Taking a look at retirement time

Toys in the attic

An empty swing in the yard

A boss man that worked him

Just a little too hard

Calloused and broken

He rocks in his chair

The morning sun touches

His thinning gray hair

Like tattered old pages

Of a well-read book

He always gave

A lot more than he took

The race nearly over

He gave it one helluva run

When the tally is taken

It will show that he won.

The mockingbirds bounced in and out of the willows and birch trees along Indian Creek. He motored the rocker with one size twelve brogan touching the soft pine that planked the old porch. His top button tight around his huge neck, pressed overalls and weathered railroad cap. Fifty years, his wardrobe never changed. A tie and white shirt for church and funerals, but that was about as far as he bent in his fashion parade.

This was not the first day he had heard the birds along Indian Creek but it was the first day he had listened.

They sang in short bursts, they darted, they played. Each note they hung on the soft summer breeze and instead of the soft sounds going by his ear, they tickled his ear lobe and danced down inside where they rubbed softly against his eardrum.

Leaving the relaxed confines of his rocker, he walked toward the creek as if the songs of birds were a magical magnet drawing him to their peaceful surroundings. Setting on the bank, he was content to watch a big mouth drift lazily by a log, eyeing breakfast on a low-lying branch of one of the willows. Deciding right then and there it was as much fun watching the fish set his strategy for a morning meal as it was trying to catch him.

The squirrel showed no fear as he edged near the still water to take a drink. “Why I could nearly reach over and pet him,” he was thinking. He just thought, the peaceful morning hypnotizing.

Sure was bad about old Elmer. After that stroke, knowing Elmer, he probably didn’t even want to go on. I don’t know though, he was tough old cookie. They think anybody can drive a forklift. Ain’t so. Elmer could pick up a dime on them forks and never slow down. I remember that day the foreman was gonna show him how he wanted those pallets moved. Knocked over a whole stack. Elmer just kind of smiled but the rest of us had a good laugh. Of course, the foreman never saw us.

Charlie died last week. I reckon he was one of the best fellas I ever met. Strong as a bull, smart too. Best machinist the company ever had. Wonder why they never put one of them young bucks to workin’ with him. Would have been like a college education, ‘cept Charlie could have taught some common sense along with his other learnin’.

He tossed a pebble into the still water. The ol’ bass ducked under the log. The ripples went out in all directions, just like his thoughts.

Think I’m gonna use these last years for just listening. Listening to the different languages of the wind, the whisper of a butterfly’s wings, and the beautiful concert from the banks of Indian Creek. Try to hear the sounds a spider makes, toiling away, setting his traps. A splash, when the ol’ bass catches his evening meal.

Yea, fifty years of making noise – it’s high time I did some listening.