For the first time in many a year, winter has come early to Michigan. It started to snow early in November and we have had snow on the ground ever since then. It makes it easy to get into the holiday spirit and reflect on our past year.
After a full year of retirement, we still love Michigan, although we have a much better understanding of why some retirees move south. What really keeps us here is our place “up north” in the Leelanau peninsula, not just in the summer, but all year round. The peace and solitude of winter scenery with its black, grays, and mostly white colors, the warmth and color of a wood fire, the brisk, clean, and dry air make winter days as enjoyable as warm summer days.
Unfortunately, our last winter left much to be desired with little snow and skiing and yet not much sunshine. However, Leslie and Joseph more than made up for the weather by presenting us with another grandchild, a young lady by the name of Lindsey, a most happy and easy-going baby. We had the good fortune of getting to know the young lady when Joseph, Leslie, and Hannah and Zachary came to visit up-north in August.
Eric is still at Texas A&M going for his engineering Ph.D. and winning racquetball tournaments. Paula and Sue and their two sons, Michael and Bryan continue to reside in the Washington, D.C. area. Paul’s job as a financial officer in a small corporation is a major, yet satisfying challenge and Sue does a masterful job of managing both her accounting clients and their home. In a way, it is a great satisfaction to see your own work ethics, or at least the ones you believe to have, reflected in your kids. Michael and Bryan are a handful, but what pleasure it is to watch them grow up without the responsibility for doing so.
Speaking of work, we are enjoying a limited form of retirement where Bill is continuing professional activities, principally for Dow, but also for others. Having an office at home, no fixed hours, no administrative duties and the security of sufficient funds to survive makes working fun. It is also fun to be involved in the most exciting polymer technology that has been discovered at Dow in the last 25 years. Even Bill’s computer skills are improving, though at a snail’s pace, he claims. Nancy keeps busy on her computer with accounting for several people and organizations as well as tracking the stock market.
The big event of our year was our three-week trip to China in the spring where we spent some time in Shanghai, Beijing, Kian, Wuhan, and on the Yangtze River as well as Canton and Hong Kong. Visiting Shanghai where Bill was born and raised after more than 45 years was a little bit of an unnerving experience. On the one hand, Shanghai is a boom city with high rise construction everywhere you look, particularly on the outskirts of the city that were nothing but farms with little villages in Bill’s childhood. The traffic and the crowds are overwhelming. Shanghai is fast becoming the business and industrial center of China again. However, what is left of the old Shanghai – particularly the parks, green areas, and homes and gardens – is now built over with nondescript ugly construction, and what is not built over is run down and dirty. Very little of what once made Shanghai the Pearl of the Orient remains.
Beijing, on the other hand, was a pleasant surprise. The parks, monuments, temples, and palaces of its historic past were well maintained; the traffic on its wide streets crowded, but orderly and the people friendly and polite. Kian is of course famous for its terra cotta army, but also as the first capitol of China. It has a cultural history going back 2,000 years that is well displayed in modern museums. Four days of our tour were spent on a modern river cruise ship going through the Yangtze gorges with unique scenery somewhat reminiscent fjords, but made of sandstone instead of granite. Aside from its often photographed and well-known harbor and surroundings, Hong Kong is indeed a shopper’s paradise.
Much of our summer was divided between working in Texas and practicing retirement up north, with up north getting the short end of the deal. However, since our health has been good, there is always another summer just around the corner to look forward to.
As it says on our card, we wish you the best of holidays and a healthy, happy 1996. We may not be able to visit you in person this coming year, but the wish to stay in touch is as strong as ever.
Bill and Nancy Sandt.
© 2004 Bernd W. Sandt. All rights reserved.