Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


T'ain't So, T'is Too

Jackie Spinks

Chapter Two
Lookin’ Good

Yes sirree, there was a time when we were unsuspicious, trusting and quite stupid about the world, but are now hopefully, trotting down the opposite lane.   Life did that.  But it’s not that bad because my old age is not only better than my grandparent’s but I is better than my own early, simpler years when I could work all day and play all night and never feel a twinge and oh, how I suffered emotionally. 
Okay, so my innocence has vanished down the drain and not even Drano can bring it up.  Good riddance. So let me list a tasty collection of all the goodies that have come from my old age.
We’ll forget Alzheimer, arthritis and angina (and that’s only the A’s).  That’s sorehead heebie-jeebies talk. 

First off, I’d like to do some comparison shopping.  Sociologist Lenski says, and I quote, “Comparison is the basis of science.”  And far be it for me to argue with science.  So from that perspective let’s compare the end to the beginning and see which is better—scientifically speaking—of course.
First contrary to what I believed when I was young, for instance, it would be better to be dead, than 90 years old, well, forget that.  I was wrong.
When I was young I worried incessantly about purchases, parties, power, privileges and pounds (putting on the pounds rather than taking them off).  And that’s  only the start.  But I no longer care about any of those problems, I’m not anxious about anything anymore, except some minor disagreements amongst friends.
Today, I’ve replaced my childlike trust with skepticism and that’s another gratifying thing about old age.  I’ve also become cynical about everything.  So who wants to be cynical?  Cynicism is not a brag-able quality.  But if I’d been less trusting and more wary years ago—life would have been less hurtful and more fun.
Yeah, I’ve heard trust is good and it may be endearing, but the trustee is almost always in for at least a minor let-down.
You complain, “My best friend and he took me to the cleaners.”
“You were dumb.”
“No, I was trusting.”
Anyhow before I forget (I forget easily now) as I’ve pointed out to friends ad nauseum to friends, let me pass on a few examples of ideas I trustingly agreed with totally, once upon a time, and cynically have had to chuck. For example:
Shakespeare, who I admired with all my heart and soul in my youth, that guy who said, “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage.”  Well, this guy, it turns out, in his time, was seen as nothing more than a 16th century gossip columnist for the rich and famous and politically powerful.  Somebody suggested to me that Rush Limbaugh, our most important gossip columnist for the rich, famous and powerful, today, comes closest to what Shakespeare was in his time.  And while many of my democratic friends grimace at the idea, who knows, four hundred years from now, people may be putting on plays about Limbaugh’s gutsy, formidable words.  Does that brighten your day—or doesn’t it?
And taking it from a historical perspective Jesus was and ordinary rabbi carpenter, who developed a bitch against John the Baptist and went around the country pointing out his flaws.  And Jesus didn’t become divine until 400 years after his death at the council of Nicaea, when a bunch of priests got together and took some kind of a vote and the ones who wanted him declared divine won the contest. Which was a big shift for the population from classical rationalism to Christian mysticism. 
Where would we be if the other side had won.  Would we still be classical rationalists?  Something to think about.
Another big shockeroo was being taught in school that WWI was the result of economic rivalry and an arms race in Europe, furthermore, I “wasn’t” taught that Kaiser William of Germany, King George of England and Czar Nicholas of Russia were cousins, all grandchildren of Queen Victoria and they had squabbles like kids do.
Kaiser said about WWI; I believe he said it to the Czar whom he called “Nicky.” “If Grandma were alive she never would have allowed it.”  Who wants to believe 80 million people died over a cousinly flap that Granny could have fixed?”  S
It’s one thig for a cousin to knock over your blocks, but another to kill 9ff 80 million people because you’re pissed.  Told some friends about this and they refused to believe it.  We’re suckers, who like to believe our wars are noble and fought for high-minded reasons like economics, armaments, oil, etc. 
And poor Freud, remember when he had all the answers to life’s problems.  It was six.  Now, that was a fun psychology in those early no-no sexual years.  They should have left that one alone.  But no, as everyone knows, all those ideas about sex have almost all debunked, not to mention most of his other ideas.  Behavioral and cognitive psychology have taken over—they work. We’re all the end result of our learning.
And did you know, Marx was an alcoholic, who couldn’t keep a job, which is the most cheering thought I’ve had all day—there may be hope for my jobless grand-kids after all.
And you’ve heard this one before, but I’ll repeat, we learned when we were young, that since then, everything we learned then has turned out to be wrong.  So what we’ve learned, we can unlearn.  I’ve had to go through a lot of unlearning, not only about the flaws of heroes and heroines, but the flaws of leaders, culture and values.  But one if the side effect of this March of Time—is, well, cynicism.
Like I was so misguided about Freud, on the other hand it’s satisfying to know they were flawed—and something grossly wrong.
