July 27, 2005, 10:34 AM
I am sitting in a Canadian Tire, waiting for some repairs to be done on the wiring of my utility trailer.
Tomorrow Heather and I begin our annual journey to our cottage in Québec, and, like cottagers everywhere, there is a bunch of stuff that must be hauled to the lake. So, the trailer hitch, lights, and wiring must work properly, and I’m here while the people who sold me the trailer make it happen.
My retirement has begun. The church threw a lovely party for me on a sweltering June evening, and my last Sunday service after forty years of full-time parish ministry took place on the 17th of July. Right now, technically, I’m on vacation. Those hard-earned pension cheques don’t start until September. But my office has been cleared out, and my keys to the church have been turned in.
If Heather were retired too, I could be going to the cottage tomorrow and staying until October, or freeze-up, or until some impulse says “Let’s do something else!” But Heather is still in business. Part way through our time at the lake she will fly back to Winnipeg for a week and ensure that everything in her law practice is flowing smoothly, then, after two more weeks we will close the cottage and return to Winnipeg somewhere around the Labour Day weekend. For me that’s when the true experience of retirement begins, because, while Heather has to be at work, there is nothing that I will actually have to do.
Ask me what I want to do, however, and I will answer, “I want to finish my book.” With Heather back in her practice, I plan to immerse myself in writing. The book, begun on my sabbatical last year, has a really good feel to it. I enjoyed the process of writing, and am looking forward to doing it once more. When I returned from sabbatical, I soon found that the hectic daily pace of a parish priest is really not compatible with writing anything but short pieces. This book is large, and complex, but now that I have retired, I hope to have uninterrupted hours and days in which to immerse myself in it.
Further down the road I’d like to do some teaching. In the Winnipeg region, I have developed a small reputation as a teacher of ordinary laypeople. I can take a number of lectures and workshops into parishes (at the invitation of their clergy, of course), and hope to do so, particularly after the book has been sent off to the publisher. Already I have been invited to two churches and a diocesan conference, and there are some more requests in the wings. I have even made a small website outlining some of the available programmes.
But today it’s the cottage that awaits us, with all its healthy, restorative diversions of painting, fixing, and clearing away fallen trees.
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