Retirement……it ain’t what it used to be.

Back in the day, as the saying goes, retirement was thought of as a chance to finally kick back, play golf or bridge to your heart’s content, putter around the house and enjoy whatever hobbies you might have and of course rock on the front porch. While that still may be a part of it for some, most retirees nowadays have another avocation to which they devote time, volunteering. I know several of you readers fall into that category.

I’m certainly no exception to that trend. At one time or another since 2008, when I officially retired from work; defined as that which comes with some form of remuneration, I have worked several volunteer “jobs” that paid nothing, except for a warm feeling of satisfaction that I might be making a difference in someone’s life.

I took on endeavors such as “Literacy for Adults”; “Computers for Kids”; redesigning my church’s website; driving disabled vets to and from the Veterans Hospital, 70 miles away; making appointment reminder phone calls at the local Veterans’ Medical Clinic; Legal Aid and working as a guide in the Trail Center at First Landing State Park. I guess I could also count helping my wife with her volunteer job as Regional Director of the Epilepsy Foundation of Virginia. I only help with a few logistical things and serve as her “IT guy” when computer problems crop up, but every bit helps.

In spite of all this, due to my ever-increasing hearing impairment, I have had to give up almost all of these enterprises. One that I have thankfully been able to stay with is administrative volunteer in the Adult Education department at the Norfolk Botanical  Garden.

Someone lost in the Azalea Garden at NBG

I mostly help with data entry, updating various reports and instructor contracts and keeping monthly student figures current. It’s something I enjoy doing and it doesn’t require a lot of back and forth communications.

Sometimes I even take on the look of my former executive working days……

But sad to say, I sometimes revert back into retirement mode……

The people I work with are terrific employees, with personalities very similar to mine, and very forgiving of my need to often request them to repeat things I didn’t quite understand. Not to mention they all have a great sense of humor, so there is a lot of kidding back and forth the one day a week I am there.  In fact, we have so much fun together that they have designated every Tuesday as “Al Day.” I have suggested that since it is Al Day, I should get it off, but that hasn’t gotten very far.

I can give you a great example of how close this group really is. Every Halloween, the various departments have a contest, each picking a theme to which they dress up. Since this year’s Halloween fell on an Al Day, I was cajoled into being the wizard for the Wizard of Oz theme. I was hesitant at first, since at my age I’m already scary enough, but these gals are persuasive! Below you can see the results of their efforts. It turned out to be a great time and they won the trophy!

I would be remiss if I didn’t give additional mention to the Volunteer Coordinator. In any given year, he has the difficult task of co-ordinating over 1000 volunteers to help with the daily tasks working out in the garden itself, as well as in the many departments that support it. Volunteer needs also include the dozen or so special events that the garden puts on each year.

Let’s see, now where did I put those volunteers?

The perks of working here are many fold. There’s volunteer discounts on some events as well as at the gift shop. Other local attractions such as the Norfolk Zoo and the Virginia Aquarium give reciprocal discount to Garden volunteers. But probably the best perk is, after work, getting in a walk around the beautiful grounds of this magnificent place. I hope you will click on the link above to see all that this garden has to offer.

A forest of crepe myrtle trees during  a spring day sunrise.

And please, leave a comment and let me know some of the things you do as a volunteer, retired or not. It would be neat to hear if we have any in common.


21 thoughts on “Retirement……it ain’t what it used to be.

  1. I have found the toughest part of the retirement years is trying to stay relevant; seems like you, I’ve walked my own little halls of power throughout life… made decisions that impacted more than myself, had some successes, and some wonderful blunders. Yeah, there’s the busy work… but just not the same. As long as we can get vertical on our own every morning and still remember the way to the bathroom.. that’s a big plus! Having another one in which to share it all means everything. Congrats on your anniversary! Oh.. and good luck on the hip metal. Gotta love titanium! 🙂

    • Hi Doug. Didn’t realize until now that you had commented over here. Yes, just being upright and taking nourishment is a big plus at this stage. Thanks for the good wishes and I’ll let everyone know how the store-bought hip goes.

  2. Excellent volunteer résumé, Al! Big win for both the organizations and the retirees!
    I was a stay at home mom in the days when most women had careers. Talk about unlimited volunteer opportunities! People would let me do all sorts of interesting things that no one in their right mind would hire me for…

  3. That looks like an amazing place to volunteer. Years ago I did seasonal work in a greenhouse and walking between those rows of blooming annuals was absolutely the best.
    Hmmm…..volunteer things. I sometimes help with our local food pantry, I crochet prayer shawls and give them away, I sometimes help out our church secretary and we have two sets of aging parents so I am often a driver to medical appointments.
    Love the Wizard of Oz photo!!

    • It is, Faye. In the spring the Dogwood, Azaleas, and Rhododendron turn it into a wonderland. The irony of it is I am the original “black thumb”….no gardening talent whatsoever. Patty (my wife) is expert at all things planted. Go figure. (She’s the one “lost” in the azalea picture.)

