The journey continues
Technically, we were still employed the last two weeks of June. We had saved two weeks of vacation to end our time at the church, and we have taken these weeks as vacation, to unwind and prepare for our return to Rapid City to get our house read to sell. So officially our retirement began on Wednesday and today is our first Sunday of retirement. I don’t know that that technicality makes any difference, but it is worth noting as we adjust to a new way of life. The days of the week were blending into one another before we stopped working at the church. Covid-19 changed so much in terms or routine. And it continues to have a big effect on what we do and how we plan our lives. Going to church just isn’t the same thing when church is online.
New Pilgrims Community UCC in Anacortes is using YouTube to broadcast sermons, but there isn’t any real way to connect with the community other than watching a video right now. We could contact the pastor, but it would be only a phone conversation at this point. First Congregational Church of Bellingham is live-streaming on Facebook. Their worship services are more similar to what we have known in Rapid City and the congregation is nearer to the same size. Still, it is hard to connect with a community when they are not meeting face to face.
Some of the island congregations are meeting, but the islands themselves are not yet prepared for an onslaught of tourists and we’ve stayed off of them during our visit.
And, of course, we haven’t done anything about seeking a place to rent here. It is too soon for that. We’ve scanned real estate listings and driven by some potential places, but we need to take care of our home in Rapid City before we start paying rent on a new place. So we remain in limbo.
Today we will start back for Rapid City and the work that needs to be done there. It has been a wonderful vacation with walks through parks and community neighborhoods, sleep overs with grandchildren, family meals with our son and his family, and lots of adventures. Our camper has been a good home base and will continue to be that for us for the next few months of transition. But it is time to go back. Vacation is wonderful in part because it is a limited amount of time.
The trip back to Rapid City will give us time to adjust to the realities of retirement. We know that we need to make some changes. Life doesn’t just go on as before. And we have faced a lot of different challenges in 47 years of being married. I commented to Susan recently that it reminds me of our move to Chicago for graduate school. At that time we had only been married a year, but Chicago is about the same distance from Montana as Northwestern Washington is from South Dakota. In those days there was a national 55 mph sped limit, and our car wasn’t as comfortable or quite as reliable as the transportation we have these days. But we were younger and willing to spend more hours per day driving. The trips usually took us three days with two nights on the road. Most of the time at least one of those nights could be spent with family. That’s about the way we’re dividing up these trips.
Of course we didn’t go back and forth. I made a trip with our household items and put them in storage and then we made the move to Chicago in a single trip. But we returned to Montana at Christmas and again in the summer. We also had the stability of a set school year, generous fellowships to make our studies financially feasible, family support if we encountered big problems, and we were moving into an institution that was focused on community. Our first meetings at the seminary were all about getting to know the classmates with whom we would journey for the next few years as we completed our degrees. Theological education in those days was very much about participating in a university community. As one of our seminary professors said, “No one should read Karl Barth alone.”
This time we have abundant family support. Our son and his family are welcoming us to their community. Our daughter and her family are supportive of our decision to make the move. We also have the financial security of a United Church of Christ pension, a bit of Social Security, and a bit of savings that we have been able to set aside. We have the equity in our home and are in a good position to make a change. What we don’t have is the kind of community that we have known in other moves in our life. This time we aren’t headed towards a church that has been searching for a pastor and decided to call us. Except for a few conversations with individuals, the congregations in this area don’t even know we are coming yet.
Skagit County is still on phase II of Covid lockdown. There is a mandatory face mask order for the entire state in all public places where people are closer than six feet from one another. Going to indoors public places is discouraged. The churches are not yet meeting face to face. Our interactions with other people during our travels is very limited. We carry our own food with us. Fuel can be purchased by putting a card in a machine without any conversation with others.
Every person who has experienced retirement has experienced a sense of change and newness. We are not unique. We will make these adjustments. But we have been having a few conversations between ourselves and with our family about how strange this particular adjustment seems to us. As our mentor and teacher Ross Snyder wrote, “Our life is a mountain with valleys between and spiraling paths through the mixed-up ravines.”
The journey continues.