My dad leaves Michigan in October and drives to Florida where he lives on this really nice retirement community. Wrapped around the nice homes in the community is a golf course, where my dad and many of his retired friends "work."
The milieu there is akin to the college setting, only the opposite. Instead of getting up late and staying up late, most members of this community go to bed early and get up early. And when I'm there I have no trouble adjusting to the difference, especially since my home sleep schedule is so messed up because I work the nocturnal shift.
Four-o-clock every day is happy hour. This is a time when all of us gather on the back porch of mom and dad's house and enjoy the warm breeze to the tune of a drink or two or three. Then we pack around the dinner table and enjoy some of mom's good home cooking.
After dinner dad and I usually go back outside and watch some TV while the kids watch cartoons on the living room TV and the women do whatever women do.
I pull up one of the other chairs and set my feet on it and get myself real, real comfortable as dad clicks on the TV. Usually it's Fox News or the history channel.
"Everybody watches Fox News," Jim from across the street says as he strolls onto the porch, the screen door slamming behind him.
"Hey, Rick," he says to me as he cordially takes my hand with a firm grip, and then plops into a chair by the TV with an equanimatous smile spread across his aging face. I look at dad, and he too has a happy expression on his face, the countenance of a happily retired man without a responsibility in the world other than when his next golfing match will be.
Some light bantering occurs, but nothing too serious. Some light conversations about politics ensue, and it mostly goes along the lines of this, as my dad said: "Ah, it doesn't matter so much what they do, so long as they don't take this away from us."
By "this" he is referring to the way he lives his life. He's relaxed. He's happy. He enjoys the warm weather instead of the freezing snow. He gets to golf any time he wants. Every day at 4 he enjoys happy hour. He smiles. He laughs.
Then, as I'm feeling happy (not drunk but happy) after two or three glasses of wine, I find myself yawning. "I think I'm getting tired," I say.
"Well, you can go to bed anytime you want here. In fact, your mother is probably in bed already."
"Yeah, well, how about one more drink."
"One more." Dad agrees.
So we enjoy the warm Florida outdoors a while longer. My yawns become more frequent. A few more of dad's friends come and then go leaving me and dad alone again.
"Yep," dad said, "Don't get old son, on second thought, get old, it beats the alternative."
I laughed, and then time went by without as much as a word as we enjoyed the moments.
"Well, I'm going to bed, dad," I finally decide.
"You're on vacation," he said, "you can do whatever you want."
Inside I see that the kids already have their pajamas on. I look at the clock, and it reads 7:30 p.m.
In the morning I wake up to the Weather Channel, every day, at around 6:30. And it's real loud. I don't think dad has a clue how loud it is, or he'd probably turn it down. Neither my wife nor I ever say anything.
"Your up early, dad."
"Yep, gotta get to the clubhouse early so I can get a good t-time. Then I go to work," golf, "and then I take a nap, and then it's happy hour."
"Well, I'll see you when we get back from Disney."
"Yep, you have fun." He gave me that "yep, been there done that," look and smiled as he exited the house.
I told him how Disney was nice the first time just to see what it was like, but the only reason I do it any more is for the kids. I only griped when we went to Animal Kingdom, of which I think is nothing more than a glorified zoo.
But the kids are the perfect age for any Disney park. It was as though they were living in a magic world while they were there. And my 4 YO was so cute as she hugged and kissed every character. That part was cool. And that's the only reason I go anymore -- for the kids. No offense Disney, but this 37 year old RT has had enough of the magic.
We decided last summer that we wouldn't go this year so we could save our money, but as winter loomed we decided better of it. "You know, our kids are going to grow up fast, and your parents aren't getting any younger, we might as well just go."
And she was right. Right around February cabin fever set in with a vengeance, work was swamped, and we were antsy to get on the road.
That's about how it is every year for us
Dad and mom, on the other hand, do this every day. As we pack our bags, load up our car, and drive away with mom and dad waving, we are headed back to two more months of cold and snow, and 21 years before I turn 58, the age both my dad and his dad before him retired.
Mom and dad, on the other hand, will enjoy happy hour with whatever friends come over that day, enjoy moms good home cooking, go to bed at 7:30, and get up at the crack of dawn to to go to work, er, golf.
What a life.
Working as an RT is pretty cool, but the idea of golfing for a living sounds far cooler -- or warmer considering I'll be in Florida.
And hile I don't want to wish my life away, nor do I want to rush my kid's growing up, I'm certainly going to enjoy golfing for a living once I turn 58.