I remember the good old days when I worked for a living and had the opportunity to work overtime. The reward was pay at time-and-a-half for every hour over eight hours. Saturday work was also paid at time-and-a-half. Sundays and holidays paid double-time, but that’s for another story.
I’ve been retired for about twelve years. I won’t talk about Social Security although I could say a lot. I want to talk about my life. At 76 I feel I’m on overtime. I’ve outlived my father’s 50 and his father’s 75 years. May God give me the years he gave my mother, 87 with a lifetime of smoking, or her father, who may have been over 100 when he died.
So what do you get for time-and-a-half on the job of life? For me, the compensation has been worth the hours. Today, for example, was the first day of my kids’ school. In El Salvador the school year runs from January to November. Being a retired teacher gives me a double shot of joy to cross the threshold of Centro Escolar Francisco Gavidia and receive a handshake and greeting from the school principal. Margarita has Luís on one side and Adriana holding her hand on the other. I bring up the rear and just bask in the blur of children’s voices as we head to their classrooms. Luís is going into fourth grade. He remembers the words on one of his tee-shirts, “I am the boss of me” and moves a bit away from his mother. Adriana forgets she’s seven-and-a-half and clings to Margarita as if it were her very first day of pre-school.
We greet Adri’s first grade teacher and they exchange hugs. We move on to Adri’s class room to meet her new teacher. Before we can cross the room, Adriana finds her classmate from Colegio Lidia Valiente, her first school, and grabs an adjacent desk. Sissi gives me a warm hug. I was her English teacher at the colegio as well as Adriana’s. They get themselves situated and begin what I estimate will be a ten-month conversation interrupted only by the teacher’s pleas to pay attention.
We escort Luís to his class and find he’s not with the same boys he had problems with last year. A good start. Luís is easily “distracted”. But I don’t see his “girl friend” Paola either. That may be good as well. Once he’s installed we go back for one final interaction with the princess. She gives us hugs and we leave for home. School will have its first short day and we’ll be back at ten to collect the kids.
Nothing starts or ends on time in El Salvador so we waited outside the locked door until about 10:20 before they let the kindergarten kids and their mothers out. Anxious mothers were taking up almost the whole sidewalk until a teacher asked them to retreat to the street or step up on the grassy area bordering the pathway to the street. Little bodies seemed to be lost between a wall and the parents on the grass. My height advantage allowed me to spot Adriana in the throng. She was shortly followed by her brother. We got separated trying to exit but found each other on the street.
Once home, the kids changed clothes and Luís disappeared to find his friends. I went back to my laptop to read the rest of the mail and the news. When I needed a stretch, I want out to the patio and found Margarita with the hose and Adriana in her panties. They had given Duke the Dog a bath prior to tomorrow’s microbus trip to the vet’s for the second of his series of shots. Their next task was to clean and hose down the chicken pen. Our little girl went in among the two roosters and twelve hens with a broom while Margarita manned the hose.
There is a special joy in seeing the two girls work together. Adriana is not afraid to work nor is she without initiative when work is needed to be done. In this she is just the opposite of her big sister María (who has gone on to make her life with her Milton).
One more short story: Last night we went to a quinceañera in the street around the corner. The 15-year old neighbor began the dance with our 18-year old Juan. It was delightfully funny watching him dance with a girl who seemed to be an inch or two taller than he. But as other young people (and the slightly tipsy uncle) shook and shimmied, we saw Adriana the pom-pom girl and a little girl friend stepping and gyrating. My smile must have lit up our little table but anyone watching me would have thought I was just enjoying how cute the two little girls were or how amused I was at my princess’ growing up. But they’d be only partially correct. I was praying. I was praying that God would give me at least the 7 1/2 years until Adriana’s quinceañera, so that she would have her first dance with her very own father, not her big brother or a neighborhood kid.
And when I relished that mental event a few moments, I expanded it to her wedding. A wedding for which she’d still be a virgin and still be her old daddy’s little girl. Father God, let me live to dance with Adriana at her wedding. May that young man treat her as I try to treat her mother. May he be patient, understanding, and doting. After all, he’ll be getting a princess,.
These anecdotes, vignettes and thoughts may not seem out of the ordinary even for my current environment. But consider how being retired offers me the time, the all important and too short time to thoroughly enjoy them.