Columnist finding retirement doesn’t mean ‘not working’

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I received a summons for jury duty, and on the enclosed information form was the query: “Are you currently employed?”

It took me a minute to comprehend that from the two categories listed, yes/no, I would now need to check “no.”

It was an epiphany. This is the first time in my life since I was 21 that I do not have a full-time job. 

The form contained a line where I was to write how I had been employed. Again, I was slow to realize that I am now no longer a gainfully employed teacher. Perhaps I had not yet mentally acknowledged that my 46-year vocation is now a “prior occupation” as stated on the jury duty form.

I can think of several occupations I have presently: grass cutter, weed puller, plant waterer, book reader, wall and ceiling painter, volunteer, husband-about-the-house (and, I hope, not underfoot), choir and handbell director, choral librarian, singer, piano player, grandpa, dad and even sometimes an unintentional nap taker.  

But somehow I don’t think these were answers looked for on the confidential juror profile.

I was at Home Depot recently and saw a former colleague, also now retired, who asked me, “How is retirement coming along?” I answered that it was pretty good, although I hadn’t had much experience with it as yet. I told him that another retired friend had suggested it takes about five years to really settle into retirement mode. My colleague seemed surprised to hear that, and he laughingly and confidently stated that it had only taken him about 30 days!

I received a phone call from a retired man who is the father of children I taught many years ago. He stated, “Retirement is not all it’s cracked up to be. Boredom! So I am going back to work.” Fortunately for him a part-time consulting position at his previous place of employment became available.

I have also considered looking for a part-time job. Yes, the extra income would be helpful. However, at the moment retirement seems like such a golden opportunity to give back to the community through volunteering, now that I have more time available throughout the day.  

A retiree friend gave me several ideas for volunteering. One she mentioned was at a hospital. She volunteers in a hospital gift shop and her husband helps people find their way through the mazelike hospital halls. Several other ideas for volunteering during the summer crossed my mind. But mostly what I did after I finally got my classroom cleared out was spend the summer working around home, which I didn’t get to do much in summers previous to this one. 

I volunteered at our church, and one of my first opportunities was to deliver church bulletin inserts in Milton-Freewater, College Place and Walla Walla. The fellow who usually does this was away. It was nice to be available to help out with this simple task.  

One of my goals as a retiree was to hopefully spend more time with my grandchildren. So during the summer, one day a week Papa and the grands had a town outing. We went to the Humane Society, where the kids volunteer. If they had their way, they would bring home every cat and kitten in the place! Even as I write this, they are fostering four kittens, 2 months old, whose birth mother apparently abandoned them. They were supplied with a nursing mother cat, who adopted the tiny felines.  

To celebrate the day school began, when our former teaching colleagues were back at work and we were not, my wife and I were going to go to the Maple Counter Cafe with a couple of teacher friends who also retired when I did. The husband of the couple pointed out that the first day of school was on a Monday and the Maple Counter isn’t open. So we decided to meet there on Tuesday instead. My wife suggested we all go to another restaurant on Monday anyway, in addition to the Maple Counter on Tuesday.  

It kind of seemed like we were playing hooky, but fortunately there wasn’t a truant officer sternly looking through his spectacles down his long nose and shaking his bony finger at us because we were painting the town red instead of tending our classrooms.

My daughter-in-law, the school music teacher, is planning a Thanksgiving program. She asked me for an idea to help tie the various songs together.  

In my July column I mentioned the plethora of boxes containing my many years of teaching materials that I couldn’t bear to part with. The boxes are stacked in numerous piles like fortress walls around our cars in the garage. Amazingly, I was able to find my Thanksgiving resource box quickly. As I went through it looking for ideas to share with my daughter-in-law, I found myself getting subconsciously excited as if I were planning a program of my own.

As for my retiree “to do” list: My wife and I decided that one of our bedrooms needed updating. The carpet was the last remnant of the ’70s gold shag that wore like iron for so many years in our home. The wall color has not been changed since the ’90s when our younger son and his then-girlfriend were in college and decided to paint the room a deep mocha color. So I will be doing the painting with the new color, “asparagus.”

The task of emptying the room prior to painting fell to me. I started right in, as I still find my brain partially operating under the dictum, “Get it done NOW! You won’t have time when school starts again.” Then I realized that I could take whatever time I want because the date school starts would not be of any consequence.  

So I carted some stuff out of the room, sat down and took a break to read, went back and took more things out, took a break to check email, carried away yet more things, took a break to eat lunch, carted away more items, took a break to go outside and check the dandelion and bindweed populations in the yard. And eventually the room was ready for painting. At the rate I was going, however, it took much longer than it should have just to empty the room. 

I’m not a bored retiree yet.

And don’t plan to be.

Stay tuned.

Terry Koch is stepping into the life of a retiree after 46 years of teaching music at the grade school, high school and college levels. He can be reached at 509-529-6101 or terrko2@charter.net.

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