I RETIRED QUITE early, age 55, and that means you potentially have lots of years ahead of you, years in which you must do something or other.
My plans were few. I knew I’d use the time to read books. I like to read books because it’s an interesting thing to do, plus it makes me even smarter than I already am.
Not on the plan was yard work, which I dislike. My distaste for yard work was one of the reasons I recently had part of the Hacienda lawn filled in with stone and cement. That’s the lighter part in the photo above. The darker is the sidewalk, which is 15 years old.
But I’ve discovered that I’ve simply substituted one form of yard work with another. The stone and concrete require sweeping. The primary reason is that there are plants, big ones. One is the towering nopal, and the other is the monster bougainvillea.
The nopal drops big, dead, prickly “paddles.” Ker-splat! The bougainvillea snows dead leaves and other miscellaneous crap.
I was out sweeping this morning when this realization came to me. It’s still yard work. However, sweeping stone and concrete is far more fun than fussing with grass.
I don’t regret the stonework. We intend to do more next year.
Back to the theme of retirement. Lots of folks dream of retiring early, which is a phrase open to interpretation. The standard “early retirement” is 55, and that’s what I did. Other people, mostly young ones, dream of leaving the work world even earlier. At 40, for example. Good luck with that, amigos.
Here’s what you usually have to do to retire early, say, at 55. Don’t go into debt. Save, save, save … and invest wisely. Being single can help. These are not difficult things to do, but few folks do them. It’s equally simple to lose weight. Eat less crap, and do regular moderate exercise. Again, easy, but few people can do it.
I’m having a fun time, and I’ve been having fun since 2000. Before that, not so much. One late afternoon recently, I was sitting here before the Hewlett Packard screen, and I looked out yon window. Below is what I saw.
I’M A LAID-BACK kind of guy. Don’t like having lots on my plate. Prefer having my feet up on the desk, or up on the table on the Jesus Patio. I’ve always been this way. Some call it lazy. I call it relaxed.
So I’m on edge of late. The biggest bother is the guys out in the yard. They arrive every morning about 8. We hardly have time to eat our bagels before the doorbell is clanging, which means I have to move the cars from Point A to Point B because the guys mix cement in Point B. The Honda goes out to the street for the day.
As I’ve dreamed of doing for years, I’ve begun the process of eliminating most grass from the yard and replacing it with stone and concrete, a process called empedrado, very common in these Mexican parts.
Looks nice and doesn’t need mowing.
The work being done this year will uproot about a fourth of the grass that will be uprooted when all is done in three more years. A big semicircle in the middle of the yard will stay put, the only grass I’m keeping. I’m doing the work in stages every winter.
That’s one thing on my mind. Another is that renters arrive to the Downtown Casita on Friday, and I want to get some plumbing and electrical work done there first. It could wait, but just this morning the Hacienda’s solar water heater sprang a leak, so I called the plumber. Maybe he can do the work here and at the Downtown Casita in one fell swoop.
Or not at all. You never know.
Retirement is supposed to be easier than this. I want the workmen done and gone. I want the solar heater to quit leaking. And I want my feet up somewhere with not a care in the world, reading my Kindle and dozing off now and then.
I HAVEN’T worked one day for pay since Dec.19, 1999.*
It’s not rare that people, almost always men, drop dead not long after retirement due to having lost their life’s purpose. I did not suffer that issue.
I’ve never known what my life purpose is,** which simplifies things.
But it’s been almost 18 years now, the best 18 years of my life. Another world, another life, another wife, another language. I done good.
There’s something strange about living days, weeks, months and years without a job and you still have cash in your wallet. We have money due to Social Security (thanks, Uncle Sam), a small corporate pension (thanks, Hearst Corp.) and investments (thanks to wise me). Let’s hear it for capitalism!
Though I have no paying job, I do have work, almost daily. Why, just this morning, I swept the sidewalk and adjoining strip of street out front. I dumped the dirt, and it was all dirt, into a bucket, and I tossed it into the ravine.
This sort of thing does not provide life with meaning, but it does keep the sidewalk clean. That has societal value, I think.
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* A date as tattooed on my brain as is my birthday and my Air Force serial number.
** My fallback meaning-giver is Emily Dickinson whose quote elsewhere on this page does the trick for me. Were I a Christian or a Jew, which I am not, that would replace Emily Dickinson, one supposes.