You're Retiring? Then What?
by Lillian Hicks,
As a young girl growing up
on my father’s farm, I would hear the word “retire” from time to time.
I thought of my father as a workaholic, but he had planned to retire
someday, and spend long hours fishing. In the 1950s and ’60s, as I reached
adulthood, marriage and the responsibility of a family, the word retirement
easily slipped from my mind.
Rearing a family in the
1950s and ’60s was financially challenging. I was committed to being a
stay-at-home mom, but to supplement our family income, I decided to put my
talent and love for sewing to use and, hopefully, develop a profession.
Taking courses from Virginia Tech through the Extension home-economics
program was most helpful. In
1962, I started a home-based sewing service. I made all my family’s
clothing, even the boys’ and my husband’s jackets. With my children as
my walking advertisements, I was able to build a successful business.
However, being very active in the community, church and school demanded a
great deal of time of my husband and me.
Our lives were so busy we
had to make many adjustments. Even though I was determined to succeed in my
business, I still had to meet the needs of a very active family, which
included five children with very busy lives. Our calendar was always full
with church, school, Boy Scouts, 4-H, basketball, football, cheerleading,
band and other activities. I learned to manage my time wisely. I worked six
hours a day, five days a week, unless I was sewing for a wedding — then, I
did whatever it took to get the job done.
In 1970, our boys had gone
off to college. They had worked as bus drivers, so there was a shortage of
drivers and my husband and I were offered bus-driver positions. My husband
accepted. My response was,
“Not in this life.” Yes, you’re right — a year later, I was an
school bus driver, a career that lasted 18 years.
In January 1988, my husband
announced we were retiring. “Close the machine,” he said, “put away
the sewing box, we’re going to see the world.” After all those years,
there was that word again: “retirement.”
I always told my children
to have a plan B, so if plan A doesn’t work out, you can fall back on your
backup plan. After two weeks of retirement, my husband died of a sudden
massive heart attack. I had no plan B. At a time in my life when I needed a
new focus, there was, as I have always believed, divine intervention. In
April 1988, I was appointed to the Southside Electric Cooperative Board of
Directors, to fill the remainder of Mr. William Kantlzer’s term. I also
returned to my beloved sewing for 10 more years, finally retiring in 1998.
Today, my life in
retirement is very busy and fulfilling. I’m still a director at Southside
Electric; the cooperative board and staff have become a part of my family. I
continue to serve the community and my church, to travel (especially
abroad), and enjoy my children, grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
Life in retirement is wonderful.
My idea of what’s
important in life and retirement was shaped and influenced by World War II,
especially the ideals of sacrifice and helping others. Growing up during
this time, we learned early on to make good use of the resources that were
available, and to understand the rationing of so many basic everyday items.
I remember as a 4-H’er in school, we were given seeds to grow a victory
garden. It was so much fun having our own gardens, not to mention it was
very helpful to our families.We also collected tin cans that we took to
school and stockpiled. When the
pile grew very large, a truck would come, load the cans and carry them off
to be recycled for the war effort. We all gathered, with our teacher, around
the loaded truck and sang the “Victory Song.” We were all so proud of
ourselves, because we were helping. It was fun, but a very scary time for me
as a child. Little did I know this period of my life would mark the
beginning of my community involvement.
Everyone had to sacrifice
for the war. I remember we did a lot of walking, because gas was rationed.
My father even walked to work many times. What little gas he was allowed was
used for important events and church.
At that time, my family
consisted of my parents and seven siblings. In a large family, each member
was allotted a certain number of coupons for goods that were rationed, such
as sugar and shoes. I especially remember the shoes, because of an incident
that made a big impression. My mother ordered two pairs of shoes for my
sister and me, and carefully enclosed the two coupons, one for each pair. A
few days later my mother received a letter telling her she had not enclosed
the coupons as required. My sister and I were very unhappy. You had to be
very careful with your coupons, because whoever had them could use them.
Mother sent two more coupons and we received our shoes.
Growing up in
, everyone was addressed as Miss, Mrs., Mr., aunt or uncle (even if they
weren’t part of your family). For the most part, they all reared you (it
takes a village to raise a child). We had no appreciation for the
“village” rule at the time, but years later I thank God for it. Honoring
simple values and helping others is important to me these days. I think that
during retirement one should find ways to give something back (words, deeds,
time, etc.) and especially make and enjoy time to think, read and count your