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Retirement is simply a change of venue

In the law, the venue of a case is usually the place where an incident or crime occurred, and, therefore, that's the county or district where the trial will be held. But in some cases, because of pre-trial publicity or some other circumstance that would prejudice a fair trial, there is a change of venue and the trial is moved to a more neutral location.

But a venue can simply be any place where people gather, like the venue for a concert could be the Fargodome or the venue for a ball game could be the new Target Field in Minneapolis.

Can a venue be where one person gathers? I hope so, because I'm changing venue right now all by myself. It's called retirement. I've quit my job and now I'm qualified for senior cups of coffee and other senior discounts wherever they are available. This is all within the past two weeks.

I'm also qualified to run errands, do landscaping jobs that should have been done long ago, to do some house painting, to learn more about cooking and laundry, to wash the car, to do more vacuuming, to water the yard when it's not raining, to help clean up unfinished details back on the job, to be a better friend, a better citizen, a better writer, a better neighbor, a better husband, a better dad, a better grandparent, a better fisherman, and finally, better at stopping to smell the roses. All these things could be done, but in all likelihood, not all of them will. I'm also well qualified by temperament and practice to be worse in all those categories. Time will tell.

As my friend Tom has told me, it's at this point in a man's life that he learns that the home he thought was his isn't his at all.

A tough part of the job of retirement is politely listening to all the advice from well-meaning friends: become a history teacher, take up woodworking, take up golf (but watch that hook), write the great American novel, assemble a book of articles I've written (not a bad idea), moonlight in my former employment, do informal counseling on the side, then finally, one I have agreed upon -- spend a week in Haiti as a volunteer painter.

Even tougher is the job of answering the question, "Exactly what do you plan to do now?" It's not like I can come back and play for the Vikings one more year. When you're feeling your way along, you don't want to make any grand announcements or declare any detailed plans. So you say you're exploring all the possibilities. I have a cousin Tom who retired before he was 60. He was way too young to quit. Later, he went back and took another job. "I flunked retirement," he said. I may flunk retirement for one reason or another, but it won't be because I was too young when I left the job. For me, it was time.

Thousands of people retire every day. It's a routine event -- no big deal. A big deal is when somebody like Michael Jordan retired from professional basketball. That's the last we heard of the Chicago Bulls. But the rest of us are replaced with ease by a newer, smarter, better trained and tech savvy generation.

So I'm having a change of venue and I'm moving my trial, my concert, ball game or whatever it is to my home field. The only prejudice at the old venue was the relentless passage of years. So the old operation is folded up and tucked away. No looking back and no regrets. Now it's time to look ahead, not back and to explore the possibilities: swing in a hammock, rest, go stale, petrify or grow, turn a corner and go down a road never traveled before to see where it leads.