And did they ever make maximum contributions, for example Freud, who’s reputation has tanked, nevertheless practically invented our modern psychology.
Once I fretted, strived and failed, but now along with my cynicism I’m calmer.  No more angry outbursts over trivialities, and who cares if I failed—so what, so did just about everyone else.
Friends are precious now, as so many of them are dying off and it’s hard to replace those old ones.
Friends take emotional work in the beginning and a lot of time, and we’re tired, and we don’t want to work, whether it’s sweat work or emotional work, not to mention all the time we put in establishing our interesting personalities for them.
And I can recall those sleepless nights of my youth, when I was so anxious about money or the lack thereof, about losing the job, the car, the kids, the future, you name it, I could lie awake all night fretting and nervously checking that bedside clock and hoping there was some else as messed up as I.
Yeah, sleepless nights are sometimes still a problem.  But it’s not worry so much about heavy stuff like money, jobs, marriage, etc, as it is about, “Was that remark I made about shrinks hurtful to my psychologist friend?
At the same time remember when we were young and had to do the bathroom run and we tripped over Legos, teddy bears and trucks.  And for those who don’t do that inexorable bathroom run in the dark, I mitigate my envy of you somewhat by telling myself maybe you aren’t getting enough liquids—dehydration is supposedly common amongst the elderly.
When young I was constantly looking up something in a dictionary, an encyclopedia or science textbook, silly stuff like who built the Brooklyn Bride or why the paper mill moved out of town, or how to get rid of those carpenter ants, making their home under my sink.  I know those things now.  I don’t have to look them up and as for the ants I go to Home Depot and ask a salesperson for some spray.
And remember that job that was so boring that we hated (I know it doesn’t look so bad in hindsight) but I’m pretty sure if I/we were back there, in a few months I/we’d be as bored as we were then.  Ambition is more or less a thing of the past, which may be sad for some—“Oh cry me a river,” but plenty relieving for others like yours truly.
And here’s one that will make young women envious of old farts, like myself, if anything can. I can now eat whatever I want, when I want it and best of all as much as I want, because by 80 most of us have reached that much hyped set-point and no discipline or denial needed anymore.  But for the few of us who haven’t reached that set-point, try not to get so fat pall-bearers can’t carry your casket.
Whenever I see someone so obese they have to get around in a wheel chair, I thank God that isn’t me, because at one time when I was somewhat overweight, well lucky for me, I lost it.  But then on the other hand I feel sympathy for that person, wondering how I can express my sympathy—so I smile.  That will have to do.
I wondered also, with that encumbrance, how could they possibly hold a job. Therefore, they had to have food stamps coming from the government.  So is the government aiding and abetting obesity grocery addiction?  Food, is the easiest snort to get hooked on.  Narcs and alcohol pale by comparison.
When young I dined in restaurants about once a week, more often twice, but don’t like to eat alone today, so don’t do that anymore.  I’m particularly partial to spicy food.
Years ago I was so unaccustomed to spicy food, the first time I sunk my bicuspids into a spicy burrito I had to spit it out and wash out my mouth.  But I’ve since become hooked on spicy stuff in my dotage—and have a hard time going a week without something spicy.
I used to eat frozen TV dinners, never could find one I liked though.  So I switched to the Deli.  That was a flop.  After that Fast Foods.  My enchantment with that one ranked minus one.  So now, I sort of nibble.
At the same time, lucky are the guys who have wives whose hobby is gourmet cooking and lucky are the wives who have husbands who take them out for dinner.
Sartre wanted to unravel the existential significance of food.  For instance he didn’t eat crab or lobster as they reminded  him of insects.  So I’ve been cogitating on unraveling my existential significant foods.
Well, I like almost anything spicy, but other than that, my taste buds aren’t in top shape anymore.  In comparison to my youth food has lost a lot of glamour, or maybe it’s that I’m lucky I never had a romance with delicate flavors.
I can’t come up with any existentially significant food. 
Scratch that.  I can.  The only  way anyone could get oatmeal mush down me is to tie me up and force it down and then I’d vomit it up.  Been that way since age three.
About living quarters.  First off, I’ve stayed where I am for the past thirty years.  IN my salad day I moved a lot.  What a drag.  I hated it, as there is nothing harder than moving and getting adjusted and acquainted with new neighbors and a strange environment.  So I’m adamant about staying where I am.
If I couldn’t afford to live where I am, well, I’d try to think positive.  Moving is going to be an adventure.  Okay, so I don’t need anymore adventure at my age, but thinking negatively about the inescapable is a downer.  So if you have to live in a smaller place, fix it up, you’ll eventually get used to it and learn to love it.
