She's cleared for takeoff Retirement: The director of the Howard County Office on Aging has stepped down, but plans to make strides in the years ahead -- as a pilot, in cyberspace and on the road.

November 21, 1995|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Vivian Reid woke up yesterday at her regular hour, 6 a.m., and remembered: "Oh, I don't have to get up this morning." She rolled over and went back to sleep.

For Ms. Reid, who until Friday worked as director of the Howard County Office on Aging, yesterday was her first day of retirement. After 47 years of labor in various social service fields, Ms. Reid, 70, faced the blank canvas on which she now must paint the remaining years of her life.

Her whole career prepared her for this moment, and she saw only possibilities: learning to fly airplanes, getting better at using her computer, writing children's books and, of course, traveling.

"I'm just as eager looking at future years as I have been energized by past years," said Ms. Reid, sitting at her kitchen table yesterday morning in Catonsville. "In fact, I'll say I've thoroughly enjoyed every year of these 70 years. I don't expect these next years to be any different."

After sleeping in an extra hour, Ms. Reid did not click her heels over her newfound freedom or thumb her nose at former bosses who controlled much of her life for nearly a half-century. Instead, yesterday merely seemed like the final day of a three-day weekend, she said.

"And I've got such a full schedule this week," she added, referring to errands and social engagements. "If I ever get to the point where I don't have a multitude of things to do, maybe the fact that I'm retired might hit me then."

Those who know her doubt it. State Del. Elizabeth Bobo, the former Howard County executive and council member, said Ms. Reid has so many plans that retirement should be even more rewarding than work.

"Retirement is a funny word in our culture," Ms. Bobo said. "In some people it almost elicits pity, like: 'Oh, you poor thing, you're retired' -- like it's the beginning of the end or something. But not for Vivian. She has such a passion for life that I fully expect her to thrive."

Ms. Bobo described the soft-spoken Ms. Reid as a dignified leader, well-liked and highly respected. In her 19 years as head of Howard County's Office on Aging, Ms. Reid shepherded the agency from a budget of $84,000, one community center and one home for seniors needing assistance to today's budget of $3 million, 10 community centers and 40 assisted-living homes.

Also, in those 19 years working with the elderly, Ms. Reid discovered the key to a successful retirement: Having interests other than work. Years earlier she had gotten her first clue, as she observed her father, Edward, giving up on life after his forced retirement from General Motors at age 65. He died one year later.

"Working was his life," Ms. Reid said. "He just couldn't understand why he had to stop. And he just began to go downhill."

Conversely, Ms. Reid's mother, Grace, voluntarily retired -- also from General Motors, where she had worked alongside her husband on the assembly line -- when she was 62. She traveled, read and embraced retirement. Now she's 95.

And next week her newly retired daughter plans to drive to Indiana to bring her mother back to Maryland. Grace Reid lives 10 or 11 months each year with her daughter in Catonsville, and the rest of the time at her longtime home in Anderson, Ind. That's where Ms. Reid, her only child, grew up.

"I used to fly out and get her, because time was always at a premium," Ms. Reid said. "But now I can drive, because suddenly I've got lots of time."

She also has lots of plans, starting with this: She wants to learn to fly an airplane.

"Amelia Earhart was a childhood hero of mine," Ms. Reid said. "Through the years I've said I was going to learn how to fly a plane one of these days. So here I am, 70 years old. I think I'd better get started on that."

She also wants to learn how to make full use of her home computer. And she wants to write children's books.

Ms. Reid has no children; she never married. But she has a friend from New Jersey -- Lovee Brooks, a widow with two grown children -- who just retired from teaching. The retired friends have great plans for traveling together and maybe volunteering on Indian reservations.

Their first trip will be by train across country. Finally, Ms. Reid is ready to treat herself.

But first, sitting at her kitchen table yesterday morning -- next to a vase of red roses, one of her many retirement gifts -- Ms. Reid looked back on a life of what she called a "natural progression" of service to others.

In her younger years, she worked with teen-agers in Indiana. In her middle years, she worked with families in Connecticut. In her later years, she worked with the elderly in Maryland. Now is her time.

But before the trips, the computer classes, the flying lessons, the first task on the first day of the rest of her life was to walk into her basement and plop of load of laundry into the washer.

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