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Getting the hang of retirement will take time

As the day of my retirement is approaching fast, I am beginning to realize that as big events in life go, it is right up there with getting married, my extreme youth at the time explains that one, having babies, remember two at a time, and living to see “he who shall not be named” becoming president. Wake me when it’s over.

I think a friend gave me some pretty good advice. “Just say no to anything you are asked to do the first year; otherwise you’re in trouble.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about that. And the truth is people in Hudson don’t appear to quite get it when it comes to life in the slow lane.

It is true that the center of our universe has shifted with the arrival of my granddaughter Nelle, that’s Bean to me. And while we hope to spend more time with her, she is a very busy little girl with a pretty strict schedule we like to respect. That said, I have run across some pretty amazing grandparent acts. Marg and Ben Wopat travel quite a distance to do their grandparent thing every week. This is also the woman who has a big hand in the Backpack Program and does Operation HELP among other things.

Retired educators Denny and Nancy Toll are uber grandparents in my book. Denny has been caring for his granddaughters for several years, and the look on his face when he talks about them — well let’s just say I think he’s what a feminist looks like these days.

Nancy, a teacher and tech guru in the school district for years, recently joined him in retirement and on the “gp” circuit. But, a cancer survivor, she also found time to write a book that is now available on Amazon. I’ll get to that story before I leave.

Teachers really don’t seem to get retirement. I’ve done an awful lot of retirement interviews over the years and they no sooner pack up their desks, than they are back at it as substitutes. I’m thinking being around adults full time must get tedious. Kids may just be better company.

Travel is supposed to be big in retirement. We have some plans, but Kevin has made it clear what he DOESN’T want to do — no driving on the other side of the road or anywhere he can’t read the road signs, no getting lost and pretending it’s a good thing and not too much physical activity.

I think he is referring to the Alaska expedition our friends Jean Marie and Donna took in Denali and the hiking trip my brother Tom and his wife Julie are planning in the Rockies this summer. Way too much exposure to the elements and way too much exercise. I think he sees us on a small tour, complaining about the tour guide as somebody else schlepps our luggage.

There were a fair number of retirees at Saturday’s peace march along Second Street. Having coffee afterwards, they talked about keeping up on news and making their voices heard via letters to their congressional and state representatives. Far from a mellow cup of coffee, these folks are highly energized and made me feel a little guilty about planning a year with my head in the sand.

The truth is I have never had good role models for a leisurely retirement, especially at the Star Observer. The late Willis Miller retired three separate times if I remember correctly. And we were expecting him at work to plan his 90th birthday party the day he suffered his fatal stroke.

Katherine “Kay” Johnson worked well into her 90s as well and went to her grave the author of “Petticoat Lane” and the keeper of Hudson’s social life right to the end. And Doug Stohlberg left us reluctantly.

I have spent almost three decades in Hudson being nosy for a living and liking that a lot. I don’t know yet what my retirement will look like but based on what I see around me, there are lots of options.

Suggestions are welcome, but be nice.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

(715) 808-8604
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