by Sarah Hardcastle
My Dad couldn’t wait to retire.
For the past five years it was all he spoke about.
July 26th 2016 became THE only date worth thinking about,
A distant place in the future where a fresh page would be turned.
Where all those years of hard work would finally pay off.
It felt impossibly far away at first, as vague as any date five years in the past or future.
Strange and intangible when written on a page.
But slowly July 26th drew closer and closer as plans were made.
Venues were booked,
Invites were sent,
Presents were bought.
The months count down as Dad’s final day at work drew near.
“How many days have you got left Dad?”
I’d ask whenever I’d take a trip home.
“7 pay days.” He’d grin.
“5 pay days.”
In the build-up to July 26th my mind became more fearful,
My own anxiety growing with my Dad’s child-like excitement.
I imagined all the terribly cruel scenarios that might stop him from reaching there.
Accidents, scares, ironic mistakes.
The big day became more than a celebration in my mind,
It was a finish line.
One I begged the universe he’d be able to cross.
Happily, July 26th came and went without a hitch.
Music was played.
Speeches were read.
Cards were opened.
But it was only once I’d seen him cross that invisible finish line did it occur me –
What exactly is he going to do now?
God willing, my Dad has more than a few decades left in him.
Time that will no doubt pass faster than it feels.
But time all the less.
Time without deadlines or meetings.
Time where a weekday means just as much as a weekend.
For me, it just sounded like time without purpose.
Time spent watching life slowly and inevitably deteriorate away.
The very idea of it made me feel sick.
In my own life I fear wasting even a single day,
I feel guilt just sitting on the sofa.
Especially when the sun shines.
I need the busyness of a task to complete,
The urgency of a deadline or a meeting.
In short, I need the motivation of working towards something.
Or else I fear I might as well not exist.
“Everyday feels like a Saturday.”
Dad told me gleefully after the first month.
He fills his days with long walks,
Decorating, and generally being his own boss.
Thankfully he’s yet to become the purpose-less recluse invented by my own unease.
He’s making the most of his time.
Just like everything else in life,
I realised this was just another milestone to get used to.
Another light to view my father in,
As my parent’s mystique gradually diminishes the older I become.
One day my own July 26th will arrive,
It’ll be the end of work but not the end of purpose.
Just the start of something new.
Sarah Hardcastle | @EatSleepBlog
Sarah Hardcastle is 26 and lives in London, UK. By day she works for a central London advertising agency, where she writes scripts for TV and online. By night she’s a musician and performer with her 400-strong choir Some Voices.