Alone for a Week in Retirement

Country living for a retired man

Country living for a retired man

Barbara is on vacation. She went exploring along the northern California coast with two friends she has known for decades. She has been having a wonderful time, including taking a close photo of a bear near a cabin. When we talked on the phone, she was as excited about the bear as you might imagine a twelve-year-old girl scout.

I have been alone with Cicero and the rain. Since Barbara has been away, it has rained everyday. The woods, bushes and grass are growing fast enough to watch.

Rabbits are out in full force eating like there’s no tomorrow, and our local deer herd visits most mornings. One doe objects to my presence. She gives a guttural cough from the woods when she sees me. The other day as she was coughing her objections I went to the edge of the deck and told her that I lived here too and she would have to adjust. I mentioned that she was using a trail in the woods that I had built for myself. She stomped her front hoof a couple of times, coughed once more, then loped off into the back woods.

Much of my week has been spent reading, writing and thinking about Cicero. I have a recliner in our bedroom next to a large window, and I can sit there, read, doze, and watch the back woods. You may remember that Cicero advised us to keep engaged and productive, continue with exercise and physical activity, continue to enjoy sensual pleasures in moderation and face death simply and honestly.

I have been to dinner at the home of friends. I mentioned Cicero’s four arguments about old age, and we fell to discussing death. We all recounted how our parents died, and I noticed an occasional tear. Yet we all agreed that our parents lived and died well. We talked a little about how we hoped to die, and no one wanted a slow, lingering death. Cicero didn’t mention that either. Yet death comes as it will, not always as we might want.

Later in the week I had a widowed friend over for spaghetti at my house. Barbara left me a large tub of sauce.


When my friend visited me, we turned to discussing religion. He likes to protest the activities of the religious right, including the absolute confidence they have in the literal teachings of the Bible. He likes science, and he objects to otherwise intelligent, educated people declaring scientific truths from the Bible. We also talked about the divinity of Jesus and the main themes of his teaching.

I talked about my own Catholic faith, and that I looked to the Bible and Catholic literature for inspiration and guidance, not a scientific account of the origins of the world or an unambiguous statement of Jesus’s teaching. We each had a few beers and talked until well after midnight.

During the week I’ve been walking and swimming nearly every day. On one day, I walked around our neighborhood and got caught in a heavy rain. After rain, the woods and the air are clean and clear. The rain washed me too.

The evening before Barbara left, I photographed a local roller derby. The Classic City Roller Girls hosted a meet with the Dub City Derby Girls from Florida. Fast skating, pushing and blocking, cheering crowds. That event stands in total contrast to the quiet week I have had alone at home.

As I think back on things, I believe Cicero would have approved this week.