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                            Retirement Talk for Boomers, Seniors, and Retirees

Episode 183: Retiring Together

I remember deciding to retire and told my wife not to worry. I would always drop her a card from exotic destinations all over the world. She didn’t see the humor. She knew that there might be a chance that I would do that very thing. The day I retired - she retired. Twenty-three years have passed and we are still retired and still married.

 

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery. Today’s program is entitled: “Retiring Together”.

Retiring brings lots of challenges and changes to living. Learning to be together with your spouse or partner 24/7 is not the least of them. I’ve heard horror stories: Man won’t do any of the house work.  Man spends all of his time on the golf course. Man spends all day sitting in front of the TV or being underfoot around the house. When I ask my wife for comment for this program, she never mentioned any of those. Perhaps that is why we are still married.

We each found things to fill up our hours without interfering with each other. In the mornings we each went to our personal stations. Brenda slept later than I. Still does. We eat breakfast alone. Then she focused on watercolor in her studio. I practiceThai Chi, walk in the garden, and then play the guitar for at least two hours.  

Except for the guitar, there is no sound in our house until after noon: nothing electric; no radio, no TV, no music – other than the guitar.  I always ask her if the music bothered her, but she has always claims that she rarely hears it. I guess she is focused and my music is just meaningless background. A little side note here about the lack of electronic stuff coming into the house before noon. We have found it very refreshing to save all political chicanery, airplane crashes, murders, fires, crashes, and wars for later in the day -usually presented to us in the print media. I could never figure out why people listen to the news in the morning. It seems like such a bad way to start a day.

At 11 o’clock we join together to get our exercise. She and I see this as a real plus in retiring at the same time. It is easier to keep to a regimented exercise program if you have someone to do it with. Depending on the time of year, we ski, play racket ball, run, ride our bicycles, lift weights, or just go for a fast walk. What exercises we do have varied over the years but not much. We are to lunchtime without getting each other’s way. It has worked this way for 23 years – and still counting.

In the afternoons we again pursue our own particular interests, whatever that might be, or we might join together in some project around the house or in the community. We might work on a woodworking project: build a greenhouse, a table, a deck, or an addition to our house. She might go shopping or run errands. I might work at the computer or write.

Late afternoons always see us coming together again for coffee. We are regular customers at the local coffee shops. We know the baristas by name and they know our drinks. This is not as simple as it seems, since we rotate between four different coffee shops: one in Bellingham and three in Vancouver. Here is where we read a magazine or paper, do a crossword, or talk to friends. The coffee shop is our place to socialize first and foremost. We love to sit and solve all world and local problems within the time it takes to drink an Americano – usually about an hour.

Just because you retire at the same time doesn’t mean you can’t do things your spouse doesn’t do. We have each taken different classes and workshops and explored various aspects of painting or music. Sometimes we have traveled separately and certainly spent our time having lunch with friends when the other is banned.

One thing retiring at the same time has fostered is our freedom to work together on projects. We have sometimes worked individually on some political campaign, human rights effort, or community issue. At other times we have enjoyed working together on these. It is great to have the same time and interests to combine efforts.  

I think we have grown closer since retirement. We are more sensitive to each other’s needs to run off and be alone, or to just sit quietly. We are more sensitive to criticizing each other. After 44 years together, retirement has been our closest years. Perhaps we are more comfortable with our own egos. We are more assured of our place in universe and we are more aware of the importance of each of us to each other.

It seems to me like retirement is not a time when one person has to get in the way of the other. Perhaps that is more of a modern myth. Our experience has been that of a time of coming together even more than one could ever imagine. Each person is freer than ever before and stronger because of the other person’s close presence. You gain strength from each other and thus a new dimension is added to each.

I realize this may not be the case for everyone. Perhaps your experience has been different. If so, drop me a line at retirementtalk.org and I may read your letter on a program. It will be good for all of us to hear different approaches, different practices, and the unique circumstances that may have led to various results.  

 This is Retirement Talk.