Making Good

Several weeks ago there was an article in the AARP post that comes to my email everyday about staying busy during retirement. We have all heard people proclaim, “I have never been busier than I have been since I retired!” I’m never sure if that’s a boast or a lament. But it does seem to me—and the article affirms—that people feel defensive about being retired; they fear they are being searched and judged for any hint of becoming slovenly. Or that if they slow down and take time to sit in the garden or the woods or the chair in the corner by the window and simply breath, they will hasten aging. Retirement should be time to pursue whatever passions you haven’t had time to engage. And if that takes as much time as work did, that’s fine if it’s how you want to be. But busy for busy’s sake? That’s a trap. And that is my little bit of judgement.

People ask if I’m retired. I haven’t known how to answer that. Retired from what? From working? No. From paid work? Maybe. I never had what I consider a career from which to retire, but I did earn a living, and now I don’t. Is it permanent? That wasn’t the plan 18 months ago, but now it’s beginning to look that way. Still, I will have to find an income from somewhere again someday. Meanwhile, I am acting retired and staying not busy—intentionally.

That doesn’t mean I don’t do anything. I read Mama’s handwritten Christmas letter draft, which she will ask me to type for her when she is finished. I’m struggling a little bit. The part about me says, “Gretchen lives in the basement and cooks dinner for me.” That’s all. Kind of like an indentured servant. In truth, I do hundreds of invisible little things for her every week that makes the big benefaction possible for her: continuing to live in her home. I am a bene (good) factor (maker). I’m a Goodmaker. I put the margarine that she leaves on the counter daily—because after she puts it down she can’t see that it’s still out—in the refrigerator, and I throw out the spoiled bits of leftovers she keeps then forgets about. I sleep in the house; or if I am gone, make arrangements for someone else to; because she can no longer be here alone, if only because she has gotten used to someone (me) being here. I listen through the baby monitor to her breathe at night and put her pills in the daily container and take her to doctor’s visits and clean up the things she doesn’t know she has spilled in the kitchen and make sure we have the groceries and household items we need and pay her bills and…

And I am a Goodmaker. And the best of goodmakers don’t boast about all that they do. So I guess if Mama wants to tell her Christmas card recipients that my contribution to the household is cooking dinner, I will leave it at that. I think she knows she wouldn’t be here without me, and I think she is grateful. And I will be here when she needs more; and she probably isn’t thinking about that either. When she told me that she told Dan that he and Rebecca were her best friends, maybe she excluded me because I am more than that. I am her Goodmaker. At least that is what I am going with. She also wrote that this is her 75th Christmas. I told her I was glad her spirit feels so young. She laughed and said she didn’t think that looked right, but that she doesn’t feel 97! Her do-it-myself attitude probably contributes to that; as well as my do-it-for-her-and-not-tell-her practice.

Another AARP article reported findings of a Johns Hopkins study showing that caregivers have an additional nine month life expectancy than non-caregivers. I will figure out what to do with my nine months later. For now I am grateful for this time to be a not-too-busy Goodmaker.

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4 thoughts on “Making Good

  1. Ahh retirement. I have to admit that during my first year of retirement I had a bit of trouble staying busy. However, now after 13.5 years I am quite adequately busy. For example, I was quite busy last night reading in my recliner while sipping a glass of good wine 🙂 Busy is relative.

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  2. Your mom doesn’t really know and cannot itemize all the good that you do for her. Sad that she put it the way she did, though, because it demeans you. Can you change it? Would it lead to a conversation? Or a debacle. The list you make may sound to her like you’re her housekeeper, or maid, or valet. Which demeans you in her mind. Alas, I doubt there’s anything to be done.

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  3. I like to read what you write about your “GoodMaker” because my dtr might be in that position one day and I need to know how it goes. Thank you for all you offer to your mother and the rest of the family!!!

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