Retirement. Can it drive you bonkers? Even for today’s youngest baby boomers, that question’s got to be somewhere on the radar. So for those who’ve already crossed the threshold… well… how’s that workin’ for you? Our favorite humor columnist Jerry Zezima, who writes for the Hearst Connecticut Media Group and the Tribune News Service of Chicago, has an answer. It’s called, “The spouse in the house.”
After I retired last year, which raised the question of how I could stop working when I never really started, I realized that I still had two jobs: babysitting my grandchildren and driving my wife crazy.
The first was easy because the kids, who range in age from 7 to 1 but are more mature than I am, ended up babysitting me.
The second was difficult because Sue was still working, so she wasn’t around every day for me to tell her stupid jokes, botch everything on my to-do list, follow her around like a puppy and generally, though absolutely without question, make her want to scream.
Now that she has retired, it’s a lot easier to get that reaction from her.
When I offered, on one of the first days of her retirement, to go to the supermarket for her, which would have entailed calling home every three minutes to ask where each item on her shopping list was, Sue said, “You stay here and I’ll go to the store. I have to get out of the house.”
Such is the situation when an otherwise loving couple, who have been living in wedded bliss for 42 years, find themselves together 24/7.
Sue had been a teacher’s assistant for three decades. Working with children is the highest calling. It’s the world’s most important job — except, of course, for being my doctor.
When the pandemic hit earlier this year, Sue started working remotely, which meant she didn’t have to get up at 5:30 every weekday morning. She could sleep later, do a minimal amount of work and have the rest of the day to spend with me.
It gave her a good idea of what she had to look forward to.
“Is this what retirement is going to be like?” she moaned on more than one occasion, usually after I had just made some typically inane remark.
“Yes!” I chirped. “Isn’t it great?”
Since Sue’s retirement became official, right before the new school year began, we have found plenty of fun things to do together.
Like applying for Medicare Part B and finding supplemental insurance.
“This is enough to give you a headache,” Sue said.
“Is aspirin covered?” I asked.
“Forget aspirin,” Sue said. “How about wine?”
Then there’s the joy of calling the unemployment office every week.
Because I am an old hand (actually, I have two old hands, one of which I use to hold the phone, the other to dial the number), I have helped Sue navigate the system.
“Just remember,” I told her the first time she called, “you didn’t work last week and you didn’t turn down any job.”
“I don’t want another job,” Sue stated flatly.
“See how easy it is?” I said.
Unlike me, Sue doesn’t still have two jobs: Because of the quarantine, she can’t babysit our grandchildren and, because I’m already of unsound mind, she can’t drive me crazy.
What she can do is enjoy her newfound freedom. She loves to go for walks and ride her bike. Even more, she loves sleeping in and letting me get up first to make the coffee because it’s probably the only thing I do better than she does.
When the lockdown is finally over, she’ll fill her time by volunteering at the hospital or taking classes at the library.
“I’m thinking of taking up knitting,” she said recently.
“Maybe I should, too,” I told her. “I’ll have you in stitches.”
Sue rolled her eyes. I rolled them back and poured each of us a glass of wine.
“Have I driven you bonkers?” I asked.
“Not yet,” Sue said as she took a sip.
“Good,” I replied. “This is what retirement is all about. In fact, you’ll be crazy about it.”
Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima
Jerry’s latest book to make you laugh is “Every Day Is Saturday: Sleeping Late, Playing with the Grandchildren, Surviving the Quarantine, and Other Joys of Retirement.”