One of the cruelest things about retirement, especially for men – is suddenly finding you have nothing to do every day. The first thing that happens is the man tries to take back control of the house – to the huge irritation of the woman who has been managing ‘just fine for decades, thank you very much’. Friction is reported across the spectrum of my mom’s friends and some close relatives – and resentment festers.
Not the idyllic grey haired, hand-in-hand strolls promised in retirement brochures, then.
My dad used to mope around the house, watching endless reruns of Sky News – until Hannah Darcy arrived. They met, fell in mutual adoration and a superhero was born: Popper. Grandfather to the punk monkeys – player of all games, nurser of all wounds, singer of all lullabies, watcher of endless Barney re-runs, actor in all talent shows. When my brother and sister both moved away from Johannesburg, the loss of his young pals hit him harder than we realised. He was bereft. He had seen the kids virtually everyday – catching up on their news as he drove them back from school. He sat with them at the doctor, hosted sleepovers with my mom – played ‘sharky-sharky’ for hours in the pool. He would be exhausted at the end of each week: covered with nicks and bruises, full of cold – but he loved every moment.
Plans need to be made to right the situation – and they’ll come. But his predicament brought home to me the need to re-invent myself after a corporate life. And to make sure I always have ‘something to keep you occupied’ (as my mother puts it).
Tatsuo Horiuchi spent most of his adult life working for IBM. About 13 years ago, shortly before his retirement, he decide he needed a new challenge. A keen amateur artist, he wanted to find a modern way to express a traditional Japanese art form: “I never used Excel at work but I saw other people making pretty graphs and thought, ‘I could probably draw with that,’” he said. “Initially I tried working with Microsoft Word but it didn’t offer the paper sizing and flexibility that Excel did – I needed to be able to draw more freely.”
So the (now 73-year-old) Tatsuo bought a computer and began experimenting with Excel. “Graphics software is expensive but Excel comes pre-installed in most computers,” he says. “And it has more functions and is easier to use than [Microsoft] Paint.”
Although it looks as if he hand drew each delicate, detailed figure – Tasuo didn’t use anything other than the shapes available in the insert panel of Microsoft Excel 2003. No Photoshop, no special effects, only thousands of tiny shapes delicately put together, to create these amazing pictures.
Since then he has established himself as a digital artist and presented his work in exhibitions world-wide: “For me it has been an interesting journey, I found that the program was easy to use and more capable than using actual paint. Which I hadn’t expected”
Sometimes everything we need is right where we are. We just have to find ways to see it.
(Images found here, thanks to Manu for the intro.)