DID I REALLY CHANGE MY UNDERWEAR EVERY DAY?
One Geezer's Handbook for (Temporary) Survival
One December as my wife and I approached our first Christmas as retirees, I wrote a letter to friends about the zillion questions that had popped up since we left the work force:
Did I really use to change my underwear every day? Why?
Did the both of us always chew that loudly at breakfast?
Why is everyone driving so fast and so close behind us?
How is it possible, that one errand can eat up the entire morning or afternoon?
Why do our kids laugh, roll their eyes and look into the distance when we tell them we found this terrific place for lunch and went there three days in a row? What’s funny or odd about that?
Has The New York Times always had a page devoted entirely to weather? If so, how come I never spent 20 minutes every morning staring at it?
Did all those people coming home at night on the Long Island Rail Road look that zonked when I was one of them?
The days are shorter now than when we were working, right?
That last question echoes the cliché about retirees asking, “How did we ever have time for work?” Irene and I both worked until we were 68—she was a writer and publicist in publishing and I was a journalist—and we’re still busy as hell.
Neither of us misses what publishing and journalism have become. I’m living, having fun, struggling several hours a day to cram words into coherent sentences, reading (I must confess) an enormous amount of absolute garbage on the Internet, hoping I won’t die before I’m able to understand at least one poem published in The New Yorker, hanging out with the grandkids, pushing myself to do exercises every morning even when I don’t feel like it, and shooting hoops, if a knee or something else isn’t hurting. And, of course, going out for lunch, something I knew almost nothing about when I had a job.
We have been very lucky and we know it. We are both in good health, have enough income to take a few trips every year, and the people we love the most—our two kids and four grandkids—live minutes away, making it easy for us whenever we feel a need for a good hug.
Now into retirement I could write that letter again but would add at least two other questions:
Why can’t I get comfortable in bed these days?
What’s happened to my arms and elbows? I don’t know what to do with them. They’re always in the way when I try to sleep. This wasn’t a problem when I was working. What’s going on?
I trust that the arms-elbow enigma and many of the other things I’ve encountered on the way to my 70s are common to men my age. It’s good to share experiences, good to make fun of things we can’t do much about.
But, believe it or not, there is some good news ahead.