Jim Ferguson is an old and very good friend of mine (and the MAN ON THE FRINGE).

For a second time this year, I’ve asked Jim if he would consider contributing a guest post and he has generously taken me up on this.

I always enjoy Jim’s insights as he possesses an extraordinary vision into the combination of science, religion, and human compassion. These can be challenging subjects to mix and marry, but Jim has a talent for bridging the gaps.

Today, Jim is striking into a lighter and perhaps… more fun arena – his upcoming “retirement”. I’ll let him tell you his story:

The Man Behind the Curtain aka Man On The Fringe – Sir Lawrence Green – has once again asked me to contribute a guest blog focusing on the theme of my impending retirement from a medical career spanning the better part of 44-years.

It all started in Canada’s Arctic region, Yellowknife, NWT, in 1977 when I trained as a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) and then worked with Larry at Stanton Yellowknife Hospital until spring, 1979.

I then married an American girl and was off to medical school in the States a decade later, graduating as a Physician Associate and getting a Master’s degree in Public Health and completing a fellowship in Integrative Medicine along the way. The rest, as they say, is history.

As I approach my retirement, it really is all about history-where it all started and the journey to where this phase of my life will conclude.

It seems that this journey has passed in the twinkling of an eye to the point where I feel a bit numb and dizzy as I view the course of the past 44-years…sort of like a retirement version of benign positional vertigo.

As I have been reflecting on this major life-change I have found myself defining my retirement by some of the major retirement songs of our era. I’ve been thinking of some of these songs and whether any of these might be apropos as I board the retirement ship to “sail off into my golden years”. 

Here are a few examples and some musings. Maybe those of you reading this who are retired will find some common threads.

Glue your dentures in and make sure the Depends are nice and snug…here we go:

– Johnny Paycheck is known for the song Take This Job And Shove It. The opening refrain is recognizable to many- “Take this job and shove it, I aint workin’ here no more”.

While I love the feistiness of the song, I would have to say that this song doesn’t reflect my attitude towards my work or my employer as I wrap up my career as a family medicine provider.

I entered medicine seeing it as a vocation or even a calling. I love being of service to others and what better career path to follow than medicine where you work with people at their most vulnerable i.e., when they are ill.

I have loved my work for that reason and have had great employers over the years whether in Yellowknife in the early days, in remote Alaskan villages during the middle of my career, as a public health officer, and finally for Providence Medical Group here in Oregon.

While I am retiring from my job with the medical group, I am not retiring from medicine completely. I will seek ways to recreate myself in service to others using my medical knowledge and talents and I look forward to those opportunities.

– The Beatles had a hit with Sir Paul McCartney’s light and fluffy When I’m 64.

While I tend to favour Lennon’s more gritty rock and roll sound, this particular “bubble gum” attempt at a rock tune strikes a retirement chord.

As it turns out I will turn 64 in December a month or so after I pack it in at my current place of employ. This song has some definite influence on my retirement.

I’ve long lost much of my hair, I’ve been handy (thanks to Red Green who has told millions of men: “If women don’t find you handsome, at least let them find you handy“), I’ve spent more hours than I can count in the garden on my 5.4-acre farm in Oregon.

Bottom Line regarding this song: been there…done most of that!! I guess I could throw this CD in the player as I walk out the door at work for the final time and it would seem appropriate.

– If anyone is expecting me to live up to the message in Steppenwolf’s Born to be Wild, well you have another thing coming.

My version of wild these days is to down a bottle of Geritol, chase it with a Fleets Enema, and hit the hay by 8 PM.

OK… maybe I’m not that far gone BUT the wild days are behind me. Larry can attest to the fact that our Yellowknife days were about as wild as they come- who else here can chug a Molson Canadian standing on their head in under a minute…😊

Those days are long gone and while retirement will be nothing like the days of yore, they will be filled with opportunities to be of service to my community and I do welcome the change from having a set schedule day in/day out and being more flexible in determining what I invest my time in.

I do have hobbies that I will pursue. I still enjoy watching my beloved Habs (Montreal Canadiens hockey team) when I can. I also enjoy my mandolin and playing music. I love being outdoors and hiking and running. There will be lots to keep me busy as I move forward.

– As I have alluded in this blog post, I see a beginning in the end.

As one career ends another exciting phase of life begins. What better song to portray this than We’ve Only Just Begun by The Carpenters featuring the silky-smooth voice of Karen Carpenter.

Don’t tell Larry that I told you this BUT he and I would occasionally sprawl out on the two chesterfields in his apartment in Yellowknife and semi-doze off listening to Karen and Richard performing their magic.

That song is a great segue towards retirement. As one door closes another opens, as one window closes, another window opens, etc. You get the point…Insert your own cliché here:___________________.

Karen sings “so many roads to choose, we’ll start out walkin’ and learn to run…sharing horizons that are new to us…” A great inspiration as I head into the unknown.

I am also aware that maybe I’ve peeved off a few folks in my work life along the way, so I am a firm believer in the adage that if you are being run out of town, get in front of the crowd, and make it look like a parade…😊 That’s my plan on my last day. It’s a win-win for me.

– I will leave you with one last song that I have always loved…. Five for Fighting’s 100 Years.

It is a touching tune of the passage of the years from the age of 15 to 99. Go listen to it…you’ll recognize the song when you hear it.

I can especially appreciate the verse where he sings: “Half time goes by… Suddenly you’re wise…Another blink of an eye…Sixty-seven is gone…The sun is getting high…We’re moving on.” Man ‘o man…how true it is.

Where have the years gone? I feel as though I am there now. Two-thirds of my life has flashed by and yet I am thrilled at the thought of what is to come and look forward to the great adventures that await.

Well…if you are near retirement or have already moved beyond that point in life, what songs best describe your retirement journey? Let’s see them in the comment section below.

Peace,

Jim Ferguson