Press "Enter" to skip to content

‘What Do You Do All Day?’

An old friend recently asked me, after I told him I was retired, “What do you do all day?” He asked me in an email, so I didn’t have to defend myself right away, or even reply, treating it more like a rhetorical question, something to think about. But the more I thought about it the more I wanted to write it down, so here it goes.

My morning routine consists of a short walk to buy the local newspaper, return and empty the dishwasher (from the night before) while making coffee. I open the window blinds so I can see outside and have enough natural light to read the paper while drinking my coffee, eating my cereal, and solving the morning Sudoku. I used to just do cross-word puzzles, but then I tried a Sudoku and got hooked. I still do cross-word puzzles, but not till I finish my Sudoku. Oh, and I like playing Scrabble with my wife, but that’s after our morning exercise. I go for a run or bike ride and she works in her garden.

My running route crosses a busy highway to a dead end street to a path that runs along a stream that meanders to a park where I stop and drink some water and use the men’s room. Then I go back outside and do 30 or so push-ups, before walking over to the playground, jumping over a waist-high wooden fence, and just past the swings and slides is a set of bars where I do my pull-ups.

There aren’t usually kids playing there at 8 AM, but when there are and they see me they tend to stare because, I figure, they never see older adults do this. I like to think they might be inspired to do push-ups or pull-ups on their own some day, or maybe a parent will encourage them. Anyhow, I finish my pull-ups, walk over to my usual push-up spot, stretch my arms a little and drop down for another 30 or so, when I hear this small voice ask, “What are you doing?”

I stop and look up to see this 5 or 6 year-old local boy who says, “Mister, this park is not for exercise!”

“Where did you get that idea?” I ask, with a friendly chuckle, but just then a stern voice yells, “KIMO! COME HERE!” And he turns and runs. I tried to finish off the last ten but felt weakened by more chuckling, wondering what Kimo’s reply would have been, and how I might have responded.

I should mention that Kimo is Hawaiian for Jim. The Hawaiian language seems partial to K’s. They take the place of several consonants, from C’s to J’s and especially S’s. My wife Susan is Kukana. If you’re not familiar with the Hawaiian language, just think about going from 26 letters down to 12. Now write a few sentences and then omit the following letters: B,C,D,F,G,J,Q,R,S,T,V,X,Y and Z. What you have left is the Hawaiian alphabet: Seven consonants — H, K, L, M, N, P, W — plus the same five vowels we have.

I’ve learned that haoles (white people) who change from Jim to Kimo are just not taken seriously. I started calling myself Kimo years ago, mostly as a joke, but also because I like names that end in O, like Chico and Dino, Lolo and Flo Jo. My dad used to call me Jimbo.

Then one day an old friend looked at me with a serious unapproving face and said, “Gibbons, you ain’t no Kimo.” As if Kimo’s were really cool and I wasn’t. He had lived several years in Hawaii so he must know. Then recently I was in the local coffee shop when the barista said, “Order for Kimo.”

I was interested in seeing who this cool Hawaiian Kimo dude was, but when I looked around I saw the weird haole guy who had just been in front of me in line. I’d noticed one of the three band-aids on his face was hanging off his chin, so I told him, and asked what he had. When he said, “squamous cell carcinoma” I was almost tempted to tell him that I had been diagnosed with that same rare form of cancer just last year, but didn’t want to continue our conversation. I didn’t really want to bond with the weirdest guy in town. I’d seen him around so often, seemingly going from coffee shop to coffee shop, with a stop at the library, always walking in slow motion on the balls of his feet as if testing for thin ice. He always has band-aids all over his face, which he must somehow get in bulk from Costco, yet never wears a hat for protection against the tropical sun.

Once I get home again I prepare the Scrabble board while cutting a ripe papaya in half, which we eat with a scoop of cottage cheese or just a squeeze of lime. I get papayas at the Farmers Market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. Three for $2, which makes papayas about the best deal there. I also pick up apple bananas, which are cheaper when they’re ripe, so I buy those, peel and freeze them for smoothies. I swear once you’ve eaten an apple banana you won’t go back to those regular bland ones.

Yes, I’m retired, thanks to the various jobs that have paid into my monthly Social Security check over the years, from factory jobs I had in Milwaukee during the 60s, to paying taxes as a self-employed carpenter into this 21stCentury. Of course, like many of my white middle-class peers with aging parents, good old inheritance checks, much of it coming from rising property values. One reason I can retire is because I took my inheritance check and made a down payment on a Waikiki condo in ’99, then watched it go up in value from $137,000 to over $300,000 in less than ten years. I like having money in the bank, but I miss that condo sometimes.

