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Retirement is not for the faint of heart. There, I’ve said it, and if you wish, I will repeat it…oh, screw that; you can just reread the first sentence. For a while, retirement really seemed a great thing. Go places you’ve never been participate in activities you wish you had had the time to get into while you were working; actually meeting new people and learning about their lives; finding new hobbies that were extremely interesting…for a while.

I’ve said it before, and I believe it’s important to understand that retirement should not be considered as a time when one just sits on one’s proverbial butt and watch as it expands to fill the width of a chair. Retirement is a time when you should be able to do all of those things you cursed about because you couldn’t do them when that nasty thing called “work” interfered. Perhaps, it was a solid round of 18 holes that was played on weekends, but you were positive you could break 90 if only you had the chance to play a couple of times during the week. Maybe it was spending a week touring a national park but that wasn’t possible even during vacation…because you were never able to work in a full vacation. There were a thousand ideas, things you’d do when you retired; when the house was paid off; when the summer place could be put to good use without having to make a few calls to the office while you were supposed to be relaxing. Just wait until retirement. Ah, yes, the things to which you were looking forward without having to worry that someone, anyone would call and ask you your opinion on something or a request to give a couple of hours on a certain project…those would be the days.

The big day arrives and out the door you go. Maybe you think you might miss a few of the old crowd. Promises to say in touch are exchanged; sometimes they may even be kept, but really, those people only serve to remind you of the work you once did, and that’s the thing you want furthest from your mind. You get in those 18 holes every few days, but you find that it’s not as easy to walk around the course as it used to be so you get a cart. That makes the distance between holes a little shorter but the game doesn’t improve the way you thought it might. You learn from your doctor that the pain in your shoulder is a torn rotator cuff and you should probably have it repaired. That will keep you off the course for a while. You continue to do different things. Heck, the surgery means you’ll get a chance to catch up on your reading, but you need new glasses, bifocals this time, and they’re a pain in the ass to use, but you catch on…after a while.

After a few years, the summer place becomes more of a burden than a pleasure and you announce your intention to sell it. This sets up a bit of a dispute between you and the kids…who use it with their children now and who enjoy going there but not the cost of the upkeep. You offer to sell it or even give it to them, but when the chips are down, they really don’t believe it’s worth it. With luck, you sell at a profit, and hope that you can do something productive with the monies you receive, but it just goes into the bank and gets spent in other ways.

As you age in your retirement, one of you gets a diagnosis of a terminal illness. While I haven’t experienced getting kicked in the chest by a mule, it seems to me that getting that diagnosis must feel the same way…except for being longer lasting. The one who is not ill goes from being a spouse to being a care-giver, and I guarantee you, the roles are quite different. If your spouse asks to die at home and you can accommodate that request, do it; no matter what it takes, do it. If you can afford round the clock nursing care, do it. Most people I know can’t afford that, but they can afford to have someone come in one, possibly two days a week…do it. The care-giver is on duty 24/7/365. The illness consumes your live, even unto death and for years after that.

After a while, retirement becomes more of a drudge than a thing of beauty and a joy forever. You get old. Your knees – at least those that haven’t been replaced – begin to hurt like the devil. Your golf game, if that was your big desire, slows down considerably. In fact, there are days when you can hardly wait to get home and lay down. Traveling is more of a burden than a delight, and while the sights are pretty, so is that bottle of Aleve or something stronger.

In his book, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Stephen King wrote, “An old man’s body is nothing but a sack in which he carries aches and indignities.” He may have a point, but that same sack carries memories that are so beautiful as to defy some of those aches. English actress, Judy Parfitt, says, “The thing about growing old is you have to accept it – if you don’t, you’ll be as miserable as sin. You’ve got to try and find the few good things about it.” And there are good things about aging. The best of these lies in being constantly amazed at the advances that have been made in your lifetime. Technology, science, medicine, aviation, have seen remarkable advances, and yes, even golf clubs have been improved. When I look at my smart phone of today and think that it possesses more power than the computers that put men on the moon several decades back, I’m both amazed and delighted. When I see photographs depicting other galaxies with planets that are potentially capable of supporting human life as we see it daily, I’m in awe. On and on and on it goes, and in my retirement, as much as I dislike the aches and pains, the things I can no longer do, I am delighted that in the later years of retirement I can see such progress in our shrinking world.

I can only hope for one more thing before I die. If would be truly grand if Boston could get it’s Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority to go through one single year without breakdowns, delays and excuses that are somewhat akin to “The dog ate my homework!”

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