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Down the Road

Retiring after 38 and a half years
By Milton M. Gross
Sep 2, 2012 - 12:17:01 AM

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On my morning bus run to Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor one morning this week, a voice near the back shouted, "Grace is retiring!"

Retiring, what a thought. I've retired twice so far, but it still seems like I'm up each morning at 4 a.m. to drive a bus summer and winter, sun and snow-- especially snow.

But Grace was actually going to retire. Imagine.

Because I'm a retired reporter but mostly because my mother taught me by modeling the trait of being nosy, I asked Grace, "How long have you been at Jackson Lab?"

"Thirty-eight and a half years," she replied.

As in, "Thirty-eight and a half years, shucks, Maam, twernt' nothing."

Now I'm pretty sure I'm not "Maam," but I believe that's how the line goes. I can't imagine how working in the same place for 38 and a half years could be construed as, 'twern't nothing.'

"So," I asked Grace, "does this mean you're over my remotely current age of twenty-nine and a half?"

She mumbled. I'd forgotten, must have been the sun blinding me through the windshield, never ask a woman her age.

She added, "I began when I was ten."

"Oh," I replied, the sun no longer blinding me, "I heard it was eleven."

More mumbling.

Then, my next question, "How many jobs did you hold during those thirty-eight and a half years?"

"Six," she replied.

"What jobs did you hold?" I asked, really having fun with that mother-taught-and-modeled nosiness.

"My most recent job was as a purchasing agent," Grace said. "But since they knew I've been planning to retired, I've been a purchasing-agent advisor."

Ah, I thought, an advisor. And they paid her. I give lots of advice for free. No one would ever pay for my advice. Maybe you have to be planning to retire to be paid to give advice.

Then Grace concluded, "I'll be riding the bus to Bangor."

Ah, a loyal retiree. Someone who retires and still rides my bus to Bangor. To shop, of course.

I don't shop in stores if I can help it, nor does Dolores. So we never ride my bus to Bangor. We also don't drive to Bangor except to go through it on our way up to the Appalachian Trail.

Someday I'll retire again and have lots of time to go through Bangor to the Appalachian Trail. On the other hand, I may not have all that much time to live by then. But, no matter, Dolores and I will still spend some of that retirement time going through Bangor to the Appalachian Trail.

My father had a friend in his office on the Penn-Central Railroad in Philadelphia, who retired. The poor retiring railroader became so bored with his retirement that he died on day two. It may have been day one. I don't recall exactly.

Maybe if I were retired from my retirement occupation, I'd have time to recall which day it was.

My father wasn't retired when he retired after spending most of his working life in that office of the Pennsylvania and then Penn-Central (and now Amtrak) Railroad. His first day of freedom from commuting to Philadelphia he rode the train back into Philadelphia and got a job in a hardware store. He'd always wanted to work in a hardware store. He and the owner had planned ahead for my father's retirement.

Following his stint as a retired railroader in a hardware store, my father, as a volunteer, took the train into Philadelphia twice a week and served as an organist and choir director for an inner-city church.

After I retired from journalism, a landlord said to me, "Now that you're retired, you need to find something to occupy your time."

I e-mailed my daughter, "I could have shot him, but I didn't have a gun with me at the moment and it wouldn't have used enough of my retirement time."

Besides, my retirement hasn't provided enough free time for me to figure out how to use it.

Going back to work has used a good deal of my retirement time.

But if I ever do retire from my retirement job, I plan, in addition to those trips through Bangor to the Appalachian Trail, to do more volunteering on the Trail and for the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, to volunteer to help other trail systems as I did at Birdsacre in Ellsworth until I ran out of time, to put our canoe and its nice new electric motor into a lake more than once a summer, to take better care of our garden so the veggies can see through the weeds to the sun, to do more freelance writing, to go to the dump on a more regular basis, to clean out the kitty litter boxes more often, and to cut the grass enough so it looks like I've cut the grass.

And now that I'm not yet retired from my retirement job, as soon as I'm done this column, I'm heading out to cut the grass and then go to the dump.

Retirement promises a lot more work than I'm ready to undertake.

I'll think about this while I'm cutting the grass.

I already think the thought of retiring is making me tired.

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2012

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