Monday was my first day off since 1978. Sure, I’ve had weekends, even three-day weekends. And I’ve had vacations—one of them for three weeks. But this was the first day off I’ve had when I wasn’t thinking about having to go back to work, the first day with an expanse of unencumbered days before me. The Italians have a word for it: pensionato.
I am so pensionato.
So this is the undiscovered country, the Mighty Sargasso, the wrinkle in space-time wherein—so it’s been rumored—the retired are refreshed. I feel compelled to report back to you on my experience.
Here are some of the things I did on Monday.
I awoke. This was the highlight.
I ate breakfast.
I did nothing further of consequence until lunchtime.
I ate lunch.
I had a snack.
I began to feel as if I should do something useful. This soon passed.
I checked my voicemail at the office and discovered that I’d been removed.
Toward dinnertime I began to think of the things I had sworn to do beginning on my first day as a retiree. I would:
- Load Rosetta Stone into the PC and study Italian for one hour, every day.
- Faithfully do the stretches my daughter Lizzie taught me—regardless of the fact that they remind me of Mel Gibson’s death by torture in Braveheart, and how the very fact that I need to do them confirms that I am a captive passenger on the train to glory, like that old Kingston Trio song about poor old Charlie, the guy who couldn’t get off the MTA.
- Systematically clean the den (and the master bedroom, which has become a kind of annex to the den) that I have filled to impenetrability with literary and nonliterary clutter and sworn to clean for two decades.
Restart—from scratch and with some forethought this time—the 300-page manuscript of the novel I put aside four years ago on grounds that I needed more free time to work on it.
I thought about these things, and I decided one need not rush into them. I would, however, do a household chore. I would go downstairs and clean the cats’ bathroom. Known to some as the Forbidden City, it is home to the ecstatic excretory rituals of Ted the Cat and his step-sister Juliet, and it is not for the weak. Unwitting guests have strayed into the cats’ bathroom and never again been seen again. Lined wall-to-wall with unfolded sections of the Washington Post, it is the Emporium of Effluents, the Fortress of Fragrance, the Palace of Pee.
And it is here that I made myself useful. I cleaned up after the cats, changed the litter, and laid down fresh newspaper.
I ate dinner.
I wrote this.
The adventure begins.