The Last Day

Yesterday was my sister’s last day of work. But she wasn’t laid off. She retired! Did I mention that she’s my younger sister?

After a total of 32 years’ service at one of our nation’s institutions of higher learning (and her and my alma mater), she has earned the right to retire from full-time work. I flew to Georgia this week to be there when her office held a reception to commemorate her achievements. It was obvious that she is highly respected and liked by coworkers and superiors alike. And she can leave with the knowledge that she has made a difference.

She has earned the honor and privilege to be able to retire on her own terms. But we all wonder how long she’ll be able to stay retired. She’s already agreed to go back to work part-time after a three-month break. But she’s going back on her own terms as well.

Did I tell you she’s my younger sister? Did I mention that I’m green as Kermit? I’m the oldest! I’m supposed to experience life’s passages first, right? I told her that this just means from now on, she has to introduce me as her younger sister. She wasn’t keen on that idea. “I didn’t get older,” she said.

But my point is that she has earned the right to bypass me in this milestone event, which is not the first either. So shouldn’t I get some kind of concession? Isn’t that my right?

If she were to read this, I’m afraid she would take it all too literally. I’ll bet some of you are, too? But I’m really just musing with my typical tongue in cheek on the quirkiness and contrasts of life. It’s quite OK with me for her to “break” the rules of (sibling) order.

Because as for me, I’ve been retired since last July! In fact, I’ve been taking my retirement through the years in advance installments, aka serial unemployment. Think about it. I’ve had year-long breaks from work, breaks in which I’ve been able to travel, do volunteer work, avoid rush hour traffic, work on personal projects, take a more leisurely pace with my days, and be available to my other sister recently while she endured treatment for cancer. I’ve had this kind of extended privilege several times. In fact, these periods come about every nine or ten years. (What’s up with that?)

I’ve been able to take these breaks while I was young and able enough to enjoy them. What’s the sense in saving up all those retirement years for a lump sum distribution? Why wait until you’re in your second half or last third of life to go out for recess?

But that’s been the norm. That’s been the pattern we were supposed to follow. That’s been the dream we’ve worked toward. That will likely not be reality for me or many others of the boomeration. We get to create a different dream, a different reality. That is our right, and we’ve earned it.

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  1. I’m with you. Ten years ago, I took a deliberate six months off and lived in Hawai’i with my family. No work for any of us. Certainly one of the highlights of my life, and to some extent, my wife and kids’, too. You just got to do it now. You never know…

    • Ann C. Smith
    • April 2nd, 2011

    Instead of being stuck in the culture’s limited frame of reference, you have pioneered in the art of reframing. You accepted the challenge of letting go of old conditioning and opened your mind to a creative book project. If she were to be receptive to it, you could help your sister to grow in her retirement.

      • Paula Robertson
      • April 3rd, 2011

      Thanks, Ann. I like it! 🙂

    • Cora
    • April 1st, 2011

    With age comes wisdom? The world is a funny place when it comes to siblings, time, and life’s passages.
    Keep smiling!

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