Idioms and proverbs are crowding up my thought processes today. I currently have a bird in the hand, and it is staring contemptuously at a half-empty glass sitting near me. The glass and the bird are competing for my attention. The bird keeps telling me that I mustn’t cry over spilled milk, and further adds that I have to be patient because all good things come to those who wait. The glass ls having none of this, though. It mocks the bird for deigning to talk about spilled liquids. The glass relentlessly reminds me to stop beating around the bush, and that actions speak louder than words. I am listening to both and am wary of their conflicting messages. I might just go join the worthy “two-in-the-bush” and hide for a bit.
For nearly three months, I have been badgering my former employer’s central personnel office to process my ex-wife’s portion of my retirement annuity. It has unfortunately been stuck in a bureaucratic limbo. While my own paperwork was expeditiously completed right after the start of the year, my ex’s has been languishing without any action or word on its status. Phone calls and emails have been made by both of us (hers always at my urging), and each time I’ve been somewhat able to unravel another layer of the puzzle. But it’s been a slow, frustrating process.
The delay has been costly to me. Within weeks of retiring last August, I received two large lump-sum payments. One was connected to unused vacation and sick time, and the other a buyout bonus that sweetened management’s offer for me to retire early. These payments were my savings cushion until the second part of my annuity begins next January– a special “supplemental” that mirrors what Social Security will begin to offer at age 62. However, until my ex is to begin receiving her direct annuity payments, I am required by the terms of our divorce decree to pay the full alimony amount due to her. As I’ve done since our initial separation agreement, and then also until our divorce eventually became final, I faithfully met all my obligations. Nonetheless, each full payment made since my retirement has resulted in that “cushion” lowering considerably. Metaphorically speaking, where only a few months ago I was sitting on an Edwardian Chippendale sipping Courvoisier, I have lately been slouching on a flat beanbag munching on a Nutri-Grain bar.
Our agreement is one that at first she accepted, later rejected, and then again agreed to in totality with the assent of her attorney. She agrees that once she begins to receive her court-ordered portion of my annuity, I may pay a reduced alimony for the remainder of this calendar year. Today’s news finally brings this temporary agreement to fruition.
The wait for it to happen took longer than I had anticipated. But for the kind assistance of a man in the central personnel office last week, I would never have discovered that in fact her paperwork has been sitting on someone’s desk untouched since the very end of December. The man, now my BFF, offered to engage with the woman on whose desk the paperwork sits and ask her to please process it. This is a nice way of suggesting that she get off her duff and do her job.
Today to my utter surprise and delight, I called back again to inquire and received good news. I learned that the paperwork has been processed and a check is — figuratively and literally — in the mail. The check incidentally is retroactive to my first annuity payment in September. So the former Mrs. is getting a nice little chunk of change. For me this means that starting immediately, and for the remainder of this year, I will get some relief with a significant reduction in alimony. I can already feel the cushion beginning to form again. Anyone need a slightly used beanbag chair?
There is one last negotiation ahead of us, and this involves the final and permanent alimony amount that my ex will receive. This will happen sometime in December. These talks will be trickier. I have learned from my past mistakes, and I will not attempt any direct communication with my ex-wife on this specific matter. At my request, her lawyer will play a prominent role this time around. I know that the only way I can get a concrete agreement is with the active participation of that attorney, ironically, someone for whom I have great admiration and respect. While the good attorney’s interests will of course be solely on my ex-wife’s behalf, my past interactions with her have been always positive. I may not get precisely the deal I am hoping for, but I am confident that the negotiations will be fair.
I recently weighed the merits of my situation with a friend, and I used the common idiom of asking rhetorically if my circumstances are such that my glass is half-empty or full? My friend cleverly observed that the construction is neither — I should instead be thankful that I have a glass to hold, period. (Hi, E). No truer words could possibly be spoken. I remain all too aware of people who have far less than myself, and I also think about those who are stuck in continued, hand-to-hand combat with a former spouse. I am thankfully not even remotely close to such situations.
So join me, dear readers, as I tentatively raise my martini glass today in celebration of another retirement and divorce milestone. I long ago learned that incremental moments eventually take you to the bigger plateau that awaits, and so I will savor this small one.