Well, it’s been 462 days since I hung up my circuit riding cloak, and turned my faithful steed out to pasture. Retirement has been, all in all, a wonderful time of life. Sure, there have been lots of adjustments to make, like no longer getting frantic calls from churches or pastors about some dire emergency, or someone misbehaving, and it was my responsibility to “fix it.” I also have changed out my office from the front seat of a Mazda C-X5 to an actual room in our home, that no longer has two file cabinets and stacks of reports and other forms and papers that I would get to when I finally had some time. I am very thankful for such an excellent successor to my position, which has meant that the folks on the district haven’t had the need to go around her to get me to fix things.
My “to-do” list for the past number of years used to include driving hours and hours across the Dakotas prairie, sandwiching visits and appointments in between 2-3 meetings in a night, and then back to the hotel room to get ready for the next day. In my heyday, I was spending 45 nights per year in hotels, and eating alone in restaurants and such. Since July 2020, I have spent three days in a hotel, and that had to do with Cheri’s mom dying. Big change. And no – I don’t miss it at all.
What I have done is to replace those lists, with ones that are a bit more domestic in nature. Let me share what is on my schedule for today:
Take Cheri to work at 7am. Now, I don’t have to drive her – she is fully capable with her own car, but it’s nice to send her off after a 10-minute chat, and the pick her up and be her chauffeur after 5pm when she is exhausted and a bit worn out from the work of the day.
Plan and cook supper. Besides all the times I was away from home during the working years, I usually made supper for everyone. Now that I’m not away, the kitchen really is mine at least for the evening meal. Sometimes I fail utterly, and supper means a chance to order in pizza or Chinese or some kind of burger or sandwich. Especially with the pandemic, those places in the city have exploded in their offerings, and it’s pretty simple to lay your money down, and then wait for the doorbell to ring. However, when I was at the store yesterday, I found ground sirloin for $2.99/lb. – I know, really cheap, right? It came to me this morning that what our family needed for supper tonight was hamburger gravy. Now, basically, it’s hamburger, garlic salt, onions, flour and milk, all cooked up and served over another carbohydrate of our choosing. As I held the recipe in my hand, I flashed back over 55 years ago, when we had those rare occasions where Mom had a meeting that stretched over the supper hour, and Dad would be tapped to cook the meal for the seven of us starving angels. 99 times out of 100, it was hamburger gravy. There might have been a vegetable, if we opened a can of green beans, but normally we just ate what stuck to our ribs, putting even more salt and pepper on top in that age when no one talked about how bad salt was for you. Kind of like going to the movies and getting the popcorn, and then walking over to the big salt shaker, and turning the bag into the Great Popcorn Salt Lake. It just made us a little thirsty is all…
So, hamburger gravy on a Wednesday night. Before I served at the conference and general church level, Wednesday was always the marathon day of the week, with Bible studies, appointments, meetings, choir rehearsals and probably youth group. Don’t ask me if I miss that either…
Today I have other major, terribly important things on my list. Each week on Wednesday, I take my prescription pills and put them in the weekly dispenser. You know what I mean – when you walk into an old person’s house, which smells like menthol, with the television on to the afternoon talk shows, there on the counter would sit a white container with small lids marked out for each day, which tells the person living there that it’s time to take their pills. I guess that’s me now – but Wednesday is the day I divvy them out. When did I get so many pills? I’m not really sure, and some days I forget to take them, and nothing seems any different, so I consider it more of a hobby than a medical necessity. Actually, over the last 10 months I have dropped about 35 pounds, so I expect my next visit to the doctor (oh joy…) will mean I get to get rid of some of the meds. Or not – at this point, I don’t really care, so long as they don’t add on more.
