It’s A Long Road That Has No Turns

It’s taken a few years to understand the concept of retirement but I think I’ve got it. You don’t have to plan on doing something; not having a plan to do something doesn’t mean you do nothing. Oftentimes I find myself saying either; “I think I’ll cut the grass tomorrow, or maybe I’ll throw the shorts that I’ve worn for the last five mornings I’ve gone walking into the washing machine”. And then tomorrow comes, and I’ll surf the web for seventies Aussie rock music, have a bowl of gelato, take a few selfies, or do nothing. I do this because I know that when tomorrow becomes today I can still do tomorrow, what I had planned to do today. Retirement means you don’t plan your tomorrow and you don’t plan your today.

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It seems that the mention of no planning caused the young John McAdam to become restless. At seventeen I planned on becoming an Industrial Chemist; a scientist who would mix chemicals to create new-age polymers that would change the world. I started college with a passion and strong sense of commitment; soon displaced by the change and uncertainty of the sixties and seventies. There’s a lot I don’t remember about the seventies and my searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary. I plunged into the Aussie hallowed right of passage; the two-year working holiday in England. I hitchhiked through England and Scotland and wandered along the ill-defined Hippie Trail. I travelled overland, using buses and trucks, into India. The only plan for my journey of discovery was “OK”, and “let’s leave tomorrow”. There was always another path to follow. A few years later I stumbled into South East Asia, Burma, Nepal, India, and back into the Middle East. The itinerary was once again “OK”, and “let’s leave tomorrow”. What remained of my predictable childhood, and young adolescence was stolen by the enjoyment of the unknown.

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Back in Melbourne, I drifted through life teaching in the Victorian Education Department’s Technical Schools. My enthusiasm for sharing the structure and logic, and creating an aesthetic appreciation for the beauty of mathematics in preadolescence boys, was dampened by the Department’s statewide syllabi. What was to be taught, and the week or weeks it would be taught, was prescribed by the Education Department; every mathematics teacher in every technical school throughout Victoria would be teaching Form 3 boys factorising expressions in the same week. I was in conflict; I had embraced living with the randomness caused by the absence of a methodical and systematic plan. My life was being planned by the sequence of teaching preadolescence boys; factorising an expression, calculating the area of polygons, and determining percentages and differences. And so I embraced the pandemonium and chaos of the Schools without Walls revolution. The progressive school where I taught divided a students day into three compulsory timetabled classes, and two “let the boys pick whatever they want to do” classes.

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The traditional first, second and third forms technical school structure wasn’t used to group the boys into classes; instead six of each year one, two and three boys were combined to create a class for the timetabled activities. Classes were a collection of twelve through sixteen-year-old young boys and pubescent teenagers. Teaching was based on the premise, young boys will best learn when they decide they are ready to learn. I was no longer in conflict with a structured syllabus, and the boys were no longer in conflict with having to learn; if two parallel lines are cut by a transversal then the corresponding angles are congruent, obscure trigonometric ratios in right-angled triangles and ambiguous algebraic functions. I watched as inexperienced boys drifted aimlessly through their formative years and wondered, who would allow the hallowed right of passage, or the Hippie Trail and the cultures of South East Asia to mould and define their adulthood. Because most of the boys hadn’t decided they were ready to experience the aesthetic pleasures of mathematics I had nothing else to do but think about how and why we learn. I returned to college to study Instructional Technology and graduated with an advanced degree.

I once again took the fork in the road; leaving Australia and settling in the USA. The young John McAdam became dormant. He nestled into my hippocampus and wrapped himself in his blanket of thoughts, hopes, and dreams; he was deep in hibernation. For close to thirty years I enjoyed being a member of a dynamic community college instructional design team; responsible for infusing technology with learning and transforming and redesigning the delivery of learning for college students. I was an immigrant travelling without GPS through the still shaping digital landscape; our only plan was to use technologies to create new learning environments.

