Retirement can be scary and not for the faint of heart. Many people approach it with great apprehension, although I was never one of them. In fact, I’m a big proponent.
This comes from a sad history in my relatively small family. There were six other men who were close relatives. My father, who died of a heart attack at age 44. His father, who died of a heart attack, also at age 44. I never knew him. My maternal grandfather who died at age 37 of circulatory illness. Didn’t get to know him either. My uncle (my father’s brother) who died at age 59 of heart failure. My older brother, who died at 69 of early onset Alzheimer’s. Oddly, the luckiest of the group, my maternal step-grandfather, with whom I was closer than any of the aforementioned, lived to 73. But to his great misfortune, he worked all those years and enjoyed just six months of retirement before his heart attack.
It should come as no great surprise to you now that I vowed to take care of myself and retire as soon as possible, aiming to enjoy my “mature” years as my progenitors never could. I semi-retired at age 60 and fully retired at 65.
Which brings me to the blog title. Patty, my dear wife, is from the old school. You work as long as you can, and then work some more. Retirement was considered a one-way ticket to uselessness. This, in spite of the fact that her father, a career Naval Officer, retired at age 54 after 32 years of service and never looked back. He enjoyed 30 years of retirement before he passed. Between fishing at his cabin in Canada, playing golf and puttering around the house, he knew how to make the most out of the years given him.
Patty did get a late start in the workforce. She stayed home with our children until they were 14 and 12. During this time, she finished her college degree and became an elementary school teacher. That career lasted nearly 25 years. Then came her medical emergency and the heart valve replacement surgery. I was determined it would not be a repeat of my family misfortunes. As soon as she was sufficiently recovered, I said to her “you are retiring, we are selling the house and moving close to our granddaughters.” And so we did.
Then, lo and behold, she went back to work as a full-time substitute! I cajoled and pleaded, but she just couldn’t handle so much downtime. I was volunteering at no fewer than 5 different places, but she felt that she should be paid for her experience. It was hard to convince her otherwise. Finally, after 4 more years of her full and part-time substituting, we moved to our present place of retirement here in Virginia Beach. I have finally seen her learn to enjoy retirement like I never thought possible. Though she has taken on a somewhat involved volunteer position as Regional Director of the Epilepsy Foundation of Virginia, it is not too time intensive and a good part of the work is handled at home. Mostly, we revel in out time together and pick fun things to do everyday. I have never seen her happier.
In fact, she coined a phrase the other day which any other philosopher would be proud to call their own. It goes like this: “Do what makes you happy…..rest…..repeat!” She has truly arrived.
As for me, some volunteer work, house upkeep, travel and exercising keeps me busy and happy. I have often thought I should hire on at the local community college to teach a class called “How to Retire, Guilt Free.” But then, that would be like working, wouldn’t it?