What to do when I’m gone

Once you make mention of your possible retirement, people start hounding you mercilessly. All boundaries crash and burn and you will find yourself having to answer questions like: “Why now?”, “Surely you’ll get bored?”, “Exactly when?”, “Will you have enough money?”, “What about your sex life?” … OK so I made up that last one, but all the others stay put. What I really needed was a book entitled: “What will I do when you are gone”, sadly that one is yet to be written.

What to do when I'm goneBut Libraries have always come to my rescue in the past and they did not fail me this time either. Lo and Behold, I found the perfect book to recommend for situations of loss, because make no bones about it, I’m going to miss you guys heaps.It’s a new book – What To Do When I’m Gone. It’s written by a mother to help her daughter cope after her death. It’s funny, full of good advice, beautifully illustrated and applies to all sorts of life situations where people just aren’t there for you any more. Here’s how it starts:

DAY 1 After I’m Gone: Make fajitas. And after you’ve done that serve with fresh tortillas, chopped cilantro, and thin slices of avocado. Great job. Now don’t you feel better? Of course you don’t. Pour yourself a stiff glass of whisky.

The Wrong HeavenMy next bookish recommendation to tide you over is The Wrong Heaven by Amy Bonnaffons. This recent edition of short stories has a slight Magic Realism edge to it. Here is a book to remind you why we read in the first place: to be taken by the hand to visit some strange place, only to get there and find yourself quite unexpectedly at home. I chose this book for its stunning cover, I started reading it because of its great title. I finished it because it is just brilliant. And you’d think it would be a “ladies” book, but its best reviews are all by men. Read it!

Anytrhing is PossibleAnd I hope you have already met up with Elizabeth Strout in your reading travels, but if not you can just as well start here with Anything is Possible her most recent book of loosely linked characters in a small mid-western town. I love Strout’s writing – she is one of the best observers of everyday
folk that we have right now. She feels like one of those people who can divine an entire personality from a single scrap of fabric. Forget about politics and climate change and the price of petrol. The really important stuff is happening to the people in your home, your neighbourhood, your town.

Of course you can instead choose to read one of the many books on retirement, or on growing older. But I can summarise their contents for you right here: Make a will; Pay off your mortgage; Keep active and socialise, and whatever else you do, join a Tai Chi class. Instead I’m hoping growing older will be more like this quote from a review of The Wrong Heaven:

Anything is possible: bodies can transform, inanimate objects can come to life, angels can appear and disappear.

Now that’s more like what I am aiming at in retirement!

Great galloping grannies

Cover of The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the RulesThe writing is on the wall for restful retirements and going gently into that good night. It’s just not enough now to hand out sweeties to the grandkiddies and have a monthly perm. And no one is expecting any words of wisdom from you either.

Instead pensioners are required to recreate themselves. Nowadays, you must become more interesting, eccentric even. And don’t start whimpering that you have no good role models,  because here’s two for starters:

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared was first past the starter’s post in this new geriatric genre. Hot on its heels we have The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules. And despite the light approach in this book, the message  is clear that we take bad care of our elders: the old ladies work out that they would be better treated in prison than in their old people’s homes, hence their crime spree.

And if you do have to reminisce (“when we” this and “when we” that), make sure you’re upbeat and that they get the message that growing old is So Much Fun. And that you really want them to know that you had The Time of Your LifeCover of The Time of Your Life, an adorable little book of quotes and witticisms compiled by John Burningham.

Everything goes full circle, so they say, and you might like to scrap actual reading and dip into a couple of adult picture books instead. Granny Alphabet by Tim Walker has gorgeous, quirky little sketches of game old birds.You’ll probably recognise someone you know – and it may well be yourself!

Live your life to the full, is what comes across so humorously in all these books. But I’d also like to read some factual accounts of pensioners camel packing across the Nullarbor Plain, or paddling up the Mekong. Do you have any suggestions for me?