It is my prayer that writing will play its part in a sufficiency and satisfaction of life after retirement. I began writing some thirty years ago because a young boy strangled to death. By the time he got to the ER with his mom, he was beginning to turn blue. I tried to put an endo-tracheal in his throat, but the bolus of meat blocked its passage. Next, an emergency tracheostomy. Although very small, his trachea was successfully identified and opened, where to my horror, I found more meat. Although I tried frantically to clear his airway with forceps, the youngster died in front of me and his mother.
Over the weeks that followed, my sorrow overwhelmed me. I knew the path to healing was to talk about the event, but when I tried, my throat would spasm, denying me utterance. So I began to write about the case in an attempt to impose an order on my thoughts and emotions. I would read what I had written, and cry; again and again the cycle repeated until the tears came less and less, and I was mending. That’s when I started writing.
But once retired, will writing meaningfully round out my days? Sabrina and I have our wildlife work, I have my bowl-turning; maybe the three activities will provide an adequate scaffolding for fulfillment.
Of my writing, I can say it’s never been my aspiration to end up on the New York Times Best-seller list. I don’t write for the market, I write for the one. My goal has not been to reach the masses, rather to reach the one; to do my part in setting a ripple, hoping it will reach another, and move them onward, as has been done for me.
My thoughts, of course, are not the final word. [Life ain’t that simple, and Ol’ Gahv ain’t that bright. Trust me, I’ve lived with him a long time.] No, my scrivening is the link in a chain I am to work on; perhaps an insight, or my inner attempts to reconcile a worrisome perplexity. Yet I keep the faith that this is how God works, often in obscurity, one seemingly disconnected event leading to another.
And there is this: I write as a diarist, not unlike Boswell, Nin, and Pepys, for although perhaps lacking the smooth finish of their prose, I can say this: I have written as many words, for at least as many years as any of these famous three. I sense, one day after I am gone, my kids will want to know more about their old man, thus, the ‘diary,’ not only of me, but my, and their, forebears. Well, kids, it’s all here; my legacy to you.
Writing is a whimsical mistress. Some days you can’t turn off the flood, while others, not even a trickle. Sometimes, I get an idea for a piece, but nothing will come to me as I sit down to write, but let me start to work on some outdoor project and the writing inside my head, begins. I always carry paper and pencil with me.
As to the fulfillment that writing may afford me after retirement, I take comfort in the written experiences of James Herriot, a Welsh doctor of veterinary medicine. He wrote a series of compelling works on his day to day life. His secret was, I think, that his writings, perhaps inadvertently, touched upon topics which many of us find compelling: helping, compassion, healing, and the like.
When I reflect on the blessing writing has been in my life, the joy, sometimes therapeutic, and perhaps to others occasionally entertaining, I am led to a gratitude, a thanksgiving to beings who existed in an untraceable antiquity – the ‘cave men’ – their genealogies forever lost. They who, huddled near their smoky fires to fend off the dangers of the night, gave rise to so much of what is now common place.
Because of their scrawling on the walls of the caves of Lascau, and the elders telling stories, or reciting the clan’s history, we now translate our experiences of living and thought into the prose or pigment of literature, the study of history, and of art. We owe them much; I owe them much.