Today is day 8 of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge began with A on April 1 and continues the alphabet throughout the
month, except on Sundays. My theme for the month will be this blog’s tagline: life, books, and all things bookish, so you can expect a little bit of this ‘n that. I’m still reading, though, and I’ll add reviews whenever possible. Thirty days of blogging is a huge commitment for me, but I’m looking forward to meeting and greeting new blog friends.
Today’s thought brought to you by the letter H: How it used to be
On Wednesday I wrote about my tour in Amish country and I’ve been turning it over in my mind ever since. Amish farms usually have a smaller house on the property called a Daadi Haus or Grossdaadi Haus where grandparents “retire” when the son takes over the farm. I’m guessing “retire” is used only by the English because in an Amish household there is always some cooking, sewing, gardening, and baby-minding until a grandma is too feeble and frail to help out any longer. Older family members play an integral role in the life of a young family and the community. Every elder has a purpose–and it’s how we all used to live.
It’s an idea worth thinking about, especially as I get closer and closer to my sixth decade. Of course, I could continue teaching far into my sixties or maybe even my seventies, if I was so adventurous. (I’m not.) Americans seem to think of retirement as time to play and be a little self-indulgent after all those years of child-rearing and career-building. Which is all well and good. Quite frankly, I am looking forward to a little more “me” time.
But will that be enough?
Americans are an independent lot. We live and let live. Keep our nose out of our neighbor’s (and family’s) business. It’s every man (or woman!) for him(or her!)self. And now that I’m a grandma, I actively try not to interfere or impose my way of child rearing or house keeping on my children. I don’t step on toes. (I hope.)
So where will I find purpose once I’ve decided I’m done with grading papers and copying handouts, once I’ve taken down my bulletin boards and closed the door to B209 for the last time? I can’t babysit forever–those littles will soon grow up and move into their own busy lives. There’s no huge plot to garden in my small city yard (although a garden is certainly a possibility), no family business to be a part of. I could start sewing again, I guess, and volunteer more. I figure I can only travel for so long. And then what?
I see that playing out in my still very active eighty-year-old mother right now. A widow, she has no end of friends and activities that keep her busier, it seems, than me sometimes–but even she still feels the slow tick-tock of some long days spent alone.
Don’t get me wrong, or accuse me whining. I’m happy. My mind is still sharp. I’ve weathered some treacherous storms in my life and my boat is still upright and sailing on. My daily needs are met ten times over. I have interests and hobbies and no end of curiosity about the world around me.
So I’ll work part time in my sixties. I’ve just started looking into the Peace Corps. I’ll keep busy. I want the last decades of my life to be useful, gratifying. But I think it rather odd that we now have to manufacture ways to be productive.
Sometimes, I wish we could go back to how it used to be.