I noticed something this morning. It’s been a long time since anybody’s asked me “How was your day?” Used to be that I’d ask David how his day had been – and he’d regale me with tales of the ups and downs of the day – and he’d ask me how my day had been. Since retiring we still talk about his day but I’ve noticed that what used to come next (or sometimes first in fact) is just left out. There are no “what did you do today?” queries at all it seems.
Okay, I’ll admit that quite often the answer to the question included some venting about the ways in which my work was frustrating, limiting, and/or downright infuriating. No longer am I being asked to do things which I think are unconscionable wastes of public resources. No longer do I have to kowtow to those superior to me in the government food-chain when what I wanted to do was let loose a diatribe about leadership that has no vision and so is committed to micromanagement as a way of exerting authority. Is it because folks know that I am now the “mistress” of my own days that they no longer ask about what I’ve been doing? Is it that they don’t want to hear about another day in which I’ve been able to basically do what I want without interference from those who confuse leadership with control? Or – and I guess this is where I’m squirming the most – is it just that now that my days aren’t filled with “work” they’re of no value or interest? I do wonder whether this is something unique that I’m experiencing or something that other women who’ve retired have also noticed.
R. C. Sherriff said (with slight changes to his words to reflect the times that he lived in and today’s world): “When a (wo)man retires … time is no longer a matter of urgent importance.” Maybe that was just the tip of the iceberg and the truth is that most people think that when a woman retires her life is no longer a matter of urgent importance.
My grandson Art just called me to tell me that I’d been signed up to help out on Science Fair day at his school. What could be more important than that?
FINAL ANTARCTICA JOURNAL EXCERPT (and 2 more lessons): December 19th – 21st
It took no time at all to locate our bags on the pier. We thought we were being met by a representative of a local travel agency who would gather up our bags, take them to their office for the day, and then later in the day help us with the transfer to the Ushuaia airport. With nobody waiting for us we took advantage of the fact that our bags were backpacks, hoisted them onto our bodies, and walked – well in Ushuaia that means climbed – our way to the agent. We called the driver who’d taken us to Tierra Del Fuego National Park (yup, I still love the sound of those words sliding off my tongue) and arranged for him to fetch us and take us out for the day again. We invited our new friends Donna and Ed to join us and before long the five of us were crowded into Andres little car and driving through the most beautiful hills filled with lakes and streams. We had time to hike and to stop for an incredible lunch of roasted lamb that came platter after platter before returning to Ushuaia and arranging with Donna and Ed – whose flight back to Buenos Aires was later than ours – that we’d meet that night in BA for a final dinner together.
Before long we were being dropped off at the Ushuaia airport which, when we’d arrived some 10 days (seemed like a lifetime) before had been a friendly enough place. Not so today. We walked into a scene of utter chaos. The computers were down so boarding passes had to be done by hand, which meant no assigned seats. Much as we thought this was the worst thing we’d ever endured at an airport that was before we went up to the second floor to clear security. Hard to imagine what that means with no computer systems working. Turns out it meant that a couple of hundred people were all hudding together trying to work their way through one door. Standing there in the crush of bodies and backpacks I couldn’t help but conjure up the image of rookeries of penguins huddled together against the winter storms. When we got our boarding passes we were told to just take whatever seats we wanted when we got onboard and one woman had taken this to include selecting a First Class seat which resulted in another delay as she did battle with the man who’d paid extra for the comfort of that particular seat. By the time all was said and done we were already an hour and half late as we took off and began our journey from Ushuaia to BA. The first leg of our flight took us over the mountains of Patagonia which were truly breathtaking – I think that we’ll have to plan another trip to South America. Indeed, on our way home David commented that one day, when he starts “cutting back his hours” we should rent an apartment in Buenos Aires for a month and learn Spanish. A side-trip (by car I think) to Patagonia would be a great idea too. (David, if you’re reading this, just plant that idea for now if you would.)
We checked into our hotel at 10 p.m. after a very, very long day (the Esplendor Palermo Soho … absolutely fabulous, we’d recommend it for sure if you’re heading to BA). We got settled, showered, left a message for Donna and Ed suggesting they meet us at our hotel at 1 p.m. the next day, and walked through Soho to an Argentine pizza parlour. It might surprise you that pizza’s a big thing in Argentina but it seems that many Argentines have their roots in Italy which explains both the fabulous pizzas and their full-hearted joy in eating. As we walked back to the hotel we stopped by an ice cream parlour (they had white-chocolate ice-cream, a dream-come-true for David) and joined the line which included parents with young children out for a midnight snack I suppose.
We both awoke at 6 the next morning, incredibly rested and relaxed. We lounged in bed for a while, had breakfast, and then hopped in a taxi to go cross-town to Belgrano to attend synagogue services at Congregation Bet El. David had done some research on shuls in Buenos Aires before we travelled and we have friends who were very involved in this particular shul before they left BA some years ago. Funny that we don’t often go to Sabbath services at home but we always do when we’re travelling! That day there was a Bar Mitzvah for a boy whose family lived 1000 kilometres from BA. Amazing! We were not disappointed. Something about that service brought tears – real tears – to our eyes. The passion and joyfulness. The whole-hearted engagement. The big hugs we were given after being given the honour of being called to the Torah. We left – driven back to our hotel by one of the congregants – wishing we could enjoy this same spiritual experience regularly at home. Ah well!
We spent the afternoon wandering through BA with our new friends, visiting the Xul Solar gallery (we’d first seen his remarkable work at the Malba gallery and once I found out that there was a whole gallery just for his work we’d put it on our “must see” list), and wandering along Calle Santa Fe sharing memories, dreams, and a final cup of coffee (or two). The extra treat on this trip was the friends we’d made; friends that I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of. Friends who enriched us with their insights and awareness, compassion and commitment. Somehow, at our age, it gets harder and harder to meet new people who are kindred spirits. Maybe that’s because as we rush through our lives we focus on our destination and miss much of the journey. Perhaps there are two lessons in this:
Lesson #10: Stay open. Don’t let the urgent overtake the important.
Lesson #11: Remember how easy it was as a young child to make a new friend, and make as many as you can; they’ll enrich your life in amazing ways.
The next day was our last before returning home. We decided to spend it by visiting the Feria de Matadores, an outdoor market on the outskirts of BA. It was raining – pouring really – so with umbrellas in hand we walked among the artisan’s stalls enjoying our last hours of vacation. We decided to have lunch before leaving and entered a parilla filled by local folks enjoying a mid-day steak feast. Sitting at the table, sipping wine, David was suddenly deluged by rain coming right through the roof. With some assistance we moved to a drier spot and with laughter spicing the meal we chattered away (yes, to those of you who don’t know this, David can be quite the chatter-box when he’s happy) about what an amazing journey this had been.
As the sun set over Argentina I gazed out the airplane window and said my last goodbyes to this beautiful country. Every single part of this trip has been a delight. Now I return home to a new life; the life of retirement. I look forward to the unfolding of this next phase of my personal journey and the discoveries it will bring. Acqui vengo!