Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 537 Connections

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

Retirement offers us new experiences if we are willing to take a bit of a risk and accept them. We can become a bit apprehensive in our later years without realizing it. It is much safer to just keep life on an even keel. New ventures require new efforts and thoughts. We worry about the details. We worry about things that may go wrong. Sleep is tormented by meandering thoughts that race and then linger in our mind. Much easier to just pull in the reins and keep life smooth, easy and predictable. A choice must be made either knowingly or for lack of action.

A few years ago we had dinner at the Fish House Restaurant in Stanley Park. Our fellow diners were folks we had met over the internet via these very podcasts; Charlie and Elaine Averill and their friend Phyllis. Charlie and Elaine live in Knox, Indiana. They are retired. Phyllis lives in Corvallis, Oregon and is also retired although she still works whenever she can. She was an accountant and loved her job. She is now in her eighties and not asked to work on a regular basis.

Charlie wore a blue shirt with a small logo printed on the front; SOAR which stands for Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees. He writes a monthly newsletter and produces a podcast. He was in Vancouver to speak to a conference of retired Canadian members.

Charlie knows about retirement. He knows about problems the common person faces when they retire. He not only writes the newsletters for other retired members of become union but he answers their question about whatever may be bothering them. We talked mainly about insurance questions. People have a hard time figuring out health insurance issues. There are many different circumstances that dictate what action may be taken to deal with the the various problems. Government programs that affect individual insurance seem to be introduced over time and with enough cloud cover that it takes more than a little effort to understand. I suppose this is so democrats as well as republicans can vote for them without alienating their voters.

Charlie has devoted his retirement to helping others understand and deal with retirement. He travels to Washington DC to lobby concerning retirement issues. He also travels to conventions connected to his union and tries to stay abreast of the latest concerns. His commitment is inspirational.

He also gardens, watches one movie every day, and drinks coffee. Now I like to think that we are coffee connoisseurs so to speak. Then he asked me if we roasted our own beans. I had never considered such an action or even the question. Then he told me of going to his basement each day and roasting just enough beans for the days coffee. He roasts them in a popcorn popper. He  said he had even posted a video to YouTube illustrating the process. I watched it later that evening. It was good.

Charlie and Elaine live out in the country nine miles from a small town. She quilts; loves to cook and reads. They have made a seemingly comfortable and enjoyable retirement in the middle of Indiana: the heartland of America.

Our lives are filled with people coming and going. We meet them; have an interaction and then never see them again. We move one direction and they move another. This is likely to be the fate of many of our relationship. But we still keep in touch. With today's Internet it is easy.

Four or five years ago two former students of mine (30 odd years ago) contacting me via Facebook. They were excellent students. They have gone on to have make their mark in society: one a cartoonist, editorialist with a newspaper and now publisher of a great graphic book concerning Parkinson's disease. The other is a classical musical composer living in Manhattan. They are brothers. It is such a pleasure to know that we might get reacquainted and share a bit in our lives through stories of the past and hopefully experiences that lie yet in the future. Joining and participating in this social network may be a bit daunting at first but it can certainly result in enriching our lives right from our desk chair.

Then last weekend the Northwest Classical Guitar festival was held in my hometown. My present teacher from Vancouver stayed with us for three days. It was such a treat. She even gave me a free music lesson while here.  Another guitarist that I meet twenty five years ago also stayed at our place. It was fun to get reacquainted with him.

We even managed to put together a quick dinner one evening between two performances that included seven festival participants; four of which we had never met. We have never had a more laughable, loud, enjoyable gathering around our table. Energy was high, the food was great and enjoyment was the rule. Hard to beat an enthusiastic dinner with old friends and new acquaintances.

As I get older I can better understand this position of risking less. Life can be pretty good sitting in an easy chair and keeping the door locked. Perhaps that is a position we are all very likely to assume in later life. But for some, retirement is a time to step out, take a risk, connect with new people and reconnect with old friends. It can add a bit of zest to our lives.

You may want to check out Charlie’s podcast at and my former student’s book, a graphic biography entitled “My Degeneration into Parkinson's Disease” by Peter Shole.

This is Retirement Talk

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