Friday, May 1, 2015

The Last Day: A Completely Personal Rant

     Relax; this isn’t about the Eschaton. It’s about a last day of another sort.

     I commuted to work this morning for the last time. As of close-of-business today, I will no longer be an engineer; I’ll be a retired engineer.

     It’s a nervous-making transition. I’ve known other retirees who turned completely inert. I know of one whose wife is absolutely frantic because he watches television all day. Literally: He gets up in the mid-morning, turns on the television, and perches himself on the sofa to watch. He only gets off the couch for bathroom visits and meals...and he’s been trying to get his wife to bring him his meals.

     So it’s been done badly. On the other hand, it’s also been done...I won’t say “successfully,” but to a completely opposite effect. The fellow I have in mind is busier as a retiree than he ever was as an engineer, because everyone who knows him knows that he’s “handy.” People are constantly descending on him with requests “to help with this,” which, translated from the Weaselly, means, “could you do this for me?” As he never learned to say “no,” he works harder than ever, he has almost no time to himself, and he doesn’t get paid.

     Somewhere in the middle lies a happy medium. I hope I can find it.

     Here are my agenda items for the next few years:

  1. To lose 15 pounds.
  2. To complete two more novels.
  3. To help out more at my parish.
  4. To reacquire my old piano and guitar skills.
  5. To deal with various minor problems around the house.
  6. To “keep my hand in” at my trade, so I’ll be able to follow developments.
  7. To get around New York State more, and reacquaint myself with its features and history.

     Even though they’re listed in descending priority order, I have a feeling that #1 will be the toughest of them. As it ages, the body becomes ever more “possessive” of its flesh. All the same, I intend to put in the effort. As for the rest, I guess we’ll see.

     The C.S.O. isn’t retiring, which removes a potential source of stress. Two retirees eyeball-to-eyeball under the same roof can create quite a lot of friction. But she loves her job – she assists reluctant sky-divers provides accounting services to Catholic religious orders – and is determined to keep doing it for as long as she’s humanly capable. So I’ll be alone much of the week. I doubt I’ll mind, as my pursuits are solitary ones anyway.

     Yes, I’ll still be writing these obnoxious screeds. I haven’t used up all my bile yet, so do keep coming by.

     For the rest of it, time will tell. I’m sure I’ll need the prayers of those of you who pray. (As for those of you who don’t, now might be a good time to start.) This is the last stanza of life. We know how it must end; we just don’t know when. “You know not the day nor the hour,” as the Redeemer has told us, and surely He would know.

     If I have an overarching ambition, it’s to make these final years useful to others. I still have my intellect and my storytelling powers. Perhaps they’ll wither, but they might also blossom in new and unexpected directions. I’d like that.

     As I told the C.S.O. this morning, today is the last day of the first of my life. She puzzled over that for a moment, but the meaning should be clear: everything after today is pure discretion – which I hope will mean pure discovery – pure adventure.

     I’ll keep you posted.


tz said...

For #1, try a low-carb, high fat diet. has some good ideas. I lost 20% and kept it off. There's also primal and paleo, or original Atkins. Also see

Adrienne said...

As long as you don't rearrange the spice cabinet, things should go well.

Ron Olson said...

May God bless you in your new adventures.

BabyHuey said...

To second Tz, that's a good idea for the first item. I would, however, refer you to the research and wisdom of the Weston A. Price institute, Mary Enig, and Sally Fallon. Another source of surprising help for body modification is the Four-Hour Body, available cheap on Amazon. I've used those two resources to great effect, and easily (one of the great appeals of 4HB is the degree to which you can be lazy, but still lose fat and gain muscle).

Tim Turner said...

Fran, you have much more common sense than me, I think. But I humbly suggest you might reconsider and make your #1 and 2 choices:

1) To help out more at my parish.
2) To deal with various minor problems around the house.

And it might be good to follow those with 3) to complete two more novels.

One thing that can happen with retirement is that you get more and more insular - particular if you distrust - or are just generally disgusted by - media and culture in general.

So getting out to help your parish will keep you on the move and engaged in general.

My dad had Alzheimer's to a pretty bad degree. Different scientists have different things to say about combating it, but an underlying current I've seen is, it doesn't matter how sharp your mind is, if you no longer feel *worthwhile.* Dealing with those "various minor problems around the house" will have a proximate and salutary effect on your feeling of worth.

Finally, I think working on your novels will keep your mind (and soul) engaged more than guitar or keyboard work. I've played, written and recorded music (mostly guitar and keyboard) since the mid-60s and it can get to be mental masturbation - particularly in isolation. Unless you plan to start performing in local bistros, I think you know your fiction will gain a wider audience. Thus, it will keep you more on your toes mentally, as you try to connect, cajole, reason with or just plain talk to your audience.

Just my thoughts. Your mileage will obviously vary.

As far as, "To 'keep my hand in' at my trade, so I’ll be able to follow developments," that's the one I maybe miss most of all. Maybe because it was how I put bread on the table. But I *liked* programming. I may not have been as good at it or as erudite as you, but I did it over 4 decades. And in the mid-70s I was helping with assembler programming that put FORTH and Microsoft to shame.

It might sound harsh, but I'd suggest putting that at the bottom of your list. Well, maybe just above the losing 15 pounds.

wheels said...

