My wife of 38 years retired yesterday. She’s delighted. I’m scared to death. It’s not that she shouldn’t retire. She should. This is her first day without a job in more than five decades. Indeed, it’s time. Her retirement has been very well earned.
She’s made the world a better place during a fulfilling career as a social worker, promoting child welfare and adoption. This morning she embarks on a second career, disrupting my routine.
I “sort of” retired first, leaving the full-time job market five years ago. That’s five years ahead of her, five years during which the dogs and I have established a comfortable routine.
Chip always gets up first. Chip is an early riser. He wakes me. The Princess is next. It’s still dark and she likes to sleep in a little longer than Chip but not so late as Bob.
Bob is the littlest but snores louder and a bit longer than the rest of us. I let the dogs outside and then, while awaiting their return, I precisely measure the amount of coffee needed to make my three morning cups. The percolator make its soft sound while I let the dogs back in. Before the coffee is finished brewing, it’s time for the dogs to eat breakfast.
I carefully measure each dog’s share and divide it among the three bowls. While they eat, I retrieve the newspaper off the front porch and then pour my first cup of coffee into the same cup I’ve used since I was in seminary in the late ‘90s. Then and only then is it time to unroll the newspaper. Then I read it. Once I finish the paper, it’s time to write. I listen to 60s oldies while writing sermons, blogs, columns, and working on a book. Then the dogs and I nap. Always in that order. Afterward, time permitting, I do chores.
For five years this has been a well-established routine. No longer. One might think that since I retired first, I would have seniority, at the least a first claim to the way the day goes in this house. But that would not be correct. Apparently it’s like the Parable of the Vineyard Workers. Remember it? It’s in the 20th chapter of Matthew. This is my wife’s paraphrase of the parable and my lamentable future.
The householder determined what needed to be done and how and when to do it. The daily schedule was his alone. All was good. All proceeded swimmingly until the other householder arrived. Now the new one has different, she claims “better,” ideas of how to structure the day.
Whoa-eth, says the first. “Was I not here first. Am I not entitled?” When the first came, he supposed that he should receive preference over late-comers; and when he received it not, he departed, muttering unto himself.
She answered, “Verily my husband, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me to share this house? Is it not lawful for me to retire, as have you?” So, she announced with caustic pointedness, “The last shall be first, and the first shall be last.”
And so it shall be. The dogs know her as “the treat lady” and so as she descends the stairs each day, they transform from calm, quiet companions into a noisy pack of howling wolves, as though they haven’t eaten in days. The quietness of the morning is gone forever.
Then begins the daily debate over just how much coffee to put in the percolator and the struggle over who gets to read the newspaper first.
Next I receive my daily marching orders, the many chores that I always knew needed done. But it used to be I’d get around to them, if at all, as I felt I had the time. Now there will be a new urgency about their accomplishment. Alas, the chores that could previously wait cannot.
She who must be obeyed has retired. Welcome home dear. Congratulations on your retirement. Really!