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HE FINALLY DID IT
29 November 2006
The question Walt gets more often than any other, in the past..oh..five years or so is, "when are you going to retire?" (or, alternatively, "are you retired yet?")
For about three years, he's been "thinking about it" and at the end of last year he started thinking about it more seriously. He told me at the start of 2006 that he would have to decide and let the office know by June. This is a decision that he has never really discussed much with me. I would from time to time ask if he had made up his mind yet and he would make a joke about it.
In July, I asked if he had made up his mind. He said that he "thought" he was going to do it, but he apparently had not told anybody at the office that he was retiring.
He couldn't actually commit to saying the words that he was going to retire. As recently as October, when we were in Santa Barbara, when people asked if he was going to retire he would say "Yeah...probably." He couldn't seem to drop the possibility of his changing his mind.
A month or so ago, I asked if he had told anybody at the office that he was going to retire yet, figuring that would be a sign that he was actually serious.
"Yeah, I told my boss a couple of days ago," he said.
But the paperwork wasn't turned in. Finally yesterday he came home and announced that he had turned in the signed paperwork. It's a done deal. He will be retired as of January 3, 2007.
Walt has worked as a civil engineer for the Department of Agriculture for 46 or 47 years. He started in Maryland and then transferred out here to California in 1960. He was the new kid on the block and his boss, Dave (later his best friend) always joked that Walt was like a little kid wearing a propeller beanie.
He never really talked about his job. Our kids could never go to school and tell the other kids what their Dad did for a living. I felt uncomfortable at office Christmas parties because wives would talk with me about projects that their husband were involved in with Walt, assuming I knew about them, but I had never heard of them and sounded like an idiot because I couldn't discuss them. It made me feel like an outsider in this private club.
(Once, at a Christmas party, I discovered he'd been given an award recently. First I'd heard of it.)
When asked about his job, he preferred to make a joke about it. Or he'd say that he didn't really do anything.
Our friend Char once sat him down in a chair and said "I've known you for 10 years and have never known what you do for a living; you're not getting out of that chair until you tell me." Surprisingly, he did. I learned a lot that day, but it didn't make him any more forthcoming about his job on a day to day basis.
I gave up asking. He seemed to feel that his job was either too boring to talk about or that I wasn't able to understand it. The kids decided he was actually a spy and couldn't talk about his job.
(I know so little about his job that when he told me that he had finally told his boss about retirement, I asked "what did he say" and he said "She. I haven't had a male boss in 3 years.")
Over the years he lost his propeller beanie and is now the "old sage" at the office. If he is not the longest employed member of his division in the United States then he is surely one of the longest employed. As such he is now the "historical memory" of the office. If people want to know why such-and-such was done, he's the one they can ask because he was probably involved in it.
He's finally admitted that he will probably volunteer some time after he retires, just to answer those sorts of questions, but the bigger question is what he is going to do when he retires.
As he has not discussed his job, or his plans for retirement with me, he has also not discussed what he sees himself doing in the coming years. Walt's a great guy and everybody loves him, but he has nobody that he "hangs out with" other than the kids or me. He has no hobbies. He doesn't golf, play games, build things, or do any of the other things that people look forward to to spending more time doing when they retire.
So I'm not sure what this retirement is going to mean. I have my own routine around here and I have no idea how having Walt around 24/7 is going to change that. I don't really know how our financial situation is going to change with retirement. I don't really know anything.
One thing I do know is that it's going to be a huge adjustment for us both.
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This is entry #2435