Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


T'ain't So, T'is Too

Jackie Spinks


                                                      Chapter 1
                                              Retirement Retreads

My once upon a time distinguished streaks of gray have metastasized over two thirds of my head and that one time thick mass of gray hair has long departed. I’m from the era when “The National Geographic” with its uncovered breasts of natives was as racy as a magazine got--  at least for high school kids.  And for further proof of my old age credentials I thought Lady Ga Ga was a cartoon character like “Tillie the Toiler,” until advised otherwise.

But don’t give up on my yet.  Before I get into old fart frets I’m going to do a little bragging about us.
We’ve become kinder, more reasonable and willing to compromise as we’ve aged.  We are more helpful, more understanding, more wise—also less likely to waste money, dump friends, show off or take risks. 

We are less like to have rejecting, angry outbursts, to blame others, to be rude, exasperated, or act impulsively.  And so while we are cynical, we are also commonsensical and have humility.  We can admit when we are wrong, work in teams, perceive emotions in others and be consistent.

And so as some sociologists, psychologists and pundit wisenheimers say, “We’re not as old as we feel, we’re as old as we look,” I’m going to began by discussing the way we look to the world. The following is a list of faux pas I once and hopefully, no longer make.  Faux pas is a pretty tame term for my previous giant screw ups, but it will have to do.

Posture. Okay, I shuffled, hunched and slouched.  Bad habit.  Straighten up.  Have you every caught a glimpse of an old, hunched shouldered person in a store window and think, “Why doesn’t that person straighten up?”  And then take another look in the window and perceive, “My God, that’s me,” and quickly straighten up.  I now have to constantly remind myself, “Straighten up, old poop, you’re not whipped yet. Remember Mom’s, “Stand up straight.”  And so you did, but now, well, I’m back again.  Hunched over.  But once I break that stooping, shuffling habit and straighten up, I become confident, and with usage, it will come as naturally as slouching. 

It’s taking me a long time, but most of the time I remember, although I have to keep reminding myself, as I do get in bad habits.  I know, well…we could make a list of our bad habits, but giving up slouching isn’t giving up reading, TV, fishing or alcohol. 

And to add a little more vitriol to the pudding drooping will eventually cause us neck and back pain—plus we will lose strength in our standing up straight muscles. So our self-esteem is at rock bottom.  “I’m no good, a loser, a nothing.”  I’ll force myself out of it when I get that head high, chest out and pretty soon I’ll feel the way I look self-assured and master of my fate.

Another fret.  I’m a hypochondriac.  When we’re young we don’t pay attention to all our puking, chest pains, and numbness or what may be a serious illness, but when old we go to the opposite extreme.  We over react to the most minor physical ailment.

I remember when I was a kid, how relieved I was to get out from under the yolk of my parents.  I was so energized I could almost dance down the street.  I was no longer dependent.
Today, we have exchanged parental control for physician’s control and are dependent upon them for their pill prescriptions.

So every time I get a pain in my chest I think—infarction.  This is it.  Done for. D-day.  Have to get my stuff in order.  I stand up and belch.  It was gas.  Or I get a headache.  A stroke.  Brain dead, in a wheel chair, someone having to care for me.  I do an assessment of myself.  Am I losing it?  Let’s see, I can still spell my name, but adding up those rows of figures on my income tax, well, I got it wrong three times.  That’s not good.  So although I’m anti-pill I take an Aspirin.  Bye-bye headache.  Safe again.

Keep wondering though, was that the beginning of Alzheimer.  I know better than to call Alzheimer “in my second childhood,” as society did in my youth.  Now it’s a disease.  Some Anyroid proteins gone haywire, I’ve read.  Or that’s what they tell us this week—it will be something different next week as those in the medical bloodline knock back some juice and change their minds frequently.  Seems everything is a disease now. And maybe that “in his/her second childhood,” isn’t too far from wrong.

A further point—wish my fellow farts would dump the pill route as there are 200,000 deaths a year from prescription drugs, much, much higher than street drugs like cocaine and heroin (from Vanity Fair, January, 2011).  Whenever I visit the docs, there we all are, sitting in the waiting room, in rows of chairs, like a bunch of hogs lined up at the trough, awaiting our pill prescriptions.  Okay, so I’ll make an exception for myself this once, now I’m here and get some anti-anxiety pills.

I move slowly. One reason, I’m leery of falling.  Good thinking.  But it does broadcast my age, maybe even better than my wrinkles and slouching.  As my thinning, gray hair may not do it I drag butt to make my point.  I’m old, treat me with respect.

“Ha—fat chance!

And we’re tired. We crank up the old machine too often and it may give out.  So I/we go slow.  That’s okay, as long as we straighten up.  Don’t want to put any more miles on the old machine then is necessary—new batteries won’t do it anymore.

