Tag Archives: retirement

Brain washday

When you reach a certain age, you get tons of unsolicited advice on how to make the most out of your remaining years (months? minutes?). Half the new-old-age barkers give you the pitch that these times are magical and blessed, while the other half say, “Son, you’ve got one foot under the daisies already. Better shape up quick.” Without even trying, you run into something like this item from AARP, the print version of which was headlined, “Cleanse Your Brain.”

WARNING! DISCLAIMER! The foregoing phrase should NOT in any way be taken as an instruction to do something spectacularly ill-advised involving a cordless drill, a funnel, and a bottle of Mr. Clean. (Know what “trepanning” means in this context? Don’t even look it up.)

The article is legit science about the glymphatic system, which is what the brain uses to clear out damaged protein, dirty fluids, and other waste. It got me to thinking: what if I could purge the memory bank portion of my brain? That’d free up space on the cerebral hard drive for all the Important Stuff I need to absorb and retain, especially how to stave off wrinkles and decrepitude.  After 63 years and a few odd weeks, it’s time for a super-duper spring cleaning!

But what memories would I unload? Things like algebra, sociology, the infield fly rule, sentence diagramming, medieval history, how to drive a stick shift, and the name of the person I just met are already gone. What’s left to lose?

Getting beaten up on the playground and being hopeless at sports. Trashing those memories – several school years’ worth – would do wonders for my self-esteem. Ditto all my romantic rejections from junior high onward, job flubs, bad life choices, and other sundry gaffes like busting up my fender in the car wash. No, that didn’t happen! I’d remember if I’d been that dumb!

Song lyrics. “Satisfaction,” “Purple Haze,” “Crossroads,” “I Will Follow,” and “Once in a Lifetime” can stay. I do not ever need to recall “Don’t You Want Me,” “Achy Breaky Heart,” or anything by Madonna, the Eagles, or anyone named Osmond.

Everything I ever learned about manners and etiquette. Useless in today’s world. Go to a restaurant and see how many people never look up from their phones during dinner, even when the maitre d’ politely informs them the place is about to be engulfed by a volcano.

Sports trivia (a redundant phrase anyway). The games I saw from the stands in college? I’ll keep ‘em. The name of the backup quarterback on a 3-13 NFL team, so lousy I had to get tanked every Sunday to watch them on TV? Not so much.

Old TV shows.  I remember “My Mother the Car,” “Men Behaving Badly,” and many episodes of “The Beverly Hillbillies.” Why?

Certain web surfing moments.  Not that I ever actually checked out “Vixen Virgins of Vegas” and the like, but if I somehow got there by mistake, it’d be helpful to truthfully not recall it.


Anti-social security, or “Ten things to know about getting old”

Dear Sir,*

We’ve received your application for Social Security. We welcome you to the ranks of the senior beneficiary retirement subgroup, or as some of our younger staff call it, “Geezer Gulch.”

Before we can start payments, we need you to answer just a few questions to be sure you’re eligible. After all, we wouldn’t want to eviscerate the millennials’ future accept more money than we’re entitled to, would we?

  1. How long have you had that white hair exploding out of your ears and nose?
  2. Are you binge-watching “The Golden Girls” on TV Land and thinking Blanche was actually pretty hot?
  3. Do you understand these song lyrics? “When Denny met Cass he gave her love bumps; Called John and Zal and that was the Mugwumps.”** If so, please explain them and define “Mugwumps” (Note: Calling us and singing over the phone are grounds for immediate, permanent loss of all benefits).
  4. Is your current bedtime earlier than your bedtime as a kid? Can you even remember that far back?
  5. Can you still put away the Rolling Rock, Canadian Club, Stoly, Moet, and Purple Jesus like you used to?
  6. If so, is your drinking just one more sad attempt to escape the emptiness and anguish of your wasted, humdrum life?
  7. Could you ever have been a contender? Or were you always a bum?
  8. Do you remember “dial-up,” “VCRs,” “cassette tapes,” “black-and-white TVs,” “leaded gas,” “the milkman,” “bi-partisanship,” “common courtesy,” and “common sense”?
  9. Is that really you in that rock festival video on YouTube, with hair down to your navel, a pink and green tie-dye shirt, and what seem to be no pants, jumping up and down on a car hood while screaming “WHIPPING POST”?
  10. Please estimate your annual Viagra intake. This won’t affect your benefits but it’ll sure make us feel better about our own TQ (tumescence quotient).

*We dug this form of address out of the archives because we know it’s what people your age are used to! See how dedicated we are?
**This is from “Creek Alley” by the Mamas and the Papas, who’d probably be the Great-Grandmamas and Grandpapas by now.

