Retiring with a good book

Published 10:17 pm Thursday, September 17, 2015

By Chris A. Quilpa

Freedom is synonymous with liberty and independence. It can mean the state of being free or at liberty, rather in confinement. It can be the power to determine action without restraint. It can also be defined as political or national independence; the absence or release from ties or obligations.

I say that retirement is freedom. In my case, it’s an unexpected early retirement from work, due to service-connected physical disability, after serving in the United States Navy honorably and proudly for 20 years.

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Do I regret retiring early, you ask? Are you kidding me? I did, because I don’t think I’m old enough to retire. Why me? At first, it was difficult to accept that I was retired from gainful employment. Eventually, I accepted my fate.

Please don’t envy me. I don’t envy anyone gainfully employed and making more money. I believe things happen for a reason. I now feel at ease, at peace with myself and my God. I’ve come to realize I don’t have to prove to anyone that I still matter, because I do. And I still believe I can make a difference in our world. Thank God, I’m alive, living in the present moment and trying to enjoy life.

Speaking of freedom and retirement, I can say I like what I do: doing nothing (loafing) or something to keep me sane and sensible. Thankfully, we have this 4-month-old puppy Simba (a mixed breed of Chihuahua and Yorkshire terrier) that keeps me occupied. He keeps me company. Man, he can be a challenge, but he gives me an opportunity to learn something every day.

By the way, I visited two libraries lately — one in neighboring Chesapeake and one in our home of Suffolk — and bought CDs and books (old and new) from the Friends of the Library book sale. I got good bargains from these events.

I consider books good company. I regard them as my friends, too. Imagine, they’re just there on the shelves waiting to be cuddled, read and enjoyed. Ask students, and they will tell you they’d rather have books than have someone who’s dishonest and untrustworthy, or giving you a hard time.

Despite the fact that almost everything is digitized, Googled, and Kindled, I would prefer carrying and keeping a book, especially the hard-bound kind.

Last month, I bought a number of English and Ilokano books and dictionaries from author-lexicographer, Dr. Aurelio Solver Agcaoili of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, just to brush up on my Ilokano. Ilokano is my mother tongue, with Filipino and English as my second and third languages, respectively.

From the libraries’ book sale, I got lucky to find “Teacher Man” by Frank McCourt, an Irish-American teacher and writer and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Angela’s Ashes” and “‘Tis.” The memoir, published in 2005, captured, in vivid detail, his 30-year English-teaching experience in New York, his birthplace.

Born to Irish immigrant parents, McCourt spent his younger years in Limerick, Ireland, before returning to the Big Apple. He also served in the U.S. Army.

Any teacher, new or veteran, tenured or temporary, can relate to what McCourt, the 1976 Teacher of the Year, experienced in the classroom with students of different backgrounds, characteristics and personalities. Full of anecdotes, characters and lessons, “Teacher Man” is perfect for teachers.

McCourt once said, “Find what you love and do it.” As a retiree, I love sharing my thoughts.

I like this quote from Gene Perret, a TV comedy writer and producer, “When you retire, you switch bosses — from the one who hired you to the one you married.”

Happy retirement!

Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at