In his novel, The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway ended the story with a conversation between Jake, a war veteran, and a woman, Brett. They obviously cared for each other, but circumstances made a relationship between them impossible.
"Oh, Jake," Brett said, "we could have had such a damned good time together."
Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly pressing Brett against me.
"Yes," I said. "Isn't it pretty to think so?"
We all carry pretty pictures in our minds. Without them there would be little incentive to move forward and to try different things. Imagine the red, juicy tomatoes when you set out a spindling little plant. Think of how fulfilling it would be to stay by the bedside of a hospital patient and kindly help him to recover. Thoughts drift to that beautiful wedding that, I'm told, every young girl dreams of: the flowers, the dress, the music, and, oh yes, the groom, the perfect man, a drop-dead handsome, rich gentleman who worships you and whom your mother adores. The mind-pictures keep us going.
In the next few days, I will reach the dodgy mile-post of having been retired for six months. Even though I didn't have "plans" for my retirement, I had a picture of what it would be like. Each day would start with a healthy breakfast with extra coffee and time to read the entire paper. After a brisk walk to the background music of "The Happy Wanderer", I return to my wonderfully organized and clean house where I occupy my time with cooking amazingly tasty lunches and dinners, painting masterful landscapes, and strolling through a yard full of show-quality roses and irises.
"Isn't it pretty to think so?"
If you read some of my earliest blogs, you'll know that retirement was off to a rocky start with an ice storm and power outage. Our heat pump has been broken since February, making the unusual June heat wave a sweaty one at our house. There is usually a repairman of some sort either coming or going around here, and I've been working way too hard, still trying to get that organized, cleaned up feeling in the house. When I hit the shower after a day in this hot weather, I usually smell like Spic & Span and sweat.
While the flowers have been beautiful this year, more bounteous this year than I remember them being for many years, the yard has taken on an overgrown look. I need a machete to take that stroll through the flowers, and it's just too dang hot to clear out the flower beds for that English garden look.
Happy thoughts are wonderful, encouraging, nourishing things, but life, you see, is not perfect. The tomtatoes get the blight; that nursing career turns out to be stressful, and the patients cantankerous; the musicians don't show up for the wedding, and the groom is just a normal guy.
Six months of retirement hasn't been perfect; sometimes it's exciting, and sometimes it's discouraging. Turns out retirement is just life with extra benefits. It's no longer a pretty picture I think about; it's the real thing, and it's good.