Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

June 16, 2002


One week into retirement -- I want to know when the fun begins!


          I was one tired puppy last Sunday night. We left the church a little after six and arrived in good old Elmore County an hour later, exhausted but glad at last to be home.

            During a wonderful three-hour reception at the church, we bade farewell to some of the finest people we have ever known. I was amazed and humbled that so many people came on a Sunday afternoon and stood in line to tell us goodbye.

            It was so difficult for me to say goodbye to my staff. They stood by me during good times and bad.  No country preacher ever worked with a finer team than I did at Trinity. We were a team and I was proud to be on it.

            Alone with her at last on Sunday night, I said, “Mama, it is finished. I am retired.” She gave me a weary smile and replied, “Thank God. We made it to the finish line. Now we can begin that new chapter you keep talking about.”

            Every time I look at her these days my heart skips a beat. I feel such deep gratitude for this dear woman who has been my faithful companion during half a century in the ministry. I realize I can never thank her enough for all she has done for me as my wife and the mother of our five sons.

            As we enter retirement we also begin our 51st year of marriage. Will we have one more, two more, or ten more years together? Only God knows. All I know is that whatever time we have, I want to spend them with my Dean. 

            Lately I have borrowed an idea from American Express. I tell people that my wife is like my American Express card; I don’t leave home without her!

            So what is it like to be retired and be together all the time? Well, this week we have been to Wal-Mart five times, been out to eat six times, walked in the mall twice, unpacked 40 boxes, and worked like the devil to get things organized.

            We have read dozens of cards and letters, a basketful of them given to us last Sunday. We have been so blessed by the outpouring of love and the good wishes of so many people whose lives we touched while at Trinity. No one in the entire world is more blessed than a pastor!

            We have been to several baseball games. We like to watch Jake, who is 10, pitch. He and his teammates dominated their league this year, won 15, lost one.

We enjoy watching his brother Josh play too. Josh is seven and also a pitcher, only the coach does the pitching while Josh fields the balls that are hit up the middle. He hits the ball so well that he was one of the two boys on his team to make All Stars.

So now we get to watch both these grandsons play on the All-Star team. What’s it like to be retired? Eat a lot of dust, sweat until you are wet, munch on a ball park hotdog, and yell for your grandsons to win the game. We feel right at home; there are a lot of other grandparents out pulling for their grandsons.

Thursday our son Matt came to see us. He drove all the way down from Weoka, 24 miles away.   How he blessed me! He said, “Dad, I want to talk with you about my sermon for Sunday. I want you to help me fine tune it.” We talked for an hour. He begins his ministry as a pastor today.

He really did not need my help. He had written a splendid message. But he knew I would miss preaching today. So he allowed me the honor of feeling that I had helped him prepare his first sermon in his new parish.

            Dean and I have talked a lot this week. About how strange it is to be retired. About how much fun we are going to have. About things we want to do together. About where to go to church now that I am not a pastor. About things we can do to make these the best years of our lives.

            Frankly I am still trying to figure out how to be retired. It’s a new experience. We have not been down this road before. I am doing my best to embrace the reality of retirement. And that is not easy for me to do.

            But I am not worried or afraid. Dean is with me. God is with me. With their help I know I will make it.

            All week I have jokingly asked, “Well, when does the fun begin?”

            The truth is, it has already begun! With all its transitions, endings and beginnings, life itself is funny. And it is getting funnier all the time!

            Week two of retirement is upon me. I shall embrace it with a smile, and expect it to get better by the hour.

            Now you will have to excuse me. I am late for a baseball game. If only I could find my cap. It has been lost for a week!

            Oh, well, who cares? I’m retired.