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It seems that my retirement of no planning has caused the young, hibernating John McAdam to stretch and yawn. I need to start planning some strategies for my old age before he fully wakes and starts off with his laissez-faire, do-nothing way of thinking. I think I will need to;

Wear white socks. Instead of roaming ill-defined trails, or splashing through the waves in my rugged closed-toe sandals, I need to start wearing white tube socks with my Teva sandals year-round when I’m in the house, and when I’m mall walking. And when I take up bowling changing into bowling shoes will be so much easier; I’ll be halfway there with my socks already on. Wearing white socks will also prepare me in case I develop diabetes as I move on in years and have to wear compression socks.
Wear shoes with Velcro instead of shoelaces. This decision is based on the premise that my shoe wardrobe is made up of Teva sandals and runners, and I’ll never wear a classic men’s dress shoe again. Maybe I should buy runners with shoelaces and replace the laces with no tie waterproof silicone flat elastic athletic running shoelaces. I could keep the original shoelaces and tie them together so I have a belt for my trousers,. They would also be on hand in case I nick myself when shaving and need to apply a tourniquet; I have read that as you put on the mileage you can develop unintentional shaking or trembling hands. I could also use the original laces as a play toy for the little cat or dog I adopt from the humane society.
Adopt a little cat or dog. They say that urinary incontinence; having a hard time controlling when urine comes out of your body, is something that just seems to happen with the golden years. The commonest form in older men is urgency incontinence. It seems that speed is essential when the urge hits, and the challenge is to rush to the loo without leaking on the way. I’m probably going to have some dribbling, and because of my shaky hands some problems with my aim; another reason why white socks are a good idea. I could think about getting a walk-in shower installed in the bathroom to use as the loo and to make everything easy to wash down in the other rooms get the chairs and sofa cover with plastic. But I think the best way to avoid frustration and embarrassment when I wet my pants is to adopt a little cat or dog from the humane society. I could rush over and sit on the sofa, put the little cat or dog on my lap, and blame it for the soaking in my groin and any soggy spots on the couch.
Commit to a single leg stance balance exercise program. The ability to stand on one leg and balance on one foot is important to an old-timer; especially when you’re trying to put on the reg grundies. To improve my balance while standing on one leg I’m going to do the following single-leg stance exercise every time I’m at the supermarket;

    • stop pushing the shopping trolley in any aisle
    • standing behind the trolley and hold onto it with both hands
    • slowly lifting one leg off the ground
    • holding the position for up to 10 seconds
    • repeating 10-15 times
    • and repeat with the other leg

When the single-leg stance exercise becomes easy and my balance improves, I’ll up the ante by closing my eyes and holding onto the trolley with one hand; I may also increase the time standing on one leg to 60 seconds. Maybe I could interest other sunset year shoppers in the single-leg stance exercise for better balance. We could form a club similar to a senior mall walking club. Supermarkets have a comfortable indoor climate, easy access to toilets and water fountains, and the camaraderie fostered between a group of old-timers standing on one leg in a supermarket aisle would be beyond belief.
Start a fundraising campaign for a Rock and Roll retirement resort. Some people in their second childhood see nursing homes as places for the unwanted elderly; a place where one goes to die. What if we lived out our golden oldie years in sex, drugs, and rock and roll, themed retirement resort? No formal dining room; instead, electric food warmer hot plates with avocado green crock pots brimming with Swedish Meatballs, Rice A Roni, and Chicken a la King, and yellow electric fondue pots with simmering cheese, crab, and pizza fondue, on buffet lined psychedelic walls. Geometric contemporary art, pink patterned sofas, beanbag chairs, brass reading lamps, and indoor house plants would underline that getting old should is fun. Paper plates laden with devilled eggs, bite-size pieces of celery stuffed with vegemite, green and black olives, and bowls of Frito’s, Lays Potato Chips, and Dorito’s would always be in reach to satisfy the munchies.
Daily activities would include how to chop and channel your walker, and customising your walker with the hydraulic suspension to be a bouncer. Singalongs would be a medley of the greatest hits of Daddy Cool, Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, The Master’s Apprentices, The Easybeats, AC/DC, and the Skyhooks.

It seems that the mention of sex, drugs and rock and roll has aroused the young John McAdam from his hibernation. I need to go into the backyard with him to plan what we are not doing tomorrow so we can do something else.



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