Pills all done, it’s time of course to do what I am doing right now – writing a daily column. It’s harder than you think, and I don’t always excel at it, but it’s another hobby, and hopefully keeps one part of my brain out of neutral and purring along. On top of the column, I also am privileged to write curriculum for the United Methodist Publishing House, so today I am going to work on writing devotionals for the Daily Bible Studies which are all due next Friday. Better work a little faster, I guess. When I say it has been a privilege, it’s come in no small part from the wonderful students and classes around the country, who have entered into conversations with me, either thanking me for the writing, or asking a question about how in heaven’s name I got to where I landed in the daily devotion. It’s a truly humbling and educational time for me.
At 10:00am, I need to be at the insurance agent’s place to talk about adjusting one of the life insurance policies we carry. Again – when did I get so old as to think about that? It’s just something that now takes attention, and a chance to actually get out of the house for an hour or so. I can also pretty well guarantee that it’s going to cost me more money as a result. Oh well, at least that will keep me from frittering away my fortune, as meek as it is!
Another big to-do item is that they come to pick up the trash on Thursdays, so Wednesday afternoon, I need to go around the house, emptying the little trash baskets, so we can dump it into the big trash can, and roll it out before dawn tomorrow morning. I must say that trash stuff is sure easier from late Spring to mid-fall, before the driveway gets a coat of snow, and instead of simply wheeling the can out to the curb, you get to pretend you are plowing through the upper paths of the Himalayas, watching for abominable snowmen coming from either side. No matter what kind of week we have had, for some reason, we fill the can to just overflowing, so the lid doesn’t shut. That’s fine, unless the North Dakota winds decide to distribute the upper levels of paper trash all over the street – let me tell you, that’s always fun…
I do have another important item today to get done. For the past six months, we have battled over trying to keep the cat’s water fountain clean and pure. This is a problem for a couple of reasons. One is that the two cats that drink out of it (our Siamese will only drink out of his tall glass of water… go figure), and while they are drinking, they drop pieces of the food they just put in their mouth, but haven’t swallowed, so it swirls around and disintegrates, and pollutes the water. Second, our tawny cat, Hermes, has for his whole life enjoyed dipping his front paw into the water, and then sucking the water off his paw. It’s the silliest thing you could ever watch, but it’s amazing how much cat hair can drift into the water, and then clog up the filter.
Well, after going through three different cat fountains, we finally ordered one that we truly believe might work, or at least be easier to clean. My task today is to assemble said fountain, set it up, and see if it accepted by the Cat Council and allowed to come into use in the breakfast nook. Remember what they say, that dogs have owners, and cats have staff? No doubt.
Of course, there are numerous other jobs a retired guy gets to do around the house. I am the only one certified, I guess, to go around shutting off lights and bathroom fans and such, as it is the hobby of most of the house to let it burn and give us something to spend our money on… I also spend a good deal of the day raising and lowering the window coverings, especially in the living room, where from 7:30 to about 10am, the sun streams in to dry up and burn our 1810 Sheraton secretary, or the little Norwegian corner cupboard, or even the 1860s English pastor’s book trunk. The cats – especially the Siamese – love to fry in the hot sun coming in window, but that has to wait until mid-morning, when the furniture is safe from being totally faded. It’s a job, and someone has to do it…
I’m sure there will be time for a nap somewhere, and to do some reading. I mean, it’s not a prison colony, you know… I hope your day is able to be as fascinating as mine is! Be sure to live it with hope, and with purpose, and envision what you do as making a difference, even a small one, in the world where you live…
Word for the day: quondam. Pronounced KWAN-dum. I’m afraid this poor word has gone out of use, but it is a rich word that we have lost. Quondam, the Latin word, is a mixture of quom, meaning “when, as” and the demonstrative ending of dom. Together, it means literally “one-time, or formerly.” He was a quondam superintendent, until he retired. What’s interesting is the number of different synonyms that arise out of the word’s history. It can mean: formerly, once, at times, sometimes, ever, at one time, certain time, one day, and someday. That’s a bunch of different words that you could vacuum up from your normal speech, and simply use “quondam” as a substitute. Best wishes…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.