As a further chastisement on movement, it doesn’t pay to carry friskiness too far—and here’s my sad story.  An old friend, who likes young firls (we all have our indulgences) took Viagra and had a heart attack—a real one.  That Viagra—scary stuff.

So beware all you 60 plusers, while you may make an impression on a young girl—or your money and/or status does—you may make an even better impression on the grim reaper, as Viagra is a no-no, unless the old lady is about to take a walk out, and it calls for desperate measures. 

I’m a little slow-witted.  Gotta face it.  I’m dumber now.  I’d hate to take an I.Q. test now.  I’d fall somewhere in the rage of low-performance, although at one time, (like 50 years ago) I had the highest I.Q. ever recorded at the San Diego Employment office.  That said, they told me I was too smart for them to find me a job. 

Got to explain that one.  Every skill we have, comes from practice, the more practice the better the skill.  And as I’d been taking a lot of IQ test—as this was the time when I.Q. tests were imperative in getting a job, and I was looking everywhere for a job, I got good at taking I.Q. tests. Testers don’t want to believe that, but it’s just another skill.

All in all, though I’m pretty dull nowadays, with lots of ennui, repetitio and old chestnuts (trusting this particular “T’aint So, T’is Too, chronicle will avoid that) but since I’ve become old, I’ve become a royal jerk off and often repeat, so in case you didn’t get it the first time, I do a replay, but bear with me.

A friend greets me, “Good to see you. Nice day, huh?” And hopefully I don’t unload my gloomy forecasts of the world, telling one and all, that the country’s going to the dogs—and that the lobbyists, spokesmen for the super-rich rule.

But I’d probably mumble back, “Uh huh, and good to see you, too,” and then grouch to myself, “What’s so nice about the economy falling in the water and war doing the same?  And where’s my coffee?  Why can’t I ever get anyone to wait on me?”

Anyhow, about that gray matter upstairs and it’s memory; it’s file cabinets are so full by the time we reach eighty, that it’s hard to find anything.  I go racketing through the files in my brain looking for that one word, I should know that escapes me and spend the rest of the day trying to remember the word and cussing myself out because I can’t remember, until someone makes a remark that juggles it lose.  Usually I can remember the first letter, but that only frustrates me more.

Or  I trek into the kitchen and have forgotten what I came for, return to the other room and then, zippity-do-da, it’s back.  I try to do some multiplying in order to rearrange my finances and I forget even something as simple as 9 times 6.  Ah, but I make up for these lacks as I now know the non-technological ways of the world—more or less.

Routine.  Another thing wrong with me is I’m stuck in my old ways.  I love routine.  When I see friends (yeah, I’m lucky, I still have a few of those left) taking off in their mobile homes I think—they’re made from different cloth than I am.  Do I like a change of scenery so much I’d mobile home it? 

Am I being crotchety when I explain myself by saying, I’ve seen all that old stuff:  museums, cathedrals, caves, castles, foreign countries, dungeons, etc., and if you’ve seen one cathedral, castle, or cave, you’ve seen them all.  So, why travel?  Could it be that travel is getting away from routine, that travel is a fear of routine?  Is it an excuse to stop by the kids who live in another state?  Or is that all sour grapes on my part.

Maybe, my dislike of travel is because the only way I can travel now is by plane, and airports are experiences of mini-torture.  There’s nobody or nothing I want to see that badly I’d willingly to go through that. 

And as far as mobile homing it goes, well, I get anxious going through heavy traffic—and with a mobile home through heavy traffic—forget it.  To me, to travel I have to goad myself up to prepare for martyrdom.  Or could it be that I did a lot of traveling in my twenties and thirties—usually with a load of kids on my back and --you want to talk about martyrdom?  I’ve a Ph.d on that subject.
When young, I liked to try new things.  Now, I’m hesitant about, not only of travel, but anything new, like trying a new brand of this or that.  For instance this new synthetic oil they use in cars nowadays that they’re all raving about, exclaiming about all the miles you get before you have to add oil.  It’s four times as expensive as regular oil—and it’s synthetic???  Puleease!!! How could a synthetic product be better than the real thing?  Live and learn. But there goes my old geezer side talking again. And as the last word on this oil subject, I keep wondering what this synthetic stuff made of anyway.

I got a computer years ago and still can’t work all the stuff on it.  Much of it is still frustration—can’t learn all the new keys, names of stuff, or explanations, which combination to press, etc.  My kindly son shows me this and that, and I exclaim, “Hey, that’s easy,” and I do it a couple of times.  “I’ve got it,” I exult.

Then two weeks later I’ve forgotten how to do it when I need it.  Also, got a new thing for Xmas some kind of video thing, that plays movies, music, etc, don’t know how to work that either.  My kid shows me what to do. “Oh Hell,” I tell myself, “Anyone can do that.” Oh, yeah.

