These years which Joe and I are currently enjoying to the max are often called “the sunset years”. That’s an appropriate title, I think. Is there anything more beautiful than a sunset (unless it would be dawn which we also experience and savor every day)?
I’ve been getting some inner nudges to write a book of reflections on retirement and the lifestyle which my husband and I so dearly love! These urgings have been outwardly confirmed, as recently several friends have brought up the subject of retirement—along with whatever may be involved.
What better place to start than on Northern Reflections, where I can share a bit of what I’ve learned about the contented retirement lifestyle which Joe and I have experienced since 1995. Because I’m a wife, I’ll write from a woman’s perspective in listing things that a wife can do (and should not do!) to ease the transition into her husband’s retirement and the “sunset years”.
1) Do understand! For the woman whose heart has always been at home, life doesn’t change all that much when her husband retires. We still have our life’s work—our home, and the enjoyable tasks pertaining to being a keeper at home. We still nurture people, cook, iron, decorate, create beauty, garden, and all those other things we’ve always done.
But a man who has enjoyed his life’s work may feel somewhat “at sea”, when suddenly his years of responsibility are over. Even though he loves “home”, his workplace has been home for him as well.
2) Do not try to plan your husband’s retirement activities. We can listen and make quiet suggestions if called for, but it is not our job to dream up things our husband “should do” or “could do”. We are different people, and we need to respect one another’s individuality. My husband is an intelligent person, and he deserves my consideration in letting him plan his own leisure activities.
Initially upon Joe’s retirement, I made the mistake of putting myself in his shoes and projecting what I might do if I were a retired man. I had seen senior citizens volunteering at museums, so I said to Joe, “Maybe you could be a docent.”
Joe’s answer sent me into paroxyms of giggles, and still does when I think of it. He said, “What the _ _ _ _ is a docent?”
When I explained, he added firmly, “No thank you. I don’t want to be a docent!”
In retrospect, I realize that it was downright insulting of me, to hover over the man I love and make an unsolicited proposal about how he might spend his time. It would be demeaning for either of us to worry about what the other is going to do while we do whatever we each like to do!
Joe is free to watch sports on TV, play Wii, read, shop, build something in our garage, go fishing, have lunch with a buddy, or anything else he might want to do, without his having to put up with an interrogation from me—or without me hovering anxiously over him, saying “But what are you going to do while I shop or knit or whatever?”
Even a hint of anxious patronizing and hovering is enough to make any intelligent, self-respecting person (man or woman) want to scream! My man came out out of the womb 79 years ago. He needs me to be his lover, wife, and best friend—not his mother!
Joe and I always share bits about our hobbies and interests with each other. I have never cared for competitive sports (with the exception of horse racing which I love!) and Joe doesn’t dig poetry—yet we respect each other’s differences. The fact that we each have interests makes us interesting people!
3) Do make sure your husband has his own space in the home—some area that is his alone! Each of us has always had a private corner of the world in our home. For the last 3 decades, Joe has had his own den room. Now, in our 4 room condo, he has a combination office/den in what was probably designed as a spare bedroom.
In his retreat room, Joe has a large TV for sports, a comfy couch, enough leg room for playing Wii tennis, his desk with his own computer/printer/fax machine/scanner, a huge rocking chair, an exercise bike, 2 dressers, a commodious closet, and room for our business files.
I’m careful not to invade Joe’s area unnecessarily. I don’t attempt to clean, organize, or decorate in his room unless he asks for assistance. (No lace or pot pourri, although Joe likes those things in the rest of our home!) Occasionally we enjoy a movie together in his room, since he has the large screen for viewing.
I have a lovely end of our shared master bedroom—by the big window—for my computer/printer/scanner, a small DVD player for my art tutorials, and tables for art projects.
We all need our personal “space”, but especially a husband who has enjoyed his own office for much of his working life. (A woman has always had the home in which to live, breathe, and have her being!)
4) Do be romantic, and do be best friends! What a wonderful time of life, for romance and gracious friendship, without the distractions and responsibilities of jobs and outside agendas! Joe and I cherish every moment we have together. (That’s why I always get a cot and stay at his side when he goes to the hospital!)
We relish our walks and country rides. We enjoy lunching at bistros and restaurants, as well as at home. We are lovers! Even just drinking coffee while watching the birds at the feeder is a gracious, romantic pastime for us. We thrive on visiting with family members, going on outings with our children, and spending an occasional afternoon with friends.
Joe and I read constantly, and discuss our books. We savor moments of kindred silence as well. I strive to maintain an atmosphere of order and ambience in the home, and home is our very favorite place to be!
5) Say “I love you!” a lot! We say these words to each other many times every day, and we mean it!
6) Live each day knowing it could be your last day on earth!
Just basics, I realize! What more needs to be said? Only this, which is the most important point of all: every blessing, every gracious moment, every pleasant and smooth way of dealing with a transition comes from the Lord Jesus Christ! Without His life in me, and without a lifestyle of prayer and study of God’s Word, I’d be lost! Literally lost!
Margaret L. Been, ©2010
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