Concord Observer: Retirement Redux 

March 20, 2024

By Ken Anderson  

A friend of mine, who retired several years before me, complained there was just not enough time in the day to get everything done. I quietly scoffed.   

Well, retirement has settled in, and he was right.  

What with medical appointments, grandchildren (we have seven in Concord, so any grandparents know what I mean), sorting through the valuable papers of my life, and other life-maintaining activities, I cannot seem to get things done.  

It turns out such activities are common. While reading a book, “The Librarianist,” by Richard deWitt, I came across the following sentence discussing a trip to his attic:  

“The idea had been that he would tidy up there, but when he arrived and was confronted with a life-time’s worth of documentation and mementos, then he lost his purpose and began simply investigating himself.”  

I noticed a wooden box from my father’s time in the Marine Corps. The box had resided in a room with stuff piled on top of it. I started investigating and found:  

  • A scrapbook covering his Boy Scout career (first Eagle Scout in Concord). 
  • Another scrapbook of his poetry. 
  • His and his father’s high school graduation programs (1942 and 1910) showing they each wrote the lyrics to the class song. 
  • Lowell Suns covering Cato’s golf exploits. 
  • My letters from summer camp and college. 
  • An Emerson Hospital invoice for approximately $150 for the birth of my younger sister.  

Separately, my loose papers included an essay on the song about “Charlie on the MTA” kept by my mother. I had looked at it several times without reading it, but some force prevented me from throwing it away.  

The song tells the story of Charlie, who gets on the MTA but doesn’t have enough fare to get off and rides the train endlessly — perhaps a Dickensian foreshadowing of my trip to MGH West.  

My MGH odyssey  

I arrived at MGH West for blood tests in anticipation of a physical in early March. We went into the Green garage and proceeded to higher elevations. I found a space, parked, and headed for the elevators. My mind was racing, trying to remember where blood was drawn.  

As I left the elevator, it occurred to me I had no idea where I had parked my car.  

After my blood was drawn, I retraced my steps into the Green garage. As I searched, I sensed I had become Charlie and could search forever and not find my car!  

Finally, I found a guard who volunteered to help me. We set off. He suggested my fob could activate my car alarm. A 1988 BMW had neither feature, but we eventually found the car, and I made it home.  

Sensing a parallel experience, I read the essay promptly upon returning home. I thought the song was just a clever idea made into a Kingston Trio tune in 1959; however, it was written in 1949 as a mayoral campaign song for Walter A. O’Brien, Jr., who opposed a nickel fare increase for people getting off the subway above ground.  

Upon reflection, the time issue is more a matter of making careless mistakes that require time to correct. This point was brought home to me after I recently left my keys at the post office and days later left my ATM card in the ATM, both requiring additional steps.  

Moral of the story: Leave a trail of crumbs? Or make a note of your parking location, either with pen and paper or with your ubiquitous cell phone.