guaranteed to make you tired when they are little. God knows why He permitted only the young to beget children. Imagine having to do what it takes to bear a child when you’re 70 years old. Eeeeew! They have their parents and you have them.
When they’re little, they visit and turn your well ordered home upside down. Then you sigh and cry when they leave. When they’re little and you’re already retired, you and they talk in baby language. They understand you. Then they grow up and when you try that same language, they say to you, “Nanny, why are you being weird?”
Your eyes turn inwards and you begin to re examine yourself from their eyes. Not so good. So my message to those of you contemplating the big “R”, buy your RV.

This state of being retired means that you get to be buddies and on first name terms with the receptionist and nurse at your doctor’s office.

“Morning Jinny Love. How’s it going today.”

” Hi there A. How’s that pain in your hip doing?”

“Not too good. I fell down. But Jinny, look what I brought you guys!”

You hand over the cookies you baked for the staff and see the glee on the faces. You know your way around the building, after all, you almost have that as your second address. Those visits must be made or something happens… maybe it concerns your deductible with your health care programs. I have never bothered to educate my mind about the legalities and the ins and outs of what it all means. Stuuuuups! I call the Humana agent and ask him all my stupid questions, one at a time so my brain doesn’t suffer and react negatively from overload. I always begin my conversation with, “Andy, can you please explain…..? I don’t know what it refers to.” Although I’ve worked at a university for many years and have helped many, I find it useful to allow people to think that I need help. I do. They help. After all retired people have grey hair and that state is (most of us are grey haired) synonymous with loss of many functions – cognitive ones not being the least.

And another thing. In most cases, your husband is older then you are. And now you are both living in the same place every day after years of spending your days apart . You are the one doing the things that call for trips outside of the home because, he can’t be trusted. Driving up a one way street is calculated to bring a police officer pounding on your door. There are also things that test his credulity and utilize his four score years and more.
So here’s the story. I came home from running errands to find this set of forms on the table with lots of printed information in small print. The highlighted line was waiting for a signature. I believe that in my absence, someone had come to the door and corrupted his mind with visions of money if he agreed to sell them the house. Now here is where you must take pity on me and congratulate me. The red in my eyes was tinged with fire, but I quietly took that set of papers and put it in the garbage. I called my daughter. Then I went to STAPLES and bought a Quit Claim deed. The people at the Government , County Office were very sympathetic and he ( my husband) was helped to understand that this was for his personal safety and well being. Seething, I was still seeing fire.
I don’t believe anyone would bring forms to anyone to cajole them into selling an RV.

Scammers are all around. I am not exempt. Medicare told me after a very bitter experience that THEY DO NOT CALL. They will write. I received a call from a person purporting to be a Medicare representative which elicited information no one should ever give out over the phone if you didn’t initiate the call. Retirees are always at home and are very eager to answer the phone. They are also at the mercy of the scammers who know how to work on their credulousness. I disconnected my phone.

And yes, you have no place to go. You are in the house all day 24/7. Why must you wonder why your utility bills are higher than when you were working?
I must ask Ellie what her utility bills are like in the RV. I guarantee you that they are nowhere near that of the double-wide.

The father of my children has lost most of his hearing and forgets to wear his hearing aids. I need someone to talk to. He is not a good talking partner because I have to repeat things five times. At this point in time, I have begun soliloquizing. I used to sing, but now I carry on these conversations that only I can understand. He watches the news. I soliloquize about what to do with the fish I bought for our dinner, or the conversation I must have with the utility company re: their overly high water bill. I must remember to remind them that I don’t have a swimming pool. I end this part of my soliloquy with a long suck- teeth.

My closet….. since I retired and since I have no place to go, I have not bought a single new item of clothing. My closet is home to all the silk blouses, tailored skirts and trousers, linen, cotton and everything else one wears to look nice at work. I have tried wearing a few of them at home just because. My grandson, who was visiting, looked at me wearing my white linen trousers and a colorful blouse while I made breakfast.

“Nanny, are you going out somewhere?”

I look at him with eyes that say, “Pardon me child! I’m trying to look nice here man. Why you putting a spoke in my wheel?” But the words refuse to roll out from behind my tongue. It’s not a soliloquy., just an unspoken thing in my mouth. I was “saving” my good clothes in the vain hope that I will be once again going somewhere nice and be called up to riffle through my hangers to CHOOSE. It’s not his fault. It’s that he’s accustomed to seeing me dressed in at-home-old clothes. So like my sister up the I- 95 in Jacksonville does, I will give away the entire contents (or almost all cause hope still burns in my heart) of my work closet. Lighten up is her mantra.

I must ask Ellie about closet space in her RV.