I wish you well in accomplishing your goals in retirement. As someone approximately the same age, I recently found that the most effective way of losing weight quickly was to acquire a nasty intestinal ailment in Istanbul. That got rid of the 15 pounds I gained after breaking my ankle a few years ago, and diet and exercise has helped me lose another 5 since then.

For "keeping your hand in," you might look for a nearby hackerspace.

Russell said...


And I second Adrienne's advice. For everyone :)

Reg T said...

Fran, retirement can be an adventure. My wife (a little older - I've always preferred older women :-) retired two years before me, and I retired young, back in 2008.

First, we traveled across America, looking for a sailboat to live aboard. Not a home _plus_ a boat, just a boat with the equity from our home. Spent seven months aboard, just got tired of making repairs on our 37' catamaran that the broker's surveyor claimed was in "excellent" shape. Spent three months in Florida and four in the Bahamas.

When we sold the boat, we bought an RV (fifth wheel) and toured some more of America, mostly the Southwest and Pacific Northwest. Stayed in Wyoming for a couple of months, then decided to look for a home in Montana, where we ended up. My wife and I lived in the same small space for the first three years of our retirement, between the boat and the RV. (Of course, the catamaran _did_ have two hulls - but not the RV ;-)

Bought a home on 20 acres in the mountains of SW Montana (under $200k, so it's not as if we are "rich", monetarily at least). We've been making lots of changes to make it suit our needs. The missus paints during the winter (watercolor and acrylics) and gardens in raised beds and a greenhouse in the summer.

Our income when we pulled the plug was the wife's SS and my small retirement from working law enforcement. It was enough to cruise in the boat and then in the RV. At 62 I started getting my SS, plus another small amount from nine years at a VA hospital (my last employment). The point being that you _can_ do a lot on a small income.

Now I do home maintenance, cut and split wood for the woodstove we use in the winter, reload ammo, target practice (on our own land - it's out in the boonies, and our neighbors don't mind - closest being about a quarter mile away), get together with our excellent neighbors/good friends once every couple of weeks, read and explore the 'Net. Haven't watched TV since 1987, and won't ever (we do watch videos).

There is no excuse for not keeping your mind and your hands busy. Considering the puissance of your mind, your writing output will (we all hope) increase, and whatever other hobbies you pursue, or had wanted to pursue, will keep you busy. Throw in the demands of the body - including medical appointments as things start to "fail" - and your time may be busier than you might imagine. Especially if you decide to make any preparations for what may lie ahead for all of us in the FUSA.

daniel_day said...

I started eating a lot more salad and less red meat and dairy last year, due to an illness, and lost 10 pounds very quickly.
Congratulations on retiring. Will you go onto Facebook? ;)

BabyHuey said...

Apologies, I forgot to add my congratulations before hitting enter! Best of luck, may God grant you many happy years!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your retirement! I hope you will enjoy it, and I look forward to the continuing wisdom here.

As one who makes his own hours, I will say that it can be slightly maddening at times when there's "nothing to do", until you realize that at these times, there is EVERYTHING to do. Except overeating.

John Buehrer said...

Congratulations on becoming a retired engineer, or a retired anything. After 8 years of retirement I wonder how I ever found time to go to work. And good luck on the wgt loss.
Thanks for your inspiration on Liberty's Torch the past few years.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Francis. i hope your retirement is as fruitful as mine has been. Yes, I need to lose some weight too, and probably a few other things. However, retirement has been extremely productive in terms of projects I've done simply because I want to. Good luck and choose your projects wisely.

Pascal said...

A mayday on May Day? ;) Surely the coincidence crossed your mind.

Welcome to retirement old friend. May your cruise be long and pleasant.

mostly cajun said...


I turn 65 on June 30. I do not plan to retire until I'm forced to. I enjoy my work and the people with whom I interact in performing it. I still get to play with neat stuff and I get paid well doing it.

A recent ailment had me out for six weeks and showed me I am not to be trusted making my own schedule.

Itrust you will do much better.

Best wishes!


Joseph said...

"O, that this too too solid flesh would melt!"---William Shakespeare

Mark Clausen said...

Sincere and hearty congratulations, Fran! I don't doubt that you'll find productive and fulfilling activities to occupy your time... of course, I look forward to more of your writing (both novels and on the interwebs).

It's also my hope that you venture out to explore the world outside New York. There are many of your readers (myself included) who would love to host you and the CSO, and act as a guide to some our local sights... and perhaps treat you to a beverage of your choice. If you're ever in the WV Panhandle or northern VA, give me a shout.

Best wishes in your new life!

Anonymous said...

A few years ago, a brother at church congratulated another on his retirement from the left seat in commercial aviation.... (mandatory due to .gov regulations, not any 'sane' or quantifiable reason, the .gov simply says "it's time...) He appreciated the sentiment, but greater appreciation was from the gentle reminder that "now, you can begin your second career doing what the Lord would have you do..."
He now works at the community food pantry, and helps with homeless veterans. And has "never felt greater joy, fulfillment, and accomplishment...."
That, Fran, is my prayer for you.... more time with Him. Be blessed.

pdwalker said...

Whatever it is you choose to do, make bloody sure you don't let your brain and body atrophy from lack of use. The fastest way to the other side is to become a couch sitting, TV watching lump.

Stay active and enjoy many years ahead.