Not for the first time, I went to the store and got the wrong thing. This time it was deck stain. I bought water-based, only to learn from Randy that I would be much better off using oil-based. So the next day I headed back to the store, trying to think of a good excuse. I had extra time, since hundreds of motorcycles held me up from making a left hand turn on Route 202.
I came up with a strategy, but when I got to the paint counter my sales person wasn’t there. I forged ahead anyway. “I made a mistake,” I told the new man. “I bought the wrong stain, but it’s a special color so if you can’t exchange it, that’s ok.”
He pondered this for a minute, looked inside my wrong can of stain, and then said the magic words. “I’ll see what I can do.”
After my new oil-based stain was colored and out of the paint shaker, we got to talking. His former employer, a well-known company, decided after thirty-nine years that they no longer needed him.
“That’s not fair,” I said.
“Stuff happens,” he said. “They gave me a fair severance, and I had my retirement plan. But I’m too young to retire, so I took this job.”
“Too young to retire” – the words that always give me pause. I remember when my old law firm left me by going out of business. I had been there thirty-eight years and, like the helpful stain exchanger, was “too young to retire.”
Now it is a dozen years later, and wherever I go people ask, “Are you still working?” When I say yes, retirees usually respond in one of two ways. Either they say, “Don’t ever retire,” or “I only wish I had done it sooner.” Some talk about their “bucket list,” words that according to Google refer to “10,000 things to do before you die.” At the rate of one a day, that would take twenty-seven years. Somehow that isn’t encouraging.
I’m sure my grandfather had no bucket list. He retired at sixty-five from Metropolitan Life in Claremont and spent the next twenty years reading, listening to Red Sox games, drinking coffee at the Pleasant Sweet Restaurant, and enjoying his family. I don’t think he was ever bored. My father, on the other hand, never retired. He just stopped going to the mill, due to poor health and other reasons. He missed it terribly.
I ran into an acquaintance recently, a man several years younger than me. I asked how he was doing, and he said, “I’m retiring and moving to Maine.”
“What are you planning to do when you get there?” I asked.
“I think I’ll learn to read music and take up the cello,” he answered. “Do you think that’s realistic?”
“No problem,” I replied, thinking to myself “that’s enough to fill an entire bucket.”
He asked when I was going to retire. I had no answer but admitted he wasn’t the first person to ask. I’ll have plenty of time to think about that when I get around to opening the can and staining the deck.