The Plan

I ran into Bob tonight at the grocery store. He retired several, several years ago from a long career in the nursery business. I haven’t seen him in years.

“Well,” he says. “I had to do a double take. How’ve ya been?”

“I’m great. You?”

“Not bad. What are you up to these days?”

“Getting ready to retire. Shutting down the tree farm. Looking forward to the next chapter.”

I’ll not bore you with the entire conversation that took place between the Martha White self-rising flour and the Crisco shortening on aisle 3, but he eventually got around to the number one question I get asked since I first started talking about retirement.

“What are you going to do with yourself?”

Or the alternate version, “How do you plan to occupy your time?”

I’ve been thinking about this. It’s almost impossible not to think about it. On average, I get asked this question about three times a day.

Bob is retired but has a full-time job. He runs a local restaurant with his daughter. In fact, he’s at the store shopping for baking goods now. Maybe Bob is not retired.

I’m thinking, “Don’t be like Bob.

Though I am not experienced at retirement yet, I think it may be time I put some thought into it. I can’t dodge the question forever. I have a pat answer I’ve been giving, but it’s not really much of an answer.

You’ve been reading my life for almost four years now. The people deserve to know.

So, between aisle 3 and the dairy section at the far side of the store, I planned out the rest of my life.

DAY ONE: Drink coffee in my PJs until I can’t pee anymore.

I know that this does not set the bar very high. But I believe that the first day off the treadmill should be something completely out of the norm. This will be my comfy day. I will sit on the back porch with my notepad in my lap and make a long list. Max, the faithful dog, will lie patiently on the floor beside me wondering what the heck is going on.

My list will guide me in the coming months. I will write down all the long overdue chores that I have neglected during my working life.

  1. Fix the front door
  2. Put a shelf in the laundry room
  3. Clean out the fireplace
  4. Clip toenails
  5. Replace the receptacle in the kitchen that almost caught fire four years ago

I have made lists like this my entire life. Once upon a time I bought an organizer so that I could meticulously arrange my “to dos” by color code and prioritize my objectives.

DAY TWO: This sounds too much like work. Forget the list.

DAY THREE: Get dressed.

I have plans but, good Lord willing, I may have another twenty years ahead of me. I should spread out my objectives over time. A few of my ancestors went on to their eternal rest early, but most hung around well into their 80s or 90s. I’m counting on longevity in the gene pool.

WEEK TWO: Get into a routine of exercising daily.

I know. Promises, promises. Nobody ever sticks with it.

I remember staying one night with my dad in Hampton. We did a few things together around the farm that day, went out and had supper and came home to watch the Braves game and visit before bedtime. This was long after retirement when he was home by himself.

At one point, Dad got up out of his chair and got on the exercise bike by the fireplace. I had never seen that contraption used before in my life. It collected dust and held jackets hung over the handlebars. But there he was just peddling away for about 30 minutes.

Men my age need to keep moving to keep limber. That’s all I’m after. It feels stupid doing toe grabs and sit ups in my living room. But that’s part of the plan.

MONTH THREE: Start getting my workshop like I want it.

July and August will be too blistering hot.

What I have is a bare metal building with a concrete floor. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice workspace. Way better than the crowded, low ceiling room I had under the house all these years.

But I want a couple of rooms, some extra lighting, work benches and storage racks. I want to cover the inside walls with tin and old barnwood. I want it to feel like a woodshop and not like a metal building.

What I really want is for Bob Villa to be jealous. Stick this in Ye Ole’ Yankee Workshop, Bob.

Building stuff is probably my most serious hobby. I’d like to spend a few weeks one of these days at an Appalachian Woodcraft School. Beth and I visited one maybe ten years ago as tourists. The idea has stayed with me.

MONTH TEN: Get the road map out and start planning some adventures.

By now, I’ve dusted off the fishing pole more than a few times. Most of the simple chores are done. I’m at the point where either I go nuts or I get after some of the things on my bucket list.

I have a first cousin out in Texas whom I have not seen since we were kids. I guess he’s a step cousin on my mama’s side of the family. Her half-brother’s son.

Uncle JW called me out of the blue about two years ago. I hadn’t heard from him since I was in my twenties. We caught up on life. He remembered my blue ’71 Chevelle. I asked about his kids.

He passed away not long after that. I need to go to Texas.

Then, I have good friends up in Ohio. Northeast Ohio is pretty in the springtime after the snow is gone in May. I’d like to visit for a few days.

I also have a big trip in mind. Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho are on my list. Never been out in that part of the country. I might even buy a little tag-along camper so Max and I can travel via the National Park campgrounds.

Truth is all this planning is just a whirlwind of ideas circling around in my head. I don’t really know what I’m going to do in this next chapter of life. Some things on this list are a sure bet. Some, well, we’ll see.

I’ll probably plant a new hydrangea. I’ll eat lunch once a week at the Whistling Pig. I’ll keep trying to play my guitar. I’ll work on a second book. I’ll take long naps on the porch. I am a simple man, easily content at home.

A man spends 45 years working to achieve goals and pay the mortgage and get the kids through college. Every day obedient to the alarm clock and the responsibilities he bears. I know that life well.

June 30th all that will change.

Here’s the real plan. Drink my coffee early. Black, no sugar. Put on my grubby jeans and shoes. I’ll walk out the kitchen door.

Then I’ll go find the new me.

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