Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


 T'ain't So, T's Too

Jackie Spinks                                                    





           In the past I’ve claimed the major bugaboos of old age are (1) aches and pains and (2) loneliness and, as I’ve already covered aches and pains I’ll concentrate on loneliness now. Sartre said, “Hell is other people.”  He must have been a real pain in the you-know-where, to all his friends, as current studies show that happiness IS “other people.” And I might add “other people” OUR OWN AGE as we shouldn’t bother the younger generation, although it’s awfully tempting.  Face it.  We’re a stick-in-the-mud to the young.

Why I say that, is because for the first few years after I moved into my house about thirty years ago, my elderly next door neighbor, now gone, would be over at my place every day and talk and talk, wearing me out with her repetitious and tiresome conversations. 

“Yeah, darling,” I’d say, “you’ve already told me about the fire you had in the kitchen.”  Which wouldn’t deter her from her story, but would only increase the volume as she finished her yarn. It took all my patience to be agreeable, (I should get some Humanitarian award for it, as it was so difficult) so I have a lot of apprehension about laying the same trip on the young today.  The message here, my friends, is we should stay with your own age cohorts.  They’ll put up with us. I supposed other people, like Sartre said, might be Hell, especially if we haven’t yet learned how to get along with others. 

But by the time we’ve reach sixty, most of us have aced that one out.  Some haven’t.  They’re the ones (mostly guys) with low Emotional IQs, poor fellows, but most of the rest of us have mastered the lessons of life, which includes being kind, understanding and vulnerable to others.  Crotchetiness, like AIDS, should be avoided at all costs.

When I was young and filled with the arrogance of youth, I’d tell people loneliness was impossible, that it was all in our minds, because with millions of people trampling on this earth, we could surely find five or ten people approximately our own age, who were on the same team as we were, and would love to be our friends.  We just had to get out and look. 
So in my know-it-all youth, along with my kids, I found plenty of friends and settled back.  Life was a bowl of cherries.
It never occurred to me that someday my little kids, those twits in drooping under pants would be in control of my life and that when they’d ring me up and I’d hear their voices on my answering machine, I’d run for the telephone and be grateful for any attention.  Yeah, I’ll admit it.  I’m deeply grateful for any notice from them, but I am also careful not to impinge on their lives.   So until we grow older, we’re mostly happy with our circle of friends and don’t seek out any more friends, as friendships take time to cultivate, so we want to keep the old ones, as these old friends have seen us through our ups and downs and have held on through it all. 

After a friend’s been around for several years, we feel safe enough to tell them about what a low-rent piece of swill we might have been in, say, our twenties and how ashamed we now are, in regard to all our stupid mistakes.  It’s good to get this off our guilt-ridden chests.

And our friends, who know us equally well, reply they weren’t all that delicious youngsters themselves. What a relief to know we weren’t the only one that had messed up lives.
But then, gradually, one by one, as the years went by, these old friends began to disappear.  They died, moved, became invalids, got Alzheimer, or merely drifted away into alcoholism, pill addiction, or gambling.

Speaking of gambling, gambling has become a big thing amongst us Golden Oldies.  Guess the dreams of becoming rich goes with us to the grave.  So while gambling’s popular with us old ones, gambling is a baddie. .  I’ve had people tell me about staying at the slot machines with wet pants—that’s how the gambling obsession can overtake and control us.

I ended up having my best friend of thirty years lose her house, her car, her fantastic job, all her money and have to file for bankruptcy.  Then ended up sleeping on the streets, all thanks to those cards and slot machines.  And as she stole big wads of money from me, she made our friendship very loosie-goosey. Anyhow, the only solution to this loss of friends and the deprivation of their laughter and understanding is to start over with new friends. 

As for looking up old friends from our childhood, I, for one, don’t know where they are, and I’m too dumb with the computer to find them, plus they probably wouldn’t remember me anyway. But then I have to add, it is hard to start over with someone new in old age.  Both parties are uneasy and walking on eggshells.  It’s like this loneliness business we’re trying to erase has handicapped us. Elderly friends, less fixated than my gambling friends, take up music, art, fishing, yoga, yard work, car repair, travel, focus on good health, and a dozen other hobbies.

