Retirement Ruminations

I’m thinking a lot about retirement lately, despite the fact that I’ve got another 13 years to go until I’m eligible. Why? My mom is retiring in 59 days and like me, her work identity is center to who she is as a person.

I’m the daughter of a working mom. This simple fact has certainly shaped my perspective on career and family. Donna’s  worked for Jendoco Construction since 1965 as a secretary and for the past several years, as their office manager. For my entire life, she’s been connected to the projects, the bids, the owner and his children, the “guys” in the office, and her coworkers. I’ve been to company picnics, Christmas parties, and sadly, funerals. Her work life has largely influenced who she is as a woman. Her closest friends were made at work, and maintained after many of them moved on. These are the women I grew up studying, the women I most considered and wondered about as I became a young woman.

I’ve watched my mom worry over every detail at work, including a decision about pantyhose. Yep, the girls in the office didn’t want to wear pantyhose and my mom insisted. Each time I entered my own work place without pantyhose, I guiltily thought of my mom. After all, Pearl, Mom’s office manager of the sixties would never have allowed it! Those were the standards set for her and she believed it was her role to maintain that standard. She’s also worried over every job, every bid, every letter–always expecting the best performance of herself and of the women she managed.

She’s taught me a work ethic, a loyalty to the organization, and a dedication to the job. Donna Lee’s also taught me that giving 100% effort on every task is the only option. Now that my mom’s retiring, I wonder how she’ll let it all go. The worries about each bid and document completed–what will she fill that time with?

I hope she fills it with longer walks. And more time to read. And coffee with my dad. And many, many trips to New York to see us and to Virginia to see my brother. And shopping. I hope she takes the time to do nothing and to allow herself to feel good about doing nothing. To write in the journal I gave her for Christmas and to fill its pages with every memory that enters her head.

Most of all, I hope she finds the time to breathe deeply. And that the breathing gets much easier. I can’t imagine my life without my mom in it. She’s my dearest friend, my champion. She’s the one who always thinks the best of me, who really listens to every word. I’m looking forward to the opportunity for more time with her.

Mom, I hope you breathe deeply and easily. You definitely deserve it.

  1. I was ‘browsing the web’ and I cannot believe I found this. Kimberly, this is such a beautiful tribute to your mom, who I was blessed to work with for 9 of her many years at Jendoco. You captured the very essence of your mom. I also was blessed to finally spend 2 years of my life and live close to my mom and it is two years that have been priceless and I will always treasure.

    I seemed to have lost touch with your mom during these past couple years and am hoping that once I am back in Pittsburgh we can pick up where we left off.

    Donna, you have a special daughter and I am hoping that now you are finally retiring you will spend lots of time with her and Ziggy. After all, Family is what Life is all about!

    Looking forward to seeing you. Not looking forward to the ‘cold’ weather. You are going to give me some pointers on the transition of FL to PA, after all, you did it many yeras ago.

  2. My parents are also retired. My dad was a principal in the Chicago Public School system, and he worked so very hard for 35 years. My mom was an elementary school secretary, and we all know how important she was to her school. Now, they are truly enjoying the fruits of their labor. They travel, they spend the winter in Texas, they walk the dogs, they visit with the grandkids, and basically they are just having fun while they can. As my dad likes to say, “Everyday is Saturday now that I am retired!”
    BTW – I also have 13 years left before I can retire. There is still so much to do that I try not to think about it too much.

  3. What a wonderful tribute to a mom. She must be wonderful to have earned such respect from you. I am close to the retirement I so long for (love my job BUT). I want to watch the birds, listen to nothing and choose my daily path. Not to be lazy as that is not in my vocabulary, but it will be wonderful to spend my time as life allows. I want to enjoy the four seasons from my kitchen table, watching life race by without my leading the pack. Enjoy Lee, these will be your golden years if you allow it.

  4. Thank you so much for that beautiful message. You have certainly nailed how I have felt over the years perfectly. You and your brother are what I am most proud of.
    P.S. to Lisa – I would love to come back to Mall of America.

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