By Maria A. Ditchek

It isn’t every day that one retires. It takes years to arrive at that conclusion.

Some of us work all of our lives for that moment others -such as myself- arrive at it sooner than planned, and with some trepidation.

Many years ago, and purely by accident, my husband Jeff visited a colleague who had a vacation home in Andes. For him, it was love at first sight. I’ll never forget his excitement in telling me how beautiful the trees were, how clean the air was, the fresh scent of cut grass. How there were so many cornfields, cows, and dirt roads. For the kids there would be skiing in the winter and swimming in the summer – for me, antique shops, garage sales and auctions, and, best of all, just one blinking light in the village. To him it was paradise. This was back in the early 80s.

Jeff’s enthusiasm was catching, and in no time at all we were packing the kids for weekend trips to this wonderful cabin in Bussey Hollow where a brook meandered through the property and the kids could catch fish, frogs, and salamanders. They loved it.

The weekend trips evolved into summer/winter vacations. Our children learned how to ski and how to swim at the Andes pool. Some of my favorite photos of them were taken in Andes, diving from the high board, downhill skiing at Ski Bobcat, haying with our farmer neighbor.

Within a few years the decision was made:. We should have our own vacation home. And so the search went on. We had definite ideas. It should be close to Route 28 so that the kids could bike into town, the property should have a stream or a pond; and, most importantly, itshould be affordable.

After much searching we found the perfect place. The mobile home we purchased sat on a hill, had a spring-fed pond loaded with trout, and was close to Route 28. It sat on a private road and the view was simply breathtaking, with cows and horses across the fields.

We named it “At Rest Farm,” an oxymoron, since as soon as we were able to we started planting, weeding, and picking up the famous Delaware County rocks that seem to grow out of the soil.

In time we realized that we would eventually retire to this lovely spot. We contacted a local builder and explained that we wanted the house to resemble a farmhouse as much as possible. He built us a lovely, comfortable home, complete with a silo. Once this was accomplished, our “5-year retirement plan” began – you know, “We’ll retire in 5 years,” then the 5 years kept getting pushed back.

Well, this past August, our 5-year retirement plan came to fruition, at least for me. I had not planned on retiring quite yet as I had a satisfying career in banking. However, due to the financial crisis, and my financial institution being acquired by another financial institution meant that I would have to be trained in new systems, new procedures, report to new supervisors, and this for the third time in my career. So, the decision was almost made for me. Did I want to subject myself to yet another stressful and confusing time? Since I’m here, the answer is obvious – NO.

Jeff, on the other hand, has not retired. He can work from anywhere, but has made it a point to curtail his travels in order to enjoy his “paradise”, including pickleball on Sunday mornings and hikes with the local hiking groups, not to mention working around the property.

It has taken me a while to fully appreciate retirement but I can say in earnest that the friends I have made have helped me in my transition.

Judy Garrison, a friend of many years, introduced me to the Andes Gazette, and the wonderful volunteers that work there, of which I have become one. She also told me about the Stitch Witches, and various book clubs. She has now twisted my arm to start The Circolo Italiano, where I hope to make additional friends who are interested in “all things Italian”. And, not to be forgotten, The Roundtable, where Carol and Roger Bobley welcomed us with open arms. Through them, I have made so many other acquaintances and friends. Jeff’s pickleball participation introduced me to Linda and Peter Lederman and the full pickleball group who are such a joy to be with. I can say I’m having fun!

Andes is a place where everyone is accepted, where one can become involved in as much, or as little, as one chooses. We have, to use a word that my daughter loves, a plethora of intelligent and talented people who truly care about our community and work hard to make it a better place to live.

I have survived the winter, a deer accident and a bridge collapse. I feel that I have passed the initiation process. I now look forward to my favorite season, summer, with its lush green color, and to the beauty of my flowers.

As I write, my country lawn looks like a gravel pit, full of dirt, rocks, and weeds. But in the not too distant future, I will have a vegetable garden and, who knows, I may even be able to grow tomatoes for my tomato sauce. I’ll have to get advice from Mary Tucker.

I have lived in only two communities, one in Italy and the other in Clifton, New Jersey. You assume correctly in thinking that change does not come easy to me. But, with a heavy heart I will need to say goodbye to my home of 33 years and definitely make my Andes address my permanent home.

The birds that I feed everyday have encouraged me to do so. ~