I used to cook, but I was the only person eating my cooking and with even half a recipe I was eating too much and bulking up, so that had to go.  I do read, write and watch TV.  Occasionally I take a walk and visit an agoraphobic friend, who’s a strong Republican, addicted to alcohol and soaps and I think may resent my visits, when she’s sewing or repairing something in her closet.

Others have their animals.  I often hear, “I can always talk to my pet.  My cat will never reject me.”  And as for dogs, they have the much deserved reputation for being man’s best friend.  And we can really develop a love affair with out dogs.  Or as Marilyn Monroe said, “Men use me.  Women judge me—but my dog loves me.”

And if you want to know the ultimate kick in the teeth for old age loneliness—it’s  going out in the evening.  You go to dances and find ten women to every man.
So learning not to be lonely in old age is no small monkeyshine business.
Men may have an easier time of it then women, but then again, maybe not, even if they do get the ladies and the dances.
Some claim it’s easier for men to be a lone wolf because they’ve been trained to the romanticism of being a loner—in the “Jerimiah Johnson” movie tradition. But on the other hand women have been trained to break bread with the rank and file and although they have zero interests in common with them, they’ll  swallow their disagreements. Men, by contrast, can’t let silly religious or political things go by.  They have to argue. Psychologists say “love and work” are the ingredients for life satisfaction.  I have neither and, believe it or not, I’m satisfied.  But some do miss work.

In our individualistic culture, where we each make our own way, unless we have a job or work of some kind, we often feel out there rumbling around to no where.  We like work because we have co-workers we can relate to, and especially if we liked our work.  As it was the kind of work that was varied and not checked by another. But those days are no more for us retirees.

So again, why am I satisfied with my life without love and work. Well, the major reason, I would hazard is because “science claims all of life is comparison, and I do believe that is the case.  Hence, comparing my present life with my past life—well today, by comparison, my life is a blast. And I’m also somewhat of a loner as I try to look on the bright side of loneliness.  So here’s to loneliness . Think of all we gain as a loner.

We can eat what we want, watch the TV we want, without being told, “Why are you watching that junk?”  We can leave the house without telling someone where we’re going, and when we’ll be back, and we don’t have to worry about getting back on time or hearing about our lateness and selfishness for the next hour. We can keep the house and yard as messy or as neat as we like, also keep the house cooler or hotter, than if we had a mate or companion.

We can go naked around the house (shades closed, of course) without arousing any comments like “Getting a little thick around the middle there, aren’t we?”  And our bathroom is ours alone.  But the really tour de force of living alone, is there are no more argument about money. If we’re a guy, we can look at girly magazines or Internet stuff without any spousal head-shaking or if we’re a woman we can buy that expensive, useless outfit we’ll only wear occasionally with nary a disgusted comment about wasting money.  

And most conversations with non-lifetime hook-ups are fun. Last week, I referred to a crony as a “senior citizen” and he, jokingly, or maybe not so jokingly, corrected me about the “citizen part” as at the moment, in our political can of worms, he says he’s not that proud of the citizen part. And so we continued putting heat on the government, as if our talk had any influence.  It was interesting, he didn’t protest the “senior” part.

It’s so good living alone, instead of talk about delaying retirement, maybe they should put retirement ahead about ten years. And I hate to tell you this, but friendships are work, emotional work.  But also to put a damper on that, we have to keep in mind, work has payoffs.

As the Greatest Generation we’ve already done our share for the country and, furthermore, the country’s problems aren’t mine or yours, but the lobbyist’s. So, and I repeat, friends take work, sensitivity work, but work does have it’s payoff.  And if that isn’t in the cards, well just think of all the free time you’ll have to do all the things you’ve always wanted to do.

So get busy, because if you mollycoddle loafing, it leads to more loafing and inactivity leads to lifelessness. So live because its nice to have you around and you’ll like being around, too. And life can be fun, even if  you/we have to have to pay the bills all by ourselves.




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