Sunday, January 15, 2012


I was caught off-guard to see the Retirement Notice at work of someone whom I remember walking in to my department 34 years ago. Way back before the now common moniker of Human Resources, we were the Personnel Department up on the 5th Floor.

If I recall correctly, the first time I saw this woman (or I should say girl, as were both in our early twenties) she was wearing her hair in braids. In those days when I was feeling extra fancy, I used to wear my ponytail tied up above my left ear. It was the 70's, and we were "way cool".

How much I've learned since then! It was a day before comfort was important, when we hiked a good one mile (we didn't even know what a kilometer was!) in high heels during a lunch hour. Running shoes (of any brand) were strictly for soft-ball fields and picnics. Within a short period of time in Personnel, six of us young girls/women became pregnant, grew larger and went on Mat leave much to the chagrin of our manager. Many never returned. We were held hostage by small chubby fingers and toes.

Dee, the one of Retirement Notice, took her obligatory six months and came back to her desk. Hence she earned and deserved to take early retirement while still in her 50's. How spectacular! Back then pension plans were optional for married women. It was a time when we all thought we'd be married forever and ever. Lesson for our 20's - always sign up for a pension plan.

As most of my generation, our thirties were for nurturing, children and husband alike. We had to search out time to dedicate to ourselves. We were raised for the most part by mothers who "devoted" themselves to their role of mother and wife. They waved their spouses goodbye each morning, had dinner on the table and fresh lipstick applied for when he returned. We had big shoes to fill.

Lesson A for our thirties - we learned to bake coffee cake and took courses while the children napped. Oftentimes we returned to work, which led to Lesson B - I am woman, hear me roar. I can be out of my house from 8 to 5, pick up the kids and still have a home-cooked meal on the table. Hooray for microwaves and day-homes.

Our forties can bring the deepest pain and the biggest lessons of all. We learned of our strength and adaptability at the hands of hectic car-pooling schedules, a partner who is never there or one who is attached to the couch during every sport involving a ball. Lesson - We are getting tired...of something in our lives. Sometimes we do something about it.

Surprisingly our fifties bring renewed energy, wonderment at the world and the liberty to be who we truly are inside. We drop the occasional f-bomb - usually as an adjective, we are not compelled to make the bed each day or eat right at every meal, we can go home and walk around naked. We are more forgiving of ourselves and of others.

As I hear of my contemporary taking early retirement, I realize that my life is more than half over (104 always seemed like a grand age to me). Some days I feel positively sage-like, the next day I can't find my keys.

I have so much more to learn and less than 50 years to do it.

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