Just another “First”

Published in The Girlfriend Connection, Autumn 1999.

 

In 1999, my special group of women friends added another ritual, just one more to be folded into our well established highlights and celebrations. We’d gathered at Trish’s new home for a lovely lunch, complete with china and linens. A fresh flower from her garden was wrapped into the napkin which meant, I was informed, that this was a very classy event. We felt filthy rich in the comfort and camaraderie of the day.

After lunch we’d moved to the living room to get down to business, celebrating the purpose for our gathering. This was a monumental milestone, I realized, one that would become more common for us as the years passed. Relish this first one, I told myself. This is big, really big.

Pam was the first of my friends to retire! I had flashbacks of all the milestones of life that I’d held as precious memories. Now it’s a new phase: retirement.

We’re a fun and fun-loving group of women, proud to be young at heart, acting and feeling more youthful than we actually were. We’d get together once a month for “girl stuff” at a local sports bar. Betty, our unofficial leader, had been my college roommate back in the early 1960’s. We’d reconnected ten or so years ago and I’d merged with her group of friends, joining them for monthly get-togethers, summer vacations and fall week end trips. Our summertime stays in Door County were the foundation and our bond went deep.

Betty kept meticulous records of our adventures, a diary that helped us remember all the important things that happened at the Louievilla in Fish Creek. Like, what year did we inaugurate the bean bag tournament between the “giants” and the “munchkins” at the AC Tap? Or, when did we stack up all the empty bottles against the front door to warn us if “Barbara, the stalker,” a much too friendly stranger, had followed us home.

Or, was it Ginny or Patti who felt sorry for all the people trying to find last minute parking for the fireworks; so they’d opened a parking lot in the front yard. No. It was Pam who so proudly offered the $12.00’s in parking fees to Betty. Betty worried that the owners of the house would find out and evict us. So much for Pam’s entrepreneurial endeavor.

But on this more sedate day, we watched with delight as Pam, a third grade school teacher, retiring after 33 years, opened her gifts. A newsletter had been written that cleverly described each item and how it would be essential to Pam as she transitioned to retirement. Each gift was silly, funny, touching or poignant. Or, all of those things. Pam covered her face with the card and cried.

I was momentarily saddened. This is what we have to look forward to, the first of many other retirement parties to follow. I’m not ready for this. It’s too soon.

But Pam was the best example of happy retirement I could think of. She’d been sensible and frugal, worked hard, taking advantage of her pension and retiring at age fifty-five. Still healthy and vibrant, she bubbled over with all the plans and the things she wanted to do and would do.

Obviously, she’d given this a lot of thought. I was at first surprised, and then not, when Pam said she might even consider substitute teaching. “Not for at least two years,” she laughed.

As I listened I began to feel envious. The freedom. The choices. Then I felt uplifted. Soon, I too will be where she is. I watched Pam’s beaming face and looked around at the others who were sporting equally vibrant looks. Imagine what we have ahead of us!

 

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