Well-meaning folks who barely know me seem to think I would be happiest playing golf every waking moment of my retirement. Many seem disappointed almost to the point of belligerence—and that’s without me launching into a PC rant about the geo-ecological water and land resource usurpation that the game requires. I could claim that moral high ground, but the real reason is more mundane. It is too clichéd a solution for what to do now that I retired for the third and probably final time this past February.
I have good friends who golf, and a few that may even have the patience to play with me, but aside from their company there is little that draws me to becoming a links man. And just a look at me tells all but the most obtuse observer that I am no Mark Trail. I would rather watch an entire golf match on a grainy black and white 7” television while standing up than to hunt or fish. Most of my inquisitors are well-intended and simply curious as to how loitering, reading, and wandering around with my dogs can provide me with sufficient stimulation to sustain life.
I was not on a quest for fulfillment, and long ago gave up the notion of an examined life, but I have stumbled onto two things I enjoy. One is my version of gardening or, more specifically, plant rescue. Since Monday is Trash Day, Sunday is Trash Eve, and a good opportunity to adopt plants, pots, hoses and brooms, as well as umbrellas, lawn furniture, fountains, and so forth. I do not have a green thumb or know the plant name of anything that is not a rose, but I enjoy picking up discarded plants and nursing them back to health. JoAnne often accompanies me on this Sunday sleuthing. Our back yard, while not yet old people scary jungle eccentric, does show promise. We take much of the furniture and other goods of value to the local Salvation Army, forestalling its date with the landfill. I am now on a first name basis with some of the intake workers, and while none have ventured to ask where all of this stuff is coming from, the consensus seems to be that I am a conscience-stricken cat burglar with very bad taste.
The other role that I am growing into is neighborhood anchor. In 1977 JoAnne and I moved to the East Calhoun neighborhood of south Minneapolis from Naples, Florida. Knowing no one, we were clearly in need of good neighbors. The two families right out our back door were wonderful to us. They were each Austin, Minnesota natives and only a bit older than we were, but wiser, and more established professionally than JoAnne and me. Jay and Joy Dean had two young angelic children, Mike and Margo, and Linda and Lance LaVine had the equally sweet Nicky and Natasha.
We resisted the impulse to alliteration, but started our own family in part because of the happiness we observed in these helpful, mentoring families. When our kids came we were often too busy to take full advantage of the guidance and acceptance they offered to us. I owe my career choice to Jay. Regardless of how frazzled we would be, Lance had the remedy: “Come on over for a cup of tea.” Many times we declined, begging off due to this imagined crisis or that. Lance was wiser but knew we had to chase our own windmill.
We now have neighbors with two very young children and high stress jobs. One is an attorney, the other a corporate recruiter. I am not smart or worldly, and I have never been a head hunter for a Fortune 500 company, but I have made lots of mistakes, and I have time to listen. He is generally gone and she is running here and there. Frequently they are too busy, as we were twenty five years ago, but in the spirit of Linda and Lance LaVine, I have extended to them a standing invitation for a cup of tea.
Tom H. Cook hopes that you will say hello to the LaVines and Deans for him. Thank you for the great response to Keith Oldemann. I am glad to see he has so many fans. Please add the work of film-maker Robert Greenwald. He is also able to cut through our national political pea soup in an entertaining manner. His four documentaries (Out Foxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War On Journalism, Iraq For Sale: The War Profiteers, Uncovered: The War On Iraq, and Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices) are sobering and informative. He validates our greatest fears, but does it in a manner that is pointed without being pedantic.