For years, our clock radio was set to come on at 5:42 a.m. Hubby’s job was to hit the “snooze” button to allow 9 more minutes of gradual awakening, and then to repeat that process again at 5:51. When the persistent alarm came back at 6:00, it was time to drop feet to the side of the bed and begin a new day.
Timing was crucial. He wanted to leave our driveway ahead of school buses for his commute to the other side of our county. Once there, he liked to arrive with time to spare for perusing the newspaper and checking to see what work was on tap for the day.
I was content to wait until the big yellow vehicles were out of the way, since my trip was longer, and less predictable. If other drivers cooperated, the trip to downtown Little Rock took about 35 minutes. However, when Murphy’s Law was in effect, and everything that could happen did, the journey could take an hour, or even longer. So, I gauged my time by what would be happening when I arrived. On days when I was responsible for leading a class, I wolfed down a quick breakfast, and left right behind hubby. When the “action” was not starting until later, I enjoyed the quiet for a few minutes, drank a cup of hot tea, spent a little more time in the scriptures.
During those years, I was marking off days on the calendar, looking forward to that most important event: Retirement. Employment with the State of Arkansas came along with highly touted benefits, some of which were promised at the end of one’s career. “Hang in there,” they would say. “Your salary here is admittedly not what it would be if you had the same duties in a private sector job. But, after spending 28 plus years of serving your friends and neighbors, you will have a guaranteed income to count on which will supplement the long awaited Social Security check.” My role over the years was to help explain those benefits to others, so planning ahead was expected, and I was eager for each step along the way.
So, we continued our happily busy routine. Monday through Friday, our life was sometimes hectic, but for the most part, predictable. While the kids were growing up, our evenings and weekends were full of activity. As they grew up and away, trips to visit them were worked into our plans. Still, aberrations to our daily and weekly schedules were the exception, not the rule.
Strangely, as the date for my retirement approached, undercurrents of change disturbed our stability. Economic upheaval in the homebuilding industry caused a change in my husband’s job. For a time, he was unemployed, and though our finances were able to adjust, the familiar schedule was blown to bits. Now, I was the only one required to be up and out of the house at a certain time, and his days were spent scouring online ads and other sources for leads on a new work situation. This proved to be beneficial for me, as he took over housework and cooking tasks. I tried not to act too happy about this, as I knew he would be much happier to be employed outside of the house.
At the same time, we realized that my retirement date would not be the be-all and end-all of my own career. For years I had planned to have a part-time job once the daily commute ended, perhaps substitute teaching while I dedicated most of my time to fiction writing. Now, with the head of the household’s income in question, we had to begin to consider other possibilities.
Thankfully, my husband’s stint as chief cook and bottle washer did not last long. He soon found a new position, where he was appreciated for his obviously dedicated work ethic. He settled in, and I continued to wind up my duties with the State, preparing once again to enjoy staying home most days. Recognizing that I would need another full-time job soon, we revised our plans to get an advance on the retirement nest egg, giving us a little bit of breathing room along the way.
So, here we are. The alarm clock is gathering dust. The Monday thru Friday commutes are over. I’m the one scouring on-line job announcements, sending off my resume, anticipating interviews. Since my hubby works most weekends, our outings may happen in the middle of the week. I’m picking up more of the cooking and cleaning duties. How long will this last? What comes next? I’ve learned not to be so concerned with not having all of the answers.