The important thing is I don’t do much anymore. Yeah, when I first retired I took on various projects and kept as busy as ever, but with age comes wisdom, so I left all my tools in California and moved to Hawaii. There are plenty of reasons not to come to Hawaii, I’m no travel agent, but if you don’t like friendly people and almost perfect weather year round, then forget Hawaii. Food and gas is more expensive here than on the Mainland, not to mention real estate. The cheap real estate in Hawaii is on the Puna side of the Big Island where the Kilauea Volcano is spewing toxic particulates into the air, and hot lava is slowly heading to the town of Pahoa.

Well, it’s afternoon and I just made a blueberry smoothie, which I do every day, often before nap o’clock, which is usually about one. I take my eye drops and give myself a half-hour on my back, which is usually enough to fall asleep, but even if I don’t it still feels good to lie down for awhile, especially if I ran that morning. Now that I’ve turned 70 I realize it’s not the new 60 or 65—it’s just the scary seventies!

I recently ran what I thought would be my first race in my new age division, “70 and over.” It was weird writing my age as 70 on the entry form. I’m not saying I don’t feel that old, but just that I’ve always thought 70 was old and I still do. Although my time was close to another PW (personal worst), I still assumed I would win my new age-division, but after receiving the red ribbon for second place I asked the grey beard who got the blue ribbon how old he was.

“Sixty-five,” he responded. I thought they made a mistake until I looked closer at my results card and realized there was no 70 and over group, only 60 andover, meaning I finally got to my last age-divison—“and over.” And, believe it or not, that race, The Run for Hope, also happened to be my 500th race since my first in 1978. I’ve kept careful track for years, and knew I must be close, so I added them up—twice!—and sure enough I’ve run 500 road races and track meets over the past 36 years! This does not include high school and college, as I don’t have accurate records for the 60s.

Even though I can’t train like I used to I still get out there 3 to 4 times a week and jog, a term that I used to consider an insult. “I don’t jog, I run,” I would tell people. Now I’m happy to be able to walk, let alone jog. I do pick up the pace when I’m warmed up, but if I overdo it I pay the consequences because I have what my sister Sherry calls “The Family Bunion.” My arthritic big right toe just doesn’t like it when I run fast, or more than 10 miles a week. If I overdo it my left calf tightens up. Why? Because I’m favoring my bunion without even knowing it. Compensation injuries, I was told years ago by Mendocino College trainer Doug Howard, are tough to overcome.

The bottom line is I really can’t train anymore. It’s sort of like having a governor on your car speedometer that’s set at 25 mph and you’re on the freeway knowing the gas tank is nearly empty. I’ve averaged about 30 miles a month over the past 5 years, most of it doing what I now call sub-jogging. Of course, when I’m at a race and tell someone I just beat that I can’t train anymore, they just roll their eyes. Usually one makes excuses when losing, but not me, I outrun someone and then tell them I did it without training. I think those days are just about over.

On alternate days I ride my bike. It’s a Touring bike, not a racing bike or a mountain bike, and I don’t usually go more than 5 to 10 miles, but after a few hills I’m breathing pretty hard, so I know biking helps my conditioning. Mainly my bike is my go-for vehicle. Living a half-mile from town makes it easy to go on errands without using the truck.

After my nap it’s mid-afternoon, too early for a beer so I sit down and do paper work or write or take a walk, but when I get back I open a cold one and look forward to Jeopardy with Alex Trebek, who’s been doing this show most of his adult life -- and he recently turned 80! After Jeopardy it’s the 5 o’clock local news. The big story lately, as I mentioned, is the June 27th Kilauea lava flow that’s heading for the town of Pahoa on the southeastern side of the Island, but has recently slowed.

Next is the National news, which shows all the fires in California, the torrential rains in the Midwest, followed by the big snow in Buffalo—7 feet in less than a week! Then there’s the shooting of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, and more recently the choking of an unarmed black man in New York which has prompted more and more people to chant “I can’t breathe!”

Then there’s Bill Cosby…you get the picture, the news is my reality TV. My wife likes to watch CNN because there are fewer commercials. She doesn’t like the way I jump back and forth from one show to the other to avoid commercials, often holding out her empty hand which means, “Give me the remote.”

Susan makes dinner and then we watch the Daily Show and The Colbert Report. After that I clean up the kitchen and fill the dishwasher. Then it’s about 8:30 and I try to stay awake until bedtime, which is 9 or so. The next morning we get up around 6 am and start all over again. Real boring, just the way we like it.


  1. Jim Gibbons September 19, 2018

    Just want to mention that I actually wrote this about three years ago. The big change since then, besides my book finally being published last year,is that my wife of 25 years, Susan Park, died on June 4th of this year from MLS.

  2. Liz Haapanen September 24, 2018

    Pretty nice life, Jim.
    Sorry about your wife.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *