Sunday, April 26, 2015

My Sunday Feeling

My buddy Jim is retiring next week.  He will be pretty much the first one of my close friends to lay down the burdens of honest toil-if you refer to practicing law in that fashion-in exchange for a pension.  Rick claims to be semi-retired.  But as far as I can tell he is working as much as he ever did.  Phil has no plans along those lines and Richard-who has to be 72 if he is a day-will be carried out of the US Attorney's office here in a pine box.  And Pat's girls are still teenagers. He will be at it awhile longer. 

Jim and Gaynelle have put the house up for sale.  They are moving to another town to be closer to her people.  He plans to go to work in private practice.  

But the truth of the matter is that he has no idea what will happen until it happens.  He doesn't know that yet despite my warnings.  Of course, I didn't know it either despite the warnings from my financial advisor either.  

Retirement is a really good place to be.  But it is a real change.  You don't just quit doing something you have done everyday for 30 years without it affecting you.  I have likened it to a divorce that everybody agrees is the best thing for all concerned.  But a door closes on 30 years of your life and how you largely defined it.  And it's heavy.  

It took me awhile to get adjusted.  I had defined myself almost completely by my work.  And because I was able to retire so young there was nobody in my age group to hang with. I wasn't retired more than 4 months when I was offered a consulting type job with a local consumer protection agency.  I took it.  The relief I felt at putting on clothes and having somewhere to go 2-3 times a week was downright palpable.  

Maybe it will be different for Jim.  After all, he has Gaynelle.  He has a plan.  I had neither.  All I had was an offer from Uncle to leave early without penalty by a brief time certain.  There was no planning other than making sure that the numbers worked.

Quite frankly, I struggled at first.  And I struggled for at least a year. Maybe two.  I can't imagine that Jim won't feel some of that as well.  After all, he is doing three major life stressors at once-retirement, moving and starting a new job. Unless you are a sociopath-which he is not-one would have to view this as a stressful marker along life's path.  He's a smart guy.  He will figure it out. But nothing is ever like you think it is going to be going into it.  He's got to live it.

As for me, everything is pretty cool. I enjoy spending my mornings out on the deck or taking a walk.  The days which seemed so empty get filled up pretty quickly now.  I practice law a little bit. I play golf.  I work out. I write.  I play music. I read.  I substitute-teach, which I love. All is well.

And I'm with somebody now.  I stumbled into her when I wasn't looking.  I'm a pretty tough guy and I am comfortable both in my own skin and with being by myself.  

But things are better now.  It's good to have backup.  It's good to have a purpose.  It has been too long.  

Jim told me to bring a bottle of his favorite whisky for his retirement present. Which is more than he brought me as I recall. I can do that. I'm a better man than he is.

I resigned from my little consulting gig a couple of weeks ago.  I enjoyed my tenure there.  But it was time.  

And while I will probably work again, I no longer define myself solely along those lines.  I have a different purpose now.

Like I said, Jim will figure it out.  

As for me, all is well. 

All is well. This sure beats workin'.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

My Sunday Taking A Powder Feeling

Too much stuff going on this week. As Tony Kornheiser says at the end of every broadcast of "Pardon the Interruption," on ESPN, "We'll try to do better next time."

Talk among yourselves.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

My Sunday Feeling

I got the news early Thursday morning from Lafourche Parish that Chris had joined the Club.  His mother Jane McCulla Riviere had passed away.  He told me that her death was peaceful and that she was surrounded by her family.  She was 88 and her health had been declining.  

Comes to us all.  And we should all hope for a peaceful end.  

The Club of which I am referring to is the "Without Parents" club.  I officially joined in 2009 when my mother passed away during a 30 minute stretch when nobody was looking.  Nobody but the lady from Hospice, that is.  We were told that they will do that sometimes.  Bob, who was pulling the night shift, had just gone home.  I was crossing the Faulkner County line around 5:30 AM when I got the call.

They will do that sometimes. 

I may be wrong, but as far as I know, our friend Don is the only one of our group that still has both parents.  I saw them a couple of summers ago when I traveled to Birmingham to attend my first and, so far, only baby shower.  Big Don and Virginia are doing pretty good.  Still live in the home and are independent.  Big Don delighted in referring to me as "that old retiree."

It did seem sort of odd to both of us at that.

My own father, of course, passed away when I was a senior at Hendrix.  At this stage of the game it is almost as if he had never existed.  After all, he's been under a white stone at the Veteran's cemetery for 38 years now by my counting.  That's a long time to be away.  

I don't know if this has happened with Chris yet.  But I was asked by more than one person if i felt like an orphan when Mother passed.  That struck me as odd. If somebody asks him, I'm sure he will find it to be equally so.  After all, orphans are children, and typically are wards of either the state or a member of the extended family. I was in my fifties when Mother died.  I was a full-grown man (to use the country expression) practicing law, fending for myself in a house I own and otherwise getting on as best as I could.  Not much different than now.  

