Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 261 The Sky is Falling

The Rapture is coming! It’s the end. Didn’t happen. In the sixties it was the explosion of the Population Bomb that doomed us all: didn’t happen; at least not yet. Red China was going to take over the world via Viet Nam - the old domino theory: didn’t happen. Prior to that the communist that were going to take over the world.  There was a commie in every closet. “I’d rather be dead that red” or vice versa was debated by college professors. That didn’t come to pass either. What is going on here? Must we always have some Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads just to make it through the day. Sort of sucks the enjoyment out of life. Retired people, they know better - or should.

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

Just this morning I received a letter from a trusted, long time friend that warned of the end of democracy in America. Democracy is doomed because of the recent Supreme Court decisions concerning elections and money. It is dead in the water. I looked at his letter quickly and then moved on. I know that the court has made some very controversial and threatening  decisions lately. I know that effort will be needed to turn things around. And I assume that will happen. It always has.

As I grow older this idea that the sky is falling has become familiar to me. We retired people have one big advantage over others. We have been around the block. We have “seen it all before”.  Not that we have really seen it all nor that we have vision into the future. But we do have some years behind us. We've seen many changes. We have a history.  This movement from one crisis to another; one doomsayers story after another has a numbing effect: the boy crying wolf effect.

A presidential election some thirty years ago was the darkest night in my political memory. I just could not understand that so many people would elect this person president. I assumed we would never survive his term in office. But, we did. We survived it and the election of other presidents that I have held in even lower regard. Somehow…we have continued to function as a country.  

I remember seeing the movie “On the Beach” just 50 years ago. I was devastated just as the world was in that film. I could hardly speak as paper blew down empty city streets and the end credits rolled. My father rose from his chair and headed to bed with the causal observation that, “It’s just a movie. You better get to bed.” I was upset by the seemingly callous remark and said something in reply about his insensitivity. I don’t remember exactly what it was but it was the last time I ever spoke to him. He died the next day - heart attack.

Of course I have often reflected on that moment and wished I could revisit it. Not only to retract my youthful untimely remark but to listen a bit closer to my father. He knew something I didn’t. He had been through deadly scenarios all of his life. He had lived through both world wars and the depression. He had seen his time of troubles. He tried to ease my fears through his casual acceptance of the movie thesis concerning nuclear annihilation. He believed the sun would come up tomorrow. And when it did we needed to be rested. There was wood to chop and water to carry. Perhaps that is the proper role of older folks.

Today we face global warming, energy production and distribution issues, inequitable distribution of wealth and services, water shortages, terrorism and the ever present issue of pandemics. We can take our choice as to end of the world scenarios.

No question that all of these issues are serious and threatening. No question that we would all do well to work on changing them. And we are. Good people come together and are working on each and every one. Faith in the future and hope for a better day seems to be genetic. We all take up our cause and do what we can. Not that we all do but many of us do. We go to meetings, write letters, call people, protest, work as volunteers, run for political office, or find our own way of influencing the issue.

Then life jumps in and says that the days work needs to be done; grass must be mowed, bills paid and kids must be taken to school or the doctor.  Conversations must be had with coworkers, friends and family. Morning fades into evening and days fade into years.

In retirement we want to continue to help shape the world but we also find it important to sit a while in the sun, or, the shade and enjoy the moment. We want to enjoy life if we can.  It is a balancing act. 

This is Retirement Talk.

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