      I took care of my mother for 13 years, know exactly what you mean about the doctor appointments! I learned everything thing you can possible do with a cell phone while waiting for her.

      Glad you like the photo. It was my one and only chance to wear a top hat!

  4. How wonderful! – both your spirit of volunteerism and the gardens. I’m sorry your hearing loss is limiting your activities, though. You’ve got a great attitude, Al.

    I am the treasurer of our church’s cemetery board, volunteer tutor for English as a Second Language students each week at the local community college, help out a couple times each month at the homeless shelter, and am the back up driver for some friends who deliver Meals on Wheels. I’m hoping to ramp up the activity when I retire someday.

    To whom so many undeserved gifts have been given, much is expected, eh? 🙂

    • Hi Peg. Wonderful that you are doing so much for others with the busy working schedule you have. I was devastated when I could no longer work with the literacy folks. As you undoubtedly know from your work, it is much harder to understand someone with a pronounced foreign accent, especially with hearing loss. But it was very rewarding while it lasted.

  5. I used to volunteer my Bro at Emily’s school. I tend to help folk in my own way now… Is that Patty among the Azaleas? Beautiful gardens. I love you. ❤ xX

    • Yes, I wondered who would be the first to notice. You win the prize, my dear sis!

      And yes, volunteering is not exclusive to organizations. There are those among us that make a great difference in people’s lives in a one-on-one basis. You and Patty are great examples of that.

  6. I must say your retirement seems full of activities only a generous hearted man like yourself would undertake with such regularity. It is truly impressive and I have nothing which can compare it with apart from grumbling with other relics about the decline on the quality of the cooked breakfast offered at our habitual hostelry. I do hope people across the street, and help with shopping bags but I don’t think either of those activities come with a job title, and I’m sure you do those things yourself anyway. So hats off to a thoroughly decent man from a bar somewhere in the depths of Surrey, England !!

    • Peter, your job is to keep me (and others) thoroughly entertained with your blog posts and your comments (like this one). I dare say you have achieved remarkable success at that ever since our paths first crossed. The droll humor in your writing is a gift and I would hate to see you take on something that would in any way steal time from your writing and diminish our enjoyment!

  7. As a former Director of Volunteer Services at a local hospital (Elmira, NY) with responsibility for 500 volunteers and an Auxiliary membership of nearly 1,000 I can identify with both your Director and all the people and services he must juggle….and applaud, as well, your volunteerism. Having fun doing volunteer work is important but most important is the payback you get for your volunteer efforts. I’ve heard it said over and over again – “I get more than I give”. I’ve had a few “careers” in my life but my years as Director of Volunteer Services and the life long friends I made over the years made that “job” very close to my heart.

    • That is a great story, Jeri. It is extremely gratifying, and your efforts as Director I’m sure were well rewarded, as you said, by life-long friendships. I’ll remember for a long time the stories those disabled vets told as I was driving them to appointments. It saddened me when I could no longer hear them above the din of the highway noise in that big van and I had to give that up.

  8. Hi, Al – I will soon be off to make some homemade beef stew. I love to cook and had very little time to do a lot of cooking until coming to SC. As a retiree some of the things I enjoy or will enjoy is seeing “you” and Patty. In life, we make a lot of connections and we remember the ones that left a mark on your heart. You fall into that category my friend, so we will enjoy visiting with you and vice versa. Maybe we will go on a trip together one of these days. We don’t mind repeating ourselves. Back to retiring – aside from cooking, I have a passion for writing so I hope to write and get a book published. I enjoy art and hope to finish the hat drawing re the hat my mom wore in the nursing home … it is a challenge for sure given the medium I use. I/we enjoy hiking so we will do that. There are lots of activities in our community and being a social person I will enjoy doing those type of things. Tomorrow night we will go to an Italian Tail Gate party with a dj. Saturday nite there is a Woody Allen play. Tomorrow I will help with a mission statement for a chaplaincy group (ugh) … got roped into that. Enjoy walking, gym and going to various exercise classes like yoga. I am happy you are working at a botanical garden. You are one of the very “sweet” flowers of life. That, I am sure, will be your legacy. Hope that helps. Miss you and Patty. Karen

    • Such a very kind comment, Karen. Of course I too have the fondest of memories of the times we were all together in Allentown. It seems like it was another lifetime, but here we are now, through the gauntlet and ready to enjoy those proverbial “golden years.” You should be kept very busy with the art and writing and I know you are very active in church. Are you still thinking of blogging? Let me know any other ways I can help with that. And say hey to Ed.

      • Yes, I am still thinking of blogging and yes you can help with that. That said, I sometimes feel pulled to do recruiting at least on a more preliminary basis so I wonder if I should do something like that or just take life as it comes. What do you think? So, probably in a week or so we can chat about doing blogging. Ed says hi to you and Patty. Hugs, K

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