Over Easy: Retirement 2.0

Dan Mackie (Courtesy photograph)

Dan Mackie (Courtesy photograph)


For the Valley News

Published: 06-20-2024 9:46 PM

Let’s try retirement again!
Six years ago I concluded gainful employment at the Valley News, where I labored for some 30 years. I had originally expected to work there for two, maybe three years — five at the most.

But I settled in like a rumpled office chair. The Upper Valley turned out to be a great place to raise kids. I liked the Lebanon Landfill and nobody, anywhere, had a finer selection of auto parts stores within easy driving distance.

My wife, Dede, says things worked out for the best. “We’ve had a good life here,” she insists, and I believe she is right.

I like to think that when this old journalist meets his final deadline I have a good chance for an A Life story in the paper. It will say that I was an interesting fellow. Don’t believe it. I am better in print than in person. I, for one, will refuse to read it.

But enough about me, then. Let’s move on to the subject of this piece: me, now.

I have reached my Second Retirement. After five years of part-time work in the library at Hanover High School, I’ve hung up my book scanner and turned in my keys. People said I did a good job, but many educators are generous. I had a good boss, an agreeable schedule and likable colleagues. What more could I ask for?

It’s not like I’m going to be enshrined in the Library Assistant Hall of Fame. By the way, if you are ever in Broke Binding, Nebraska, you should check it out. The Dewey Decimal Adventure is patterned after Disney’s It’s a Small World ride, with animatronic librarians singing about everything from computer science, information and general works (000) to history and geography (900).

Kids love the Old Prussian Language Room (491.91), where they can dig to their heart’s content into texts on microfilm, including the classic Peculiarities of the Old Prussian Verb by Mykolas Letas Palmaitis. Video games are dull by comparison!

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This may be presumptuous, but I’ve commissioned a little statue of me for display on the mighty circulation desk where I checked in — and out — countless library books and textbooks. Since I’m now on a fixed income, I’ve had to cut corners. The statue will be made by a potato carver at the Tunbridge Fair. It won’t be all that permanent, alas.

Six years ago, I was not entirely ready for retirement, although it was time to give up the stress and clatter of newspaper life. (This column continues on a freelance basis, sort of in the manner of a hobby, like building little sailboats in bottles.)

Emotionally, retirement was like being blindfolded and dropped off by night into the deep woods. What next?

I grew restless, and felt I had a choice between letting my hair grow and spending my days in a shack by the river — or finding something to do. The library job proved to be just the thing (although teenagers gave me a run for the money). Why stop? It dawned on me that I was spending time that I wasn’t going to get back. I will be 72 by this year’s end. Next stop: 73. The trend speaks for itself.

Of late I have been reading stories and watching YouTube videos about successful retirement. Everybody has their own ideas. Most say you need to have a purpose. Annoying your spouse isn’t enough.

Some set personal goals, others embrace the easy chair. Some work with a schedule, others go with the flow.

There shouldn’t be any shoulds, some insist. But I think I should make exercise a priority — a brisk walk up to an hour a day, with small doses of jogging or hard breathing. Strength training a couple times a week won’t make me a Schwarzenegger, but I am old enough to remember Charles Atlas ads about 98-pound weaklings. If nothing else, I want to be strong enough to wrangle the hefty air conditioner that saved the day this week.

I approach this next chapter with less angst than I did six years ago. Just recently I read accounts of graduation speakers telling young people they can change the world. I am more interested now in easy contentment, good conversations, pleasant walks, doing anything to make our granddaughter laugh.

As the philosopher Popeye the Sailor used to say, “I yam what I yam.” There’s not much more to prove.

I do wonder if he ever made peace with Bluto. I’d like to think that life’s battles can end, the lion shall lie down with the lamb, that naps can bring me to nirvana. Happy retirement, again.

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.