The "R" word again. One might even say retirement has become my newest fixation. For years, retirement was a place far, far away in a universe I never intended to travel to. I knew I would work forever (as well as, live forever, so why not?).
In my mind, retirement was the equivalent of quitting, giving up, giving in, impending death, pervasive doom, dark clouds blotting out the sun, no more zest for life or fun left to enjoy and at best, traveling in a huge, unmanageable, RV to various campgrounds to visit or to avoid the children.
It was what happened to you after one waited until you were too old, too weak, too frail, too incompetent to enjoy life. A plant without water...withering away to dust.
Until it was my turn.
Now I feel much differently about the whole thing. Can't wait to launch into a whole new version of fun. Vacation for life. I've been everywhere, so there is no sense of urgency to travel (there is however, is a 3x5 card's worth of hinting about taking Sarah to Italy, as Lise and I loved our turn in Florence...actually there at the same time in mid 70's...insert Twilight Zone theme song here).
However, when I was in Italy, I visited Palermo, Sicily. Lost and directionally confused (go figure-see...this is not a recent cloud on my capabilities), I found myself wandering down a narrow cobblestone street with twelve foot walls on either side. Every fifty yards or so, there would be an old, thick oak door in the wall, leading into an interior courtyard of the home on the other side.
I was fortunate enough to walk past an open door and peaked inside. The image before me is still as clear as if it were today (I would say yesterday, but I often can't clearly remember back that far).
It was an image I have carried forward for 35 years. A scene out of the Godfather movies.
Beautiful courtyard and garden. A fountain, lots of flowers, hand-made tile everywhere. Tomato vines in pots. Best part - old, old guy (probably my age now, but 35 years ago - that was OLD to me, practically ancient). Sitting in an old (everything about Sicily was old...cool, but old) oak and wicker straight back chair, sound asleep (maybe dead, but it makes a better story if he was just sleeping)...anyway - not moving, holding a glass of red wine in his hand. A half bottle of wine in front of him on a small table. A victrola phonograph playing 78's (for those that only know cds and mp3s - that is a vinyl -first brittle shellac- RECORD played on a RECORD PLAYER).
Enrico Caruso singing. Beautiful, soulful Opera music wafting away, totally contained in his walled secret garden.. acoustics unbelievable - like a private concert in a magical setting.
Even then, with no full appreciation of how it might apply to me, I was struck with the obvious reward of a life well-lived. I have kept that memory close for close to 40 years and now can fully appreciate the value of achieving that moment.
Long segue here, but back to the beginning. The numbers have lined up. Retirement is possible. Been everywhere. Done everything. Love my personal "courtyard". Wine cabinet is stocked. My personal opera favorites on MP3. Fountains, flowers, tomato vines (oh, my).
I am that old guy in Sicily. It is my Twilight Zone. I could not plan a finer finale than to sip a fine Merlot, reflecting on the great life I have lived well, appreciating the visual fruits of my labors in my "Secret Garden" while listening to the aria from Gianni Schicchi - O Mio Babbino Caro. I win.