I didn't much even get the notion that I had been orphaned in the psychic sense but I kinda do.  There is this an awareness of the magnitude of the situation on a certain primal level.  It doesn't last for very long-at least it didn't with me.  But when your parents no long exist, it is a sign that time, like a rolling stream, bears all who breathe away. 

That's original with me by the way.

Perhaps I would have felt this more keenly if I hadn't been without one of my parents for such a long time.  My friend Becky's dad up and died two weeks after they buried her mom.  I see from her post on Facebook that their loss still resonates with her on occasion.  That has got to be hard to shake free from your mind.  Anyway, while I imagine, as I say, that Chris might find such a question to be odd, still, he is not made of wood.  And when your remaining parent passes, it is a marker.  And it is heavy.

When I sat up with Mother during her deathbed coma, Chris would call from time to time to check on me and keep me company. Mostly he would tell me jokes about the hapless Cajun known as Boudreaux and his wife, girlfriend, foil (whatever the story requires) Miss Marie.  Chris has been telling me these stupid Boudreaux jokes since our law school days.  He is a bottomless repository of these stories, few of which may be told in mixed company.  A couple of them he has told are unspeakable. 

But here is a clean Boudreaux joke.

Boudreaux, him, was crossing the state highway to get to the mailbox to see if the welfare check from the State of Louisiana had come when-summamabitch- he get hit by a truck driven by Miss Marie, non?  Miss Marie got on that cellphone and called "neuf un un." Then she grabbed a blanket out of the back of the truck and ran over to Boudreaux who was laying in the road.  She put the blanket under Boudreaux's head.

"Boudreaux," Miss Marie say as she knelt down beside that boy, "Are you comfortable?"

"I make a good living, mah Boo," Boudreaux say back to Miss Marie. 

Chris loves these jokes.  And he knew that he could make me laugh at him in spite of myself.  That's what friends do.

Death never comes at a convenient time.  I am usually pretty flexible.  But I just can't make it to Thibodaux for the funeral.  Melissa thought it would be nice if I sent flowers to the house and so I did.  Women are great at stuff like this. I made a memorial gift to a charity the family suggested.  And I said a prayer of thanksgiving both for Mrs. Riviere's life and for the repose of her soul.

Hopefully I can get down there in the next month after things have settled.  We will probably sit on his veranda with a couple of glasses of something amber. His sister lives next door.  If she comes out in the yard he will call out to her "Come see!  It's Paul!"

North of I-10 they say "come here." Cajuns say "come see." Which I catch myself saying occasionally. I can think of no more pleasant way to get someone's attention.  

And while out there we will raise a toast to Jane and Donice.  And I will ruefully welcome Chris to the Club.  

That's what friends do.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

My Easter Feeling

They had need of me over to Conway this morning.  

15 year old J couldn't get his tie done right.  M asked me to fix it.

"I can't tie a tie," she said.  

He had done a pretty good job.  He just had it kinda twisted up.  I pulled off my jacket, took the tie from him, tied it around my neck, then helped him get it over his head and under the collar.

Cinching it up his neck, forehead to forehead, I noticed that J is slightly taller than me now.  He wasn't on Super Bowl Sunday when we put our backs to each other.  Now he is. No wonder that boy eats like he is on Death Row.  He's burning it up.  

"Check the back of the collar, please," M sing-songs from the kitchen.

I checked the back of the collar.  Pulled it down.  Good to go.

"That's a button down collar," I said. "That means...."

" Oh yeah," he said as he tried to find the buttons.  J has a lot of his Mom in him.  Her grey-blue eyes burned out of her son's head as he fumbled to button the goddamn buttons.  

I told him not to worry about it.  After all, Carrie back at the office used to fix my collar and straighten out my tie all the time before I would head out the door.  Sometimes you got to have somebody watching your back even with the nickel and dime stuff.  Sometimes it's all nickel and dime stuff.

I have written many times that I have no use for Christmas and that while I don't know what all I believe anymore I do believe in the concept of Easter.  I believe that victory remains in love.  I believe in second and third chances.

M prepared a wonderful lunch for after church.  After we had gathered around the table she asked if I wanted to bless the food. But I was afraid of a lightning strike.  Besides it's her house and she is armed with an M.Div. and I am not. So I demurred. 

She gave thanks for the food for the nourishment of our bodies.  She gave thanks for our health.  She thanked God for the gift of Easter and of His Son Jesus.  And she gave thanks for "friends, family, love and new beginnings."

I hope it is not hubris to think that I might be granted a small portion of the "love and new beginnings" part of the blessing.  

But all I believe in any more is Easter.  

And I am so happy to share even a fleck of this "new beginning."


Happy Easter.