Vacationing in Rainy River: Is this what retirement is like?

By Mark Elliott

Ah, Rainy River. The town that never naps… on a weekday. Much.

If you ever wonder what you’d be like when you are retired, I highly recommend spending a week of vacation in Rainy River. Some people take vacations so they can make “plans.” Strange people these are…

“Harry and I booked a week in Mexico so we could climb to the top of a Mayan pyramid.”

“Jil and I booked two weeks in Europe so we could hike through the lowlands of Switzerland.”

“We booked five days in Vegas for six Cirque du Soleil shows, plus get in a 12-hour Texas Hold ‘Em poker tournament.”

I booked a week in Rainy River with no plans save for visiting my father, embarrassing my niece who moved in with him, and bringing spring rolls to friends who have told me in no uncertain terms that I show up with spring rolls or be removed from their Christmas card list.

And to be honest, it’s been a heck of a week. I still wake up every morning around 6 — you can’t shake off being raised on a farm that easy — but I have the good sense to turn over and go back to bed. Save for the odd need to go to the bathroom first, I’ve gotten pretty good at this.

Then there are options for the day. I can join dad with the rest of the coffee clutch at the bakery for 7:30 to 9, or sleep in longer and go later in the day where I’m not fighting over who gets the first cup of fresh coffee. I chose option B. Having an apple fritter isn’t so much of an option as it is a necessity, and if you choose to do so after having a Denver sandwich on rye, I believe you’ll be blessed for doing it. (You don’t have to get it with cheese, but why deny yourself?)

I’ve spent lunches by the river in Emo and Rainy River, brought spring rolls to the nurses at the hospital, spent evenings and afternoons in conversation with friends who I haven’t seen in awhile but think of often. I’ve run into old friends who I knew as a teenager and seen just how much more gracefully they’ve aged than me. (Garry Edwards, it’s nice to see you have grey hair now but it would be better if you had joined me in the balding brotherhood.)

My highlight moment happened in Emo at the grocery store. Noticing my checkout lady was a Filipino, I asked her, “How is your afternoon, Ate?” (Pronounced “ah-tay” meaning “sister”) She looked at me with a smile and a bit of surprise in her eyes. “I’m good. You know a bit of my language?”

“Some,” I said. “My mom was from the Philippines, but she was from the Vsayas, so she spoke a different dialect.”

“Your mom was from the Philippines?” she said, and then a gasp. “Aunty Norma?” Apparently, this woman was hired to work in the Emo hospital years ago by my mother as a health care aide. Even two years after her passing, I still run into strangers who knew my mother.

So I am enjoying another cup of coffee at the bakery while typing this, looking at the plate of day-old donuts that they are selling for $3, and thinking to myself, “That would make a good snack by the river.” If this is retired life, I could get used to it. All I need is to win a lottery or get a sugar momma to start living this now.

Anybody looking for a 49-year old man who can make spring rolls? I could throw in pancit, too…