A COMMON PIECE OF ADVICE you might hear if you’re approaching retirement: Don’t make major plans for your first year. Don’t plan to save the world. Don’t plan to be elected mayor. Don’t plan to master the piano and have your first recital at a major concert venue.
Instead, just give yourself a year to get accustomed to the strange new reality of not going to work every day.
As advice, it’s not a fit for everyone, and not a perfect fit for me, but it has its merits.
I have ambitions about volunteering to help with trail work this summer on Lopez Island, or helping out with the food bank, or volunteering to help with the recycling operation at the Lopez Dump.
But so far in the 9 months since ditching the daily work world, I’ve found plenty of demands on my time, just to get established in our new home. And, unashamedly, I’ve felt the need to indulge in pastimes and hobbies I just didn’t find time for in my previous life.
Yesterday I bottled my first batch of home-brew beer. It will be ready to drink in two weeks (I’ll let you know how it comes out). Last week, while Barbara was in the city for medical appointments, I took over the dining table to work on a Revell car model that I got for Christmas.
The “fleet” atop our fridge: pink Cadillac, Mini Cooper, VW Love Bug, Karmann Ghia, classic hot rod and a ’57 Thunderbird.
Model building has been an on-again, off-again hobby since I was a kid. It’s something my daughter, Lillian, and I have done together since she was a youngster, and we have a collection of half a dozen completed models sitting atop the fridge in our cabin. We’ve never obsessed about perfection — sometimes the glue goes all over — but it’s been a fun father-daughter activity over the years. It’s a total geek fest, during which I can feel my blood pressure drop like mercury on a January night.
This latest is a model of the first car I owned. I bought the car in my senior year of high school with my earnings as a busboy at a Chinese restaurant in Bellevue. It was a 1965 Chevy Impala two-door hardtop, which I called Ethel. It was a big tank of a car with a 283-cubic-inch V8 that never ran on more than about six cylinders, but it got me and friends to Lake Sammamish State Park for swimming on idyllic summer days in 1974. I bought it for $200 from a classmate’s father, who had put many miles on Ethel in his job as a salesman for Montgomery Elevator Co.The color was supposed to be “crocus yellow,” but tends a bit more toward canary melon or cantaloupe.
At Christmas, Lil helped me with the first steps of painting and gluing. Last week, I proceeded to paint the body of the car, trying to duplicate Ethel’s pale yellow finish. (Chevrolet had called it “crocus yellow.”) But even after adding almost a full bottle of white to the bright yellow Testor’s enamel that was my base, the best I came up with was sort of a cantaloupe color. Oh, well.
“Actually, it’s probably what Ethel looked like before the paint faded,” Barbara suggested, always the one to offer encouragement.
I expect some will say, “Poor Brian doesn’t have enough to do up on that island.” But don’t feel bad for me. I’m delighted to return to one of the simple pleasures of my youth.