Monday, August 31, 2009

Twilight Insight



I remember my father. Freshly retired and clutching a retirement present of a round trip ticket to Canada, looking slightly bemused in a snapshot in a local paper. Travel! Now! What a cliché.

I would ask him about the work he left behind. The work that housed, fed and educated his six children for nearly fifty years. Work that kept him sequestered from any unwarranted intrusion into his day, away from the lot of us apart from a ‘dire emergency’. I always understood that to be one of us dead or at the very least hospitalized. My mother never telephoned him for he was a Very Busy Man with Very Important Work.

None of us were privy to his daily doings. It involved The Government for he was a civil servant in the County Council. Something about land expropriation for road expansions and delinquent rent collection and it was Top Secret. And that was, and is, all I ever knew. Occasionally he would be involved in political elections, overseeing the vote counts and getting his face on television to announce the winning candidate. Heady days and the peak of his bureaucratic career.

But when it was over, it was really over. All those hours, days, weeks, years were rarely alluded to. He was like a man released from prison. His days became filled with other activities. He kept up a vast correspondence with far-flung relatives, including myself. The letters were full of news of deaths, births, marriages, graduations and always included a question at the bottom - to insure he got replies, he told me once. He went to town every day on the ‘Pensioner Special’ at ten in the morning and met others like himself for ‘the best lunch in town’ and then walked around the city he loved.

He told me that a stranger stopped him once on a weekday afternoon right in the middle of Patrick Street and said to him he had the happiest face he ever saw on a man.

He travelled to Dublin, London, England, to Africa, to Wales and Scotland. And of course to Canada and around the U.S. He once spent two weeks wandering around Oxford just talking to the men who worked on maintaining all the old walls and buildings.

I would think to myself. All those years. All. Those. Years. Close to fifty of them. And he never talks about them.

And I finally understand.

17 comments:

  1. Looks like a very fulfilling life. Particularly impressive that he had such an active and happy retirement, when others just seem to fossilise. He was obviously full of curiosity and interest in the outside world. A shame he never told you much about his job though, he must have had some wonderful stories to tell.

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  2. Retirement for your father seemed like a new lease of life to go exploring. My own father saw retirement as the end; and time to count off the days until death. He got five years and they were hell for my mother.

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  3. so many people--men, in your father's generation, but men and women now--toil away at work they hate and endure and never talk about because it's too depressing. they carry on because so many lives are dependent on their paycheck, and because they have no idea what they would do if they stopped.

    i hope that was never the case with your father.

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  4. Oh, I so relate to your father, WWW! Freedom! That's what retirement means - a new lease on life. Lovely memories of your Dad, and so beautifully expressed.

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  5. Nick:
    He was a man of limited imagination and I think he was unable to put any kind of positive or imaginative spin on his worklife. He was also extremely private so I could be wrong in that.
    XO
    WWW

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  6. GM:
    My dad was widower of long duration and had to raise two teenagers alone so his freedom was more heartfelt, I believe.
    XO
    WWW

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  7. Laurie:
    I've never seen a person more happy than my father in his retirement.
    XO
    WWW

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  8. T:
    You share the feelings!
    Me too! (though I'm still dabbling in my former work, I've loads of time for other creative endeavours. Life is good.
    XO
    WWW

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  9. I don't want to say what I really think you mean, WWW, but I'm reading between the lines and I hear you loud and clear. This is from one opinionated woman to the other using my intuition.

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  10. My father has a wonderful retirement as well. He retired about 6 years ago. Since then, he kept himself very busy with writing articles that gets published on small magazines, he gives talks in Universities and small conferences, he appeared once on the radio and tv....

    Now he is in the process of writing a book.... I wish that kind of productivity to all at their retirement...:) or at least to me!

    It seems our fathers are similar in that sense.....

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  11. Irene:
    Yes, you are hearing me. But his retirement years lightened him considerably.
    XO
    WWW

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  12. Nevin:
    Bully for your father, it sounds like he has plunged into his so-called declining years with relish and enthusiasm!
    XO
    WWW

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  13. My dad, now 85, loved his work and has loved his retirement just as much. His sense of wonder and endless curiosity have served him well.
    My FIL, was the exact opposite, hated what he did, even though life had been very generous. Retired early, and just bemoaned nearly everything. Always gave me the impression that he thought he had been wronged in some way.

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  14. Brighid:
    Goes to show yet again how attitude is everything, doesn't it?
    I believe my dad was miserable at what he did for a living but didn't recognize it until he was retired.
    XO
    WWW

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  15. Your piece brings up questions of how we define / where we find "freedom." Some find freedom- or at least direction and comfort- through career or structure, and some find it through being released from certain obligations. And of course some people are adaptable and curious and find ways to learn from all types of situations.


    I've always been in awe of the latter group.
    Trouble posting- apologies if duplicates appear.

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  16. Aunti DisestablishmentarianTue Sep 01, 03:36:00 PM GMT-2:30

    Your piece brings up questions of how we define / where we find "freedom." Some find freedom- or at least direction and comfort- through career or structure, and some find it through being released from certain obligations. And of course some people are adaptable and curious and find ways to learn from all types of situations.


    I've always been in awe of the latter group.

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  17. Aunti:
    Absolutely right. There are many definitions to freedom.
    XO
    WWW

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