Another fret, I reminisce.  And don’t we all reminisce?  I like to think my excess reminiscing comes from sharing reminisces with my Memoir group at the Senior Center.  Like I’ve got to come up with some new memory every week. 

But in a way this reminiscing is bad for me as I wake up and start going over every mistake I’ve ever made in life and fret and cuss myself out, until by 10:00 a.m. I’m debating whether suicide, rehab, or anti-depressants would be the best solution for a wash out like myself. 

My regrets consist mostly of, “Why did I listen to that person?  Usually it was a boss, co-worker, friend, doctor, etc., and especially those authors, who write books giving advice on how to be a good employee, a good spouse, a good athlete, etc., and near the top of the list is how to make your kids like you, when they’ve all change dtheir minds about loving and all that after about age twelve and here you are craving affection. 

And driving, There’s another bugaboo of old age.  If we’re no longer driving, we like to tell others how to drive.  Mom disseminated her well-intentioned advise to me her then fifty year old, who as far as she was concerned was still a risky and beginning driver.  And so it was:
“Watch for that car.”

“I see it, Mom.”

“There’s a stop sign.”

“Yes, Mom.”

And so it would go.  I hated riving her, but someone had to do it.  So I’d suck it up, grit my teeth and listen to her holding her breath, while I was driving and do this exercise with such metronome regularity, it was making me ready for a coronary. So now that I’m older I try not to be a back seat driver—although it’s sure a temptation when my kid is driving me, as he has to do, now and then when my vehicle is in the shop.  But so far, knock on wood, I’m still able to drive myself.

Hey, fellow oldsters, we know we’ve reached our master’s status when we can go into an antique shop and identify that funny object as the pot we used to pee in as kids, rather than trek out to the outhouse in the middle of the night.  And oh, look at the old Victrola!  Well, I’ll be!  It’s fun to look at old things, especially old cars.  Remember them—how I loved owning my first car—a fifties Chevie.  Kept it polished to a gloss.

And Women, I think have a harder time accepting old age then men, especially changes in their body image.  Guys tell themselves the wrinkles, shrinking abs and bellies come with the territory.
But are men really more accepting of these changes.  My objectivity on this subject is less than stellar.

I’m proud of my lower middle class status.  Let the rich have their jets, yachts, mansions, Mercedes—well, okay, not the Mercedes (although I’ve heard they’re not as good as they used to be) as I’ve always wanted one of those buggies.  Even that middle-class Ozzie and Harriet lifestyle isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

And although all my friends hate to be addressed by the receptionist in the doctor’s office by their first name (think it lowers their status) I like it. Don’t know why. Think it’s meant to be intimate or friendly, I guess.  Anyhow, I don’t mind being at the bottom of the social hierarchy. 

A further word about appearances, even Dad was concerned about appearance.  Wanted me to be healthy.  I can remember him saying, “Eat your spinach, it will put hair on your chest.” “Like HEY DAD!!!”

About Exercise.  I’ve read stuff reminding me to consult my doc before exercising.  Like I’m going to call my doc and inquire, “Hey, Doc is it okay if I squat?” Which is about all I can do most of the time and this is embarrassing ti say, but I’m trying to be honest.  I have to hold onto something to get into an upright position. 

About longevity and exercise’s relation to it.  Been reading a book on World History and see many ancient rulers lived 80 and 90 years.  Wonder how much jogging they did?  And how much we can attribute to vaccine, antibiotics, sanitation and medical technology for our longevity?

Weight. Some of my more thick-headed, but lucky friends, when they try on something that’s too tight, they just yell at their wife, “Hey, did you wash my wool pants?  They’ve shrunk.”  Then they forget about the extra weight.  That’s the kind of body image we all should have, but don’t.  I’d like to forget about my gut.

My experience with reality is that old bromide, “You’re as young as you feel.” This is a lot of crap, you’re as young as your head of hair.

About clothes.  As we’re channeling in on that odious subject—let’s go on a shopping spree.  Mostly I make do with the clothes I have.  I see in the newspapers, a T-shirt can go for $89.00.  I’m accustomed to the days when they were $6.00.  So except for sweatshirts, most of my clothes date back to the seventies, or date I say even earlier.  It’s amazing how long clothes last. 

When I go shopping, which I hate, I’m of the, “Can you believe those prices,” school of thought?
And as a “Can you believe those prices” thing (I’m getting off the subject now) my Dad bought a Cord for $600 about 60 years ago.  Sold it a few years later for the original $600.00.  Can you believe the price of a Cord now?  I couldn’t believe it.

And so now back to clothes, my clothes are classics, from that popular designer call “On Sale.”
So my fellow old-times, the above is just superficial maintenance—something like the 3000 mile checkup.

So keeping laughing, loving and best of all-- learning—the most fun of all.
So, keep laughing, loving and best of all learning—which is the secret of happiness.


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