Dragonfly days

Blue dragonflyAs long as you don’t have to go home, Saturday morning can be a great time in a beach town. That’s when all the rental places turn over, with the last batch of summer people checking out and the next crowd not arriving until afternoon. This gives us long-term beach bums some precious peace and quiet: no loud pool parties, amateur fireworks shows, golf carts buzzing up and down the streets, or Atlanta-like backups on the highway and in the grocery store.

You can set up your beach chairs wherever you please and walk the white sand without dodging boogie boards. Or you can take your coffee out on the screened porch if you’re lucky enough to have one, listen to the waves and the songbirds, and watch all the dragonflies that appeared in the last couple of days, this time of year being one of their peak seasons.

For me, and I suspect, a good many people my age, life seems a lot like one of these mornings, but not always in an idyllic way. I recently left one career behind, and though I’ve published a couple of short stories, my first novel and my career as a fiction writer are still at an early stage in the countdown. Other people may have children who’ve moved out, graduated, or gotten hitched, but aren’t having grandchildren yet.  And if you have aging parents, your life is always as uncertain as theirs.

Intellectually, I knew this would be a transition time. Emotionally, my attempts to “be here now,” as Ram Dass wrote, are up against the feeling that my life is in the fourth quarter (and sudden death doesn’t include overtime). My body isn’t helping, as it still wants a daily caffeine blast that could waken a dead volcano, and gets crabby when I try to do something important like reaching for a pillow  without getting out of my recliner.

But here by the sea, if you can just open up your senses, the natural, wild world becomes the best medicine. Walking the shoreline, it’s clear that the saying, “It’s never the same beach twice” is the truth, and the new, with long sandbars and higher waterlines, is as beautiful as the old. You realize what miracles those big* dragonflies are as they swoop around the houses and trees, magically hover for a split-second, then dart away.

At night, you go back to the porch and over a few weeks watch Venus and Jupiter move toward each other in the sky, appear for a moment to be almost joined, then pull away again. Things change, and we will too. We always have.



*How big are they? The other day, one touched down at Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, tanked up on jet fuel, and took off for Dallas before anybody figured out what it was. (That’s the kind of joke I’d usually save for a small child, but since none are around, y’all will have to do.)



Retired, but not from life

Yesterday I retired from the job I’d held for many years. I had a great sendoff, with lots of good wishes and some truly special gifts from the best bunch of colleagues anywhere, or at least in this corner of the Milky Way. I’ve got plans for the first day of the rest of my life, and the days after that. What’s been a little hard to pin down is my identity and sense of self.

“Retirement,” of course, isn’t what it used to be. In the old days, I might’ve put on a golf cap and plaid pants and headed off for a life on the links. Now I’m updating LinkedIn – but how? Do I call myself a former journalist and writer-editor or a current…what exactly? My conundrum isn’t “Woe is me” but, “Who is me?”

Even though I was ready to move on and did so wholly on my own, with nobody nudging me toward the door, it’s a jolt to the system. Except for a year in grad school, this is the first time I’ve been voluntarily without some kind of paying job since I got my undergrad degree back in (!) 1976.

I’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster, and not just any old rollercoaster, no sir, but one of those new ones like the “Twisted Colossus” or “Wicked Cyclone.” After all, this is a Big Move, especially for someone in the early stages of geezerdom. I was ready to declare a mid-late-life crisis with all the attendant benefits, like moving my personal happy hour from 5:30 to noon. Then I read about the latest chapter in the all but unbelievable story of Austin Hatch.

You might know that name if you’re a University of Michigan sports fan. Austin survived two small plane crashes that killed his parents, brother, sister, and stepmother. The second time, in 2011, he was not only orphaned but left in a coma with a severe brain injury. However, U-M honored the basketball scholarship it had offered before the crash. He fought his way back, stayed on the team, and scored his first points last season in an inspirational moment for the ages.

Now he’s facing another life change. To focus on academics and all-around recovery, he’s taking a medical redshirt. That means he’ll keep his scholarship and be a student assistant with the team but his playing days are over.

This has thrown lots of athletes into despair. But Austin’s response, as reported here by the Detroit Free Press, was “Basketball has always been a huge part of my life, however, it is what I play, not who I am.”

Thanks for the reminder, kid. I’m not a title or a Facebook status, but a person. And if Austin can handle the kind of adversity and upheaval that the fates have dealt him, people like me can definitely get through our own relatively minor transitions. (Grammar grump alert: transition is NOT, at least on these pages, a verb.)

Some of my retirement will be inspired by Bob Dylan’s line “Oh, oh, are we gonna fly, Down in the easy chair!” from “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.” But I’ll also keep trying to live by this one, as I have for a long time: “He not busy being born is busy dying.”

Monday morning I’m going to sleep in. Then I’ll get up and write. See you soon.