I’ve been thinking about retirement

My parents were my role models for when to retire and how to enjoy it.  I got married when I was a sophomore in college.  The next year when I was no longer their worry or a drain on their assets, (not that they ever said anything like that to me)  my father retired after teaching in Louisville Public schools for over 20 years.  Several years before, he had had a health scare, heart issues.  And I think that brought it home to him that he wanted to do something else besides get up at 6:00 AM, 5 days a week and drive for 30 minutes or so and then work a second job after school and then serve in the reserve unit of the military on weekends.  Just maybe, he wanted to to something else.  So he retired.  For a few years they traveled in their Airstream trailer and then they bought a house in Melbourne, Florida in a development designed for military retirees. 


They were so excited about this house.  For 30 years or so, my parents had lived in the house that they bought together a year or so after my father returned from fighting in WWII and got a job teaching in Louisville, Kentucky.  The city where my mother grew up.    I can remember when my mother wrote the check for the last mortgage payment.  It was one of those moments that I hoped one day as an adult that I would do too. 


The house in Florida was being built for them.  They got to pick out carpet and flooring, and appliances and all that stuff.  My Mother was soooo excited.  Every Sunday during our phone call, I would hear where they went to look and what they were considering.  And ‘your father is going to’  naming some project that he would do.  I never asked, but I am thinking that it was probably one the happiest times of their life together.  They so enjoyed living in that house and being together.  And they were.  They were together there for over 20 years after my father retired.  That is what is supposed to happen when you have worked hard and done all that was expected of you.


So back to my father.   No denying it, I was a ‘daddy’s girl’.  But the bond between us went both ways.  He included me in  his weekend projects and his ‘fix-its’ and sports and everything but his jobs.  So I love going to a lumber yard or a hardware store.  I love taking something apart and fixing it.  I learned to be curious about how something worked.  I know my tools.  I know how to use them.  And don’t mess with my tools!  And I love college basketball.


So with this move I have been thinking about them.  The excitement and the fun I am having fixing things and making this place just right for us.  Some how, in our first place here in Italy, I guess, because there was more furniture and it is a home for folks that we were renting from I did not make many changes.  But now, we are in  a piece of rental property, with some furniture.   I felt like I needed and could  make more changes.  


For the past few posts you have been reading about my projects.  For the most part, each of them has started by me looking and thinking about it for a while.  Then measuring and drawing and maybe shopping for options.  Then more measuring and thinking and making a list, then finally buying.  Then coming home and trying to make it work.  Some time during the trying to  make it work phase there has been much foul language, followed a few minutes later by ‘Why does this have to be so F…..’g hard?’  Followed a few more minutes later by “I’m too old for this.”  then I would wander off in search of some tool that I had laid down somewhere.  Wander back and somehow the spirit of my father would have entered me and suddenly I knew that if I just did this instead of that it would work. 


So here is last weekend’s ‘fix-it’ project.  The bathroom.  The bathtub issue was the sticking point that we had to resolve before we could decide to move in.   And to the credit of the owners, they were present when Ben sought to convince us all, that he could get in the bathtub to take a shower.  And it was Roberto, one of the owners, who helped Ben climb in and out.  (It was one of those moments where I watched and thought why can’t men always be this kind and caring like that)  And it was Roberto who installed at his expense, grab bars for Ben to use.   The shower is in the tub.  And the tub is raised about 6 inches above floor level so you have to swing your leg easily 2 feet off the ground.  It is hard for me.  So I know it is hard for Ben.


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The other problem was the shower head.  When it was installed, whoever must have measured from the floor not the bottom of the bathtub.  I’m a short, little thing, but I couldn’t stand under that shower.  It was not even 5 feet off the bottom of the tub.  So we bought a longer hose for it and I moved the mounting bracket and now, Ben can stand comfortably under it.  Above you can see the old hole that I moved it up from.


But you will note another flaw.  The tile stops waaaay below where the shower is or even where it was before.  Leaving wall to get wet each time.  And see that little box on the far right.  The former tenant, who had bought a shower curtain but not installed it, was concerned about this electrical box.  Costantino and I chatted about it.  It is old.  Is no longer connected.  BOH!  But still that leaves a lot of wall to get wet each time.


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So Costantino helped me put up the shower curtain and another grab bar.  And after that, I realized that it was not this old box that I should be worried about, but the light switch.  You see it there to the right of the hanging blue mat, encircled with duct tape. 


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This is one of the projects that I thought about for a long, long time. 


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Finally, I just decided to plasticize the walls, with thin plastic, long enough so that shower water will drip in the tub, but not too long to allow air to circulate under it.  And if we see that air needs to circulate then we can raise the plastic.  And you see the terra cotta colored square outside the tub.  That is our step.  Made from 3 (3 Euro each) plastic outdoor patio tiles tie-wrapped together.  It is strong, light weight, and will dry and not mildew.    All in all, my Daddy couldn’t have done better.


So what does all this have to do with retirement.  Well… everyday I take a moment to be grateful  for being with Ben, for our health, for having Nerone in our lives and for being here in Italy to be able to enjoy this.  We could have waited.  We could have had some goal of X amount of money in savings and assets.  We could have chosen to interweave our lives into so much of our families lives that we felt we could not leave.  We could have never considered the idea  of living somewhere other than the US.  Many, many years ago we never talked about a retirement plan or what we wanted to do together.  It just sort of evolved.  Not the way the Wall Street folks would want you to do it.  But hey, we live comfortably, and we are together, to enjoy this time together.   And isn’t that what is supposed to happen after you have worked for 30 years?  


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