Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 632(137) Make a Choice

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

Golden is the first name of a coffee shop acquaintance. “Golden. How did you get that name,” I asked. His response, “My father was always looking for gold when he was a young man living in southern Idaho. There wasn’t any gold where we were living and he never found any. So, when I was born they named me Golden because I was the most valuable thing he had ever had.” Golden smiled. He liked the name. Golden was 87 when he told me that story.

Golden taught Literature at Western Washington University for over 40 years. He retired when he was 69. Traveling became the focus of his life upon retirement. He traveled alone most of the time: Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand . At age 80 he ran the Chuckanut Footrace Race which is a run of  7 miles. His eyes sparkle when he tells me that retirement has been good.

Prostrate cancer and macular degeneration attacked. Golden was slowing down. He shakes. He moves slowly. But, there was a time when he moved easily across the college campus. He read books and talked about them with young students in classrooms with windows thrown open and fall colored leaves shimmering in the distance. 

Travel then swept him away to distant lands. On one trip he met another  traveler in a busy train stations. They shared wine and stories. They agreed to meet again in one year in another country at another train station. And they did.  Life was exciting. Retirement was good.

I don’t want to travel. I do – travel - some that is. But it is not high on my list of wants. When we chose to retire in the Pacific Northwest one of our reasons was that we would not have to travel far to experience – a foreign country, mountains, salt water, forests or wilderness areas, large cities,  or major universities. 

Another reason travel is not high on my list is that we did travel while we lived in Alaska . We traveled a lot; Europe – many times, Asia, and Africa. I remember seeing older people disembark from tour buses at Alyeska, a ski resort just south of Anchorage . They walked slowly and not very far. They came to see Alaska but they were pretty much confined by age or health to stay pretty close to the bus, the lodge or the restaurant. They really didn’t get into the backcountry. They didn’t get to experience the same Alaska I did. I didn’t want to wait.

I didn’t want to wait for my traveling days until the experience would be so very limited. Perhaps limited is the wrong word. Different might be more appropriate.  I have traveled in my retirement years and the experience is still rich and rewarding. But it is different than what we experienced in our younger days. Returning to thoughts of Golden, he traveled in retirement. It was at the top of his list and he did it. 

 Thinking about all of the different roads one may choose in retirement is humbling. It is hard to make that choice.  A certain comfort comes from routine. We know what to expect. We know where we will sleep, where we will eat, where and when we will take a nap, and where we will have dinner or go out for coffee. There are lots of choices but we tend to establish routines. We limit ourselves.

Sometimes I wonder at my own choices in retirement. Perhaps I am limited by lack of imagination. I have chosen to do this or that with my life, but there are all of those other possibilities that have thus been eliminated. One could choose to travel, grow dahlias, watch television, go sailing, study native plants, explore your genealogy or write your memoirs.

The challenge is the act of committing to one direction or another. “Waiting for Godot”, the great play by Becket illustrates the predicament. The play drives home the absurdity of not making a decision and remaining stuck in one place. The two main characters carry on an endless discussion of whether the answer to their making a choice will come today. Or if they should just get up and choose which way to go. They wait. They talk about choosing.  And they wait. It is worth a read if you haven’t already done so. I think I will put it on my list of books to reread.

I have a friend down the street that retired several years ago and has suffered a couple of hard year. He couldn’t  make up his mind about retirement. He couldn’t do anything. He wandered around as if in a daze. His choices were unlimited. He had health, money and time. He could have chosen anyone of so many directions to go. But, he remained seated and unhappy. It would have been  okay to remain seated if that had been then the road he chose. But it wasn’t his choice. He just couldn’t choose. It was his default position. “Should we go, or should we stay”, Becket poses the question so well. As the old cliches run, “Sometimes you just have to take the bull by the horns”, or just,  “Get off the dime”.

Time ticks. Golden had his choices to make and made them. Health then forced him to sit. He did that with a warm cup of coffee and fond memories of days gone by. We should all be so wise and so lucky.

This is Retirement Talk.






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