Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Pretirement Is Hard (and Random Roommate Anecdotes)

Eyebrows's family has been doing all the exciting things this past couple weeks. My youngest brother got his AP scores back, which he rocked out; my sister continues living in Ireland (which continues to be exciting merely by virtue of hello, it's IRELAND); my uncle, who's a Washington lobbyist, appeared on page A5 of the Journal-Star, and I was like, "Hey, I totally know that guy!" and it was a nice change from my other recent experiences of seeing people I know in the newspaper.

But mostly the excitement has been my parents, who have officially entered pretirement. They've got a townhouse in North Carolina (for complicated reasons, my parents are currently employed in two entirely different states, but my mom teaches so she has the summer off) which I have dubbed their "pretirement home" because as of August when my youngest brother starts college, they're officially empty nesters after nearly 30 years of parenthood.

My dad is apparently dealing with pretirement by exercising 24/7. He has always been an exercise nerd, but now he has all this free time that's not being devoured by four children and their extracurricular events, so he can go trail biking in the mountains and golf and jog and then walk downtown to dinner for good measure all in one day. My mother is not an exercise nerd, but my dad is sucking her into his exercise mania.

I think my parents need more hobbies or when actual retirement kicks in and all their time is free, they're going to either stare at each other for hours on end or both end up looking like Arnold.

On a totally unrelated small world note, one of the very first people my dad met at work in Mt. Airy told him she went to the Methodist church in Harmony (what church you go to is a typical opening conversational gambit in North Carolina). And my dad was like, "Who's the pastor again?" And the woman told him and my dad was like, "Dude, my daughter totally roomed with your pastor's wife in divinity school." Except my dad doesn't say dude. Or totally. And the conversation took longer than that. But my grad school roommate, who co-celebrated my wedding, and her husband are pastoring it up in rural North Carolina and randomly ended up 40 miles from my dad. She and I were among the only Midwesterners at Duke and our accents and voices sounded SO MUCH THE SAME that neither our mothers nor our fiances could tell us apart on the phone.

After she got married I roomed with a Maori from New Zealand so we were spending a lot of time with other international students, and we had this huge ice storm that resulted in a massive power outage that lasted 10 days in some places, and these two Israeli girls we knew stayed with us, because we lived next to the mall so our power was turned back on first. (God bless capitalism.) And they were totally appalled that power actually goes out in America. "But it is the United States! There should not be power outages here! It is the most powerful country in the world!" they kept saying.

"Yes," I replied. "And that gives us power over the weather."

But I sort-of felt for them because most foreign students who come to the U.S. are expecting New York City or L.A. When they go to schools like Notre Dame or Duke, particularly when they're from little bitty countries you can drive across in a couple hours, I think the whole thing is a little appalling when they discover they're in the back ass of beyond and it takes a good 12 hours to drive to New York City from beyond's ass and that the vast majority of the landmass of America is a lot more like South Bend or Durham or Peoria than it is like New York City. That, or covered with corn.

Which takes me back to my Midwestern roommate. We both had major car problems when we first moved to Durham and we could not figure out what it was. (My Maori roommate just kept trying to kill herself making left turns into oncoming traffic; they drive on the other side of the road in New Zealand.) One night we were sitting watching TV and talking about our cars and I said, "My engine has been making the most terrible noises."

"Mine too," she said. "But I think I finally figured out what it is."

"Oh yeah?"

"Hills."

Long pause.

"Yeah, I guess they don't really have those where we're from."

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