The Skeptical Retiree

"What do you do all day?" asked John, a non-retired friend, a year or two after we left the workforce. My husband jumped in to reply: "I don't know, but it takes us all day to get it done."

Our retired friends smile and nod in agreement when we tell them that story, but when I think back, I remember that I had been a retirement skeptic too. A Registered Nurse for thirty-five years, I'd never known a life not filled  with work. Those years had ultimately led me to an executive nurse position in the fast paced world of hospital crises. Each day had held new and urgent challenges; nothing was ever predictable or mundane, and truth be told, I'd probably developed an adrenalin addiction by the end of my career. I couldn't imagine a life filled with nothing to do.

I had to admit though, that I was exhausted by my sixty hour work weeks. I would have willingly exchanged them for a more balanced life, but didn't know how to do that. This emotional unease consumed me for most of the final years of my work life. My husband, Bob, couldn't understand me; he'd already retired and had been waiting for the past five years for me to join him. He wanted to travel in our RV, and he especially wanted to spend the Canadian winters in the warm southern states of America.

The idea of an extended winter vacation was very appealing to me, but I knew full well that retirement wasn't a vacation. It was a permanent, unknown future; an empty, black universe. Armed with colleagues' assurances of consulting projects upon my return, I finally bit the bullet. This was the sop I offered Bob: I'll retire now and travel for the winter but I'll work again when we come home in spring.

So armed with our Next Exit highway travel book, we joined the community of Canadian Snowbirds. We intended to spend several weeks travelling through other southern states en route to our final destination in Texas' Rio Grande Valley. The Victoria Palms RV Resort in Donna, Texas awaited us.

Palm Trees

In those travel weeks, I almost lost my mind. I had no freedom to come and go, no crises to manage, and only my husband to talk to. Trapped in a vehicle for days on end, I lost my sense of self. Although I fully understood the cause of my dis-ease, I couldn't dismiss or modify it so became irritable and weepy. Poor Bob was completely unprepared for this new (retired) me.

We finally arrived at Victoria Palms, the self-described "premier age-qualified RV Resort of the Rio Grande Valley... catering to those fifty-five and older."  Lush greenery and flowering hibiscus trees surrounded us as we drove through the grounds on a boulevard lined with palm trees. Finally at our reserved spot, Bob proceeded to back the vehicle into our site only to find ourselves suddenly surrounded by smiling people who'd gathered to assist and welcome us.

Everyone was warm and friendly, introduced  themselves, then asked where we were from and how long we were staying. Many of them were Canadians, representing nearly every province, and even more were Americans from all parts of the United States. "You're gonna love it here" they all said "we sure do. If you're staying here for the winter, you are Winter Texans, just like us." It was at that moment that we understood the lettering we'd noticed on decals in the back window of vehicles we'd passed on our drive through the park.

MORE pages to follow: click the page numbers below!
Winter Texans Sticker On Rear Window Car

Barbara Tiessen is a retired RN who lives with her husband in southwestern Ontario but winters in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. She researched her genealogy, wrote and self published The Schoenfeld Russlaender: A Mennonite Family's History in 2015. More recently her interest have focused on writing short stories.
2 Responses
  1. author

    June Wimmer10 months ago

    Great story, Barb! Entering retirement from a life also filled with work did seem to be a daunting challenge. However, after a week of not setting the alarm clock for 6:00am, I was loving retirement! So from one Winter Texan to another, I can’t wait to see you again next season, or “summer camp for old people” as I like to call it!!

  2. author

    Pearl Williams9 months ago

    This was very encouraging especially for those who fear that they will not know how to use their wealth of free time.


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