If retirement means staying home instead of going to work, and resting all day long, I don’t think I know of anybody who has done that. Most of those I know did take a break upon retirement, all right, but only briefly, to plan their next moves.
Life went on, indeed! Suddenly they had the freedom and resources to do what they had always wanted to do, in their own good time. It meant freedom to travel, although many found a new mission in life; they did volunteer work, like cleaning and saving the environment, or reading to children in orphanages or old people in hospitals or homes for the aged.
Most of my religious friends very naturally became more involved in their own parishes. Like typical Theresians, they found fulfillment “living for others.”
There were entrepreneurs for whom retirement was never an option; at best they eased up a bit. But not doctors I know; they still go to office and presumably practice in their 80s, some going around in wheelchairs or on aides’ arms, in white coats and with stethoscopes hanging around their necks, a few past 90.
Four babies in six years
I never worked 9-to-5. I got married five days after graduation from college, and had four babies in six years. Living abroad for another five years with four children in a row in tow didn’t allow me to even think about working out of the house. I never had a day-off for a job—that included driving— that offered no prospect of vacation, hardly, or for that matter, retirement. And I was lucky yet to have been able to bring along a yaya.
While my friends were busy preparing for the finals, for graduation, for job interviews, I was preparing for my wedding. After less than 20 years I flunked my first marriage. My second is officially on its 12th year, but unofficially going into its 30th.
It took a while for me to get my annulment, which I had filed for even before I met Vergel; the first judge died, and then my lawyer died. But, even after we both had become free, we didn’t jump into it, despite premature bridal showers from overeager and hopelessly romantic friends.
Vergel himself would eventually get out of the newspapers, his life, but, as it turned out, a journalist/editor never retires; they go on to edit memoirs and write biographies and other longer works, and eventually transform themselves into sociopolitical analysts. As one, Vergel appears on TV, especially when the issue concerns press freedom. I was hoping he’d find a second career sketching or cartooning or singing and playing the guitar or becoming a tennis coach, if only to his grandchildren, who seem to have the Santos athleticism and build.
It’s just as well, because, quite by accident, I found a job at last, or rather, it found me, since I wasn’t looking. You could say I grew old enough at the right time to fit the job—as a columnist here, Lifestyle’s senior section.
With the political situation today, Vergel and I find ourselves drawn toward some limited involvement with cause-oriented groups. Whenever we can, which is not as often as we’d like, we visit Leila, the woman in our conscience. We hear Sunday Mass with her, sometimes have lunch with her and her family and other friends—and give her an until-the-next-time hug. We had not met her before she went to prison on obviously trumped-up charges. Every day she is in prison, we, all of us who actively, by default or however, have allowed it to happen, have lost our own freedom.
John Donne wrote about it so beautifully: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; …and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” Her fate is ours whether we realize or not.
We use our time and residual energy wisely. We pray a lot, watch concerts, attend seminars and art exhibits. We join rallies, albeit more often on the sidewalk, with the car not too far away, since I now have difficulty walking and standing for long. We cherish the company of like-minded people we meet in the streets, who share our values, and who have become good friends.
I will treasure forever some of the unexpected perks. I had a golden moment taking in my arms a sobbing young mother of an EJK victim. How many more mothers will weep like her when they lower the age of criminal responsibility to nine or 12? Have we completely lost our senses like many of our so-called leaders? Have we forgotten the words of Jesus when He said, “Whosoever causes one of the little ones, who believe in me, to sin, it would be better for him to have a millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
I thought the first human instinct was to save the children.
There seems no retirement from responsibilities to our fellowmen and the future of this planet we all call home. And am I glad!