Do We Ever Really Retire?

A Visit to Retirement Land

By: Tim Bryce – Columnist for News Talk Florida

I have written about retirement in the past and I still regard it as a mystery.  I have had more friends “check out” recently for a variety of reasons.  They all claim to be happy to be retired, that they have been planning it for years, and that I am a chump to keep working.  I consider this all a bald-faced lie.  I’ve seen some become musicians, where they play pickup gigs.  I’ve seen others become golfers, playing the same course over and over again like a gerbil on a treadmill.  And they all seem to be obsessed with Viagra or Cialis for some reason.

Perhaps the hardest part to retirement is adjusting to the pace.  At first, most men treat it like a vacation, but they quickly learn it is a vacation that never ends.  Initially, they tend to get more rest, eat a little more than they should, take a trip, putter around the house tackling minor assignments, but then they become bored and restless.  Instead of having someone set a schedule for them, like their company and boss, now they have to make their own schedule.

Retirement seems to turn executives into gardeners where they spend countless hours turning their property into lush Japanese gardens.  At parties, they argue who has the best “Shishi-odoshi” in their “Koi” ponds to scare away deer.  I also think they learn the language as part of this process.  They have been known to blurt out words and expressions like, “Hai,” “non desu ka,” “Ohayou gozaimasu,” “douzo, and “domo.”

Some prefer cultivating vegetable gardens, complete with bib overalls and a straw hat.  Somehow I am reminded of Eddie Albert.  Tomatoes, corn, and cucumbers are common.  The more ambitious farmers try their hand at such things as kale, cabbage, bok choy, okra, snow peas, and a variety of hot peppers.  Normally, these are tried only once before reverting back to tomatoes, corn, and cucumbers.  For some strange reason, broccoli is avoided at all costs.

At high school reunions I would hear classmates boast they were going to retire soon.  They do this in such a way as to make it sound like a game, whereby the winner is the person who retires first.  They looked forward to sleeping in during the mornings, travel to exotic locations, or catch up on their reading.  Inevitably, they find their body is conditioned to sleep a few scant hours and they still rise before sunup, they rarely travel outside of the county, and the only reading they do is in the bathroom.  If anything, they become addicted to television shows like “Jerry Springer,” “The View,” and “Dr. Phil.”  Not surprising, they develop the habit of talking back to the television screen as if the host could hear them.  The only thing stranger is when they offer applause to the television set.

The retirees start attending breakfasts and lunches with former colleagues.  Inevitably old war stories are told over and over again.  Breakfast usually consists of eggs, bacon, pork sausage, goetta, scrapple, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, grits, hash browns, and coffee, lots of coffee.  Lunches usually includes pastrami, corned beef, hamburgers, chicken wings, and an occasional glass of beer or wine.  It is no small wonder they begin to gain weight.  There is also the ceremonial toothpick afterwards.  They suddenly find themselves volunteering time to charitable organizations and political campaigns.  And they spend an inordinate amount of time in doctor offices, where they develop an interest in women magazines.

Retirees discover they miss the socialization they enjoyed at work, which is why they gravitate to group meetings.  They realize it is important to their mental health to be able to discuss current events and their observations on life.  Without such discussions they become despondent.

To keep busy, it is not unusual for them to go to the post office, not just once, but twice a day (once in the morning and later in the afternoon).  They also go for haircuts at dawn.  Rarely do they really need a haircut as their hair is now thin.  More importantly, it is to manicure the wild hairs growing in their eyebrows, ears, and nose.  They also spend considerable time at sporting events for their grandchildren, where they can catch up on their sleep.

More importantly, I’ve noticed my friends who recently retired get bored easily.  Although they pledged to live a life of ease, one by one I see them all going back to take on a job of some kind.  Maybe not as rigorous as before, but necessary to practice mental gymnastics.  I’ve seen some people become clerks at some of the home and garden superstores, others work at golf courses, and some go back to what they were doing before retiring.  Frankly, I do not know anyone who has dropped out completely.  Somehow, they all find a way to go back to work.  Maybe retirement is not what they thought it would be.

In spite of all this, I am considered the “oddball” for continuing to work.  I still enjoy meeting and working with people; I still enjoy jousting in debate, but more than anything, I still believe I have a role to play and am not ready for the curtain to fall.  Besides, I look kind of silly wearing a hardware store apron.

Keep the Faith!