Two weeks from tomorrow will be my first day of retirement. I’m feeling a bit antsy, like I was not very well prepared for a big exam coming up. I’m feeling a bit blue because I didn’t have to go yet and it puts an end to 25 years at SFU and about 40 related to being a professor, teacher, consultant, trainer, and – way back – teaching assistant. Mandatory retirement at 65 has ended and many of my colleagues plan to go to 70, or even 75 – whenever – or when they finally have the earth pounding down on their coffin in the cemetery. Or so they say! And I’m “only” almost 64. A colleague looks at me, I imagine, with a mixture of pity and wonder. What could I have been thinking, to have put in for early retirement?
At the time, it seemed so abstractly clear, but now, 18 months later, I wonder. It’s not that I theoretically will have nothing to do. I haven’t staked out my place on a bench on the Burrard Inlet, breadcrumbs in hand, awaiting the hungry ducklings.
I’m not going to be like my stepdad, also a professor, who spent his first year of retirement mostly watching TV. I hope not.
So what’s the problem?
Six weeks ago I was walking the dog and suddenly, without a hint of warning, I was flying through the air, and landing with a thump on the ground. It was like the giant fickle finger of fate swooped out of the sky and flattened me without warning. I thought: Well, I’m so lucky. If I were older, I could have broken my hip. Nothing seemed to hurt and I walked the kilometer back to the car. Next day, however, an X-ray revealed a broken bone in my ankle. The crutches and big cast boot forced me to cancel my travel plans. And I’ve been mostly sitting at home, unable to drive, barely able to walk, for six weeks, and goodness knows how much longer beyond.
You’ve got everything planned. Everything is set. Without warning, it hits you, and there is nothing you can do. You don’t see it coming, and even if you did, there’s no time to step out of the way. Fate crashes down on you, and everything is lost, even if you don’t quite realize it at first. I bet it’s like this with a sudden heart attack. Or a stroke. Bang – you’ve had it – a bolt from the apparently clear sky. I bet even cancer is like that. There’s a moment when you suddenly sit, gasping in shock. Suddenly it’s all over and you barely comprehend what’s going on. If you comprehend at all.
I had all my plans for retirement. Everything organized. Everything under control.
Now? We’ll see. At my age, who knows?
Who knows, anyway?