By the time Melinda is in the eighth grade, she has a part time job answering telephones, and typing for a doctor. In the 10th grade, she lands a job at Sea World in San Diego. "I was a Sea Maid until my second year in college," she says. "Ron, look at this," and shows me a Facebook picture of her swimming with Beluga, the whale. Melinda is in seventh heaven as she says, "We had 15 girls in our dressing room. We had such fun. We had some jingle in our jeans, too. One time we drove over to Tijuana, and flew to Puerto Vallarta. We still are life long friends."
Sitting in Melinda and Wade's elegant home, I am struck by the beauty that surrounds me. My coffee is in a china mug, a stunning lacquer oriental screen is to my right, and out the window is a carefully designed garden complex. Being raised in La Jolla, and graduating from U.C. Santa Barbara, has given Melinda a taste for the good life.
Recently retired, her life is now filled with marathons, triathlons, tournaments, golf, skiing and travel. "I told my mom, I was going to take a year off between high school and college to get skiing out of my system. I did. I went to Tahoe, taught aerobics and tended bar. When I moved to another bar, my following came with me," she exclaims with unabashed pride.
After I spill coffee on her beautiful table, which she assures me is no problem, I ask about her career as a school teacher and principal. "I don't know why, but back then, if a man was strong and confident, it was okay, but if a woman was, well, that was a whole different thing," she says. When I prod her for more information about her working life, she clams up and shifts to a more compelling topic. "When Wade and I were about to be married, the pastor had us make lists of what we wanted. I negotiated with Wade to have one big blow out trip a year. We've been married almost 20 years, and we've had Christmas in New Zealand, a month in Italy, and Marsia (their 14-year-old daughter) has had tango lessons in Argentina," she says with gusto.
Words flow like a fountain from Melinda. "Last night, I thought about what you said about retirement," and deposits three schedule notebooks on the table. "The secret is to schedule, write it down. This July, I want to go fly fishing, Wade wants to camp at Lahontan, and our marriage is in serious trouble unless we go to Yosemite. If it's down on the schedule, we always do it," she exclaims.
I am increasingly in awe of Melinda. She is so sure of herself and accomplishes so much. "Ron, I had a terrible cold and I was signed up for a grueling 66-mile bike ride. I know I would never have finished, if I'd been alone. My mantra is, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and my life is so much better now," she says."
Melinda's retirement is top notch. She's a wonderful example, and best of all, she lives right across the street.
Ron Walker lives in Smith Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.