Retirement: When transition feels like a dead end

When you have worked either in the home raising kids or outside the home, retirement thoughts can feel pretty lonely.  Growing up, it would be impossible for me to tally up all the events that Mom attended. Hours and hours she would sit on the sidelines. My biggest fan. My head cheerleader. High school swimming, AAU swimming, school concerts, award ceremonies in college. I could always see her face.

In the pool, I could hear her cheering us on in a fever pitch.  Mom was part of our team. She was a “Swim Mom” and dragged her knitting bag with Irish Knit sweaters she labored over in those hot pool galleries.  She cheered for all of us.

Retirement.  Don’t you just love the ring to it? When I posted last weekend, I was dashing out the door to Mom’s retirement party at this swanky place in southern Maine. What an event.  This time I was the one in the bleachers.

Retirement Party

Our Place Settings

Every detail was complete and done just how Mom loved it.

One thing she didn’t expect? Her sister surprised her by flying in from Arizona.  She was buzzing with excitement when she saw her, ‘MY SISTER!” she cried out.

Work Life Mom worked for a company for nearly 30 years, it is a significant part of her life.  She saw people come and go. Many she has stayed in touch with through Facebook.  What seems to be an anomaly today, most of the people present had been at the company nearly 20 years and many more than 20. (The other person being celebrated was retiring after 42 years! )  Says a lot about a company and the people that run the place.  It is an extended family.  It’s fair to say that even though I spend a lot of time with Mom, they have probably have spent more time with her in those 30 years than I have.

There were speeches, funny stories, and beautiful gifts.  Several times I looked over at Mom and she had a smile on her face and tears welled up in her eyes.  But I never saw them fall or see her wipe her eyes. She took it all in. The most beautiful part was my Mom. She beamed, she was walking in the sun. Hers. Getting accolades, praise and love publicly from her work family. I was overcome with her grace in a situation where she was the center of attention. Not normally a place she feels comfortable.

After the presentations, she asked to speak (I was shocked.)  She grabbed her piece of paper with typed notes and went up to the podium.  In good humor, she thanked everyone and allowed that she was not happy at all about retiring. “I’m just going to have to find another family to adopt.”  she began.  “ It has been the most wonderful life that I could ever imagine and you are all my kids…” Her words were trimmed with honesty. “ There are some that are wonderful and there are some you I have to kinda tell ‘em ‘come on, are you for real?’ ”  She finished with, “I love each and every one of you. It is has been a great life and my house isn’t very far from the office. The door is always open.”

You could hear a pin drop.

A New Beginning
As a 50+ woman and working since I was 13 (babysitter, guitar teacher and swim instructor). Real world jobs started a week after my 16th birthday. I envisioned retiring as cool and how great it would be not to have to be shackled to a “job.”  As I get older, I understand it differently and certainly experiencing life so closely with Mom, I have a better feel for the emotions that are included in this big change. Not everyone shouts “FREEDOM!” from the rooftops on their last day at a job and the life they knew for so long.

I called Mom on her first Monday, (our home phone number) and she answered. Even though it was below zero and the wind was intense, she had been out with her dogs and had a day planned with her visiting sister and talking about going up to camp.

In my head was the echo of a famous quote said by so many, (but I will attribute ours to Elizabeth Edwards). “And when the winds of change did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.”



Kelly Cotiaux

About Kelly Cotiaux

Why are these people getting old? Kelly has noticed her friends and family kids are growing older, going to college, moving out. Health problems that only “Seniors” have and AARP invites a topic of conversation at Bagel Central. Then there is “Mom.” The adventures of navigating life with a Senior Mom that lives 2 hours away. Sometimes all you can do is laugh.