A Different Kind of Halloween
Halloween happens to be the birthday of my younger son’s fiancée, so that already makes it a special day to celebrate. It’s also my husband’s favorite holiday. He loves all of it—getting our decorations out, carving the pumpkins, baking pumpkin bread, and greeting the trick-or-treaters who come to our door.
This year, Halloween promises to be especially memorable because it ushers in a major change in our lives. After spending twenty-one years as a physical therapist at a veteran’s hospital, it’s my husband’s last day of work.
My husband chose to retire and has been counting down his final weeks for months. He can hardly wait to spend unlimited hours playing his guitar, writing music, gardening, cooking, and working on long-neglected projects on the home front. If there were ever a good candidate for adjusting well to retirement, my amazingly energetic spouse would be it.
But even the most desired changes are stressful, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that we’re both a little nervous. It’s not just the financial worries of how we’ll manage with less money. It’s that our life style is about to undergo major renovation.
For years, my husband’s been getting up at four in the morning to go to the hospital, review his charts, and get ready for his work day. How will he feel when suddenly, there’s no need to get up in the dark and no definite place to go where patients depend on his expertise to help them, and colleagues look forward to hanging with him? So much of his life for the past two decades has been incredibly structured by the demands of his work, and suddenly, that framework will be missing.
I also feel a little anxious because I work the equivalent of fulltime between my writing and teaching. Unlike my spouse, I don’t want to retire anytime soon. Is my husband going to get aggravated with me if I don’t spend more time with him once he’s not employed?
Then too, I work a lot at home. Unless it’s a teaching day, I’m used to being totally alone. How will I feel when I’m grappling with a scene that’s not working with my husband hanging around the house? What if he morphs into that most dreaded sort of spouse for a working writer—the lurker who constantly interrupts to tell me “just one more thing”?
To be fair, we have a really good track record when it comes to 24-7 togetherness. We danced together for eighteen years and spent countless hours working on choreography in the studio and performing at home and on the road. We’ve never stopped liking each other’s company, and we’re also respectful of one another’s needs for alone time.
But still… my husband’s retirement feels like a big deal. I’m thrilled for him, excited for us, and yes . . . a little anxious.
I enjoyed reading this piece. Retirement can be stressful for both spouses. One thing I remember is that there were no more interesting “office stories” at dinner.
This is so insightful, and his retirement hasn’t even begun. Given all your insights, though, you’re clearly well on your way to a relatively smooth transition. No question it’s different; my hunch is you will find joy in many of the differences.