And brace yourself, remember when money was everything, well  money doesn’t matter that much anymore.  Whew!  Isn’t that a nice one.  Whether we have a lot of a little, keeping up with the Jones, show-off time is past.  If we have a lot of money we’ll take trips, but stuff for the kids or indulge ourselves in a boat or place or several cars, we seldom use.
If there’s only a little money in the pot, we’ll spend our time maybe fishing, watching TV, riding bikes or practicing our hobbies.  Like writing’s mine.
But I’ll let you in on a secret, as we’re all Depression babies, both the rich-old and the poor-old, we were never high-rollers.  So even if we have money, we’ll probably do a little hiking, show off our motor cycling ability, eat, watch the News and shake our heads, and if we spend any money it will be after doing some bargain hunting.
And remember that killer status we though we had as a heartbreaker when we were young, which often ended up as a big let down.  We’ve been retired from that Sex role, unless we want it—well for myself it’s been about thirty years.
The old equipment isn’t in top condition anymore.  For myself it’s been so long since I’ve done the routine, it probably needs a big over-haul—although it’s probably so worn out an over-haul won’t do it much good.
And probably the biggest plus of old age is that old age, in comparison to youth, brings wisdom which few of us get until we’re old (yeah, I know I’m retarded about technology) but tech acumen isn’t necessary for a good presidency—wisdom is though.  Hence, as a result no one should be a judge or a president until they reach 70, no matter how smart they are.
And our kids, finally grown and on their Do I hear that sigh of relief?  They made it.  We made it.  So now we can all relax.  Granted they’re not that crazy about us anymore.  But face it, parents were evolutionally programmed to love their kids and even sacrifice their lives for their genetic progeny, and the kids probably won’t even sacrifice an evening out on the town for us, but we’re wise, we understand—don’t we?
The reason I’m such an apostle for the bucolic life of old age is because when I was young, like in my 20’s or 30’s, I whooped it up, got in trouble and was so unhappy my psychiatrist told me I’d end up in a mental institution at the rate I was going. 
Well, the end is near and whether the four horse men of the apocalypse aare hitching up I don’t know, but I’m not in an institution, a nursing home or dependent on anyone and best of all I don’t need any pills.  I get up each morning, put on the coffee pot and look outside at the trees and relish my luck at being alive and not yet in need of diapers.
Or maybe old age is so sweet because the beginning, which was the era before that age of benign neglect, which was the “spare the rod and spoil the child” period is now over. 
This “spare the rod and spoil the child” was definitely not a hot sell to us, when everything was obedience to authority, parents, teachers and then bosses.  Lots of aggression and I guess what you’d call tough love today, floating around.
I remember kids covered with bruises from their beatings—myself included.  I was advised I’d never be struck on the head and hence perhaps left a retard, for my parents to care for, or hit in the back and left a cripple, so I just got it on the arms and legs and have the scars to prove it. 
Hard for some to believe that went on in those days, but some guys were proud of the beatings they took and bragged about them.  But one nice thing about all of the above is that we all grew up expecting life to be difficult and punishing and so learned how to avoid trouble and if we had to--to take a pummeling.
WWII soldiers had an easier time of it than today’s soldiers, probably because of those early rods that weren’t spared on them  They knew how to take punishment and forget about it. 
But I think the comedy of American aggression has had it’s run, at least with kids and is about to ring down the curtain.
So age brings an absence of love, but love isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  It makes inroads on our time, attention and energy which has to be rationed.  But that’s okay as age has bestowed wisdom (right?) on us and an offshoot of wisdom is happiness.  Besides, once we get love, it’s boring.  Can’t do what we want, it always has to be something that would be agreeable with the loved one.
Well, I’ve about worn out my comparison welcome and so will sign off for now.  We old duffers have it pretty good.  It’s a better time then it was in our youths and in comparison to our grandparents, it’s first rate, a real blast.  We have been allowed to entertain ourselves with travel, golf, TV, free classes in yoga, gourmet cooking, quilt making and dance. We receive senior discounts at restaurants, shops and rentals, free bus passes, half price movie tickets and geriatric scientists come up with new drugs yearly.
We have retirement communities graced with tennis courts, swimming pools, nurses and special dining rooms.  We have high rises that take 30% of our income to comver rent and utilities and provide free transport from the front door.  We amuse ourselves with hobbies, carry on romances, if not with younger men or women, with cars, take cruises and enjoy an endless cornucopia of recreational diversions—and do all of this, while sucking up a huge portion of the youthful tax-payer’s salaries that support us with Social Security, Medicare, hospices, senior centers, nursing homes and meals on wheels.
Yes, my younger mates, old age is a Best Seller, comparatively speaking, you’ll love it.  Wait.  You’ll see. 


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