Keys to the Fabric of a Fulfilled Life in Retirement
Someone to love, something to do, something to look forward to
By Harold Miller
It all began at the Kapa Epsilon Sorority dance held at the Hotel Syracuse.
I walked across the expansive ballroom dance floor, introduced myself and asked this beautiful red head in an ankle-length plaid skirt and bobby socks, for a dance. We danced together well, and I enjoyed her company. After the dance we chatted awhile and I got Janet’s address and telephone number. Six months passed before I had a reason to call her. My alma mater, Smith Tech, which was the first trade school in Upstate New York, was having its first prom dance for its first graduating class. After that we dated regularly, became engaged and married in 1955. Fortunately, I still have my high school sweetheart — cum mother of five, grandmother of 20 and great-grandmother of 10, soon to be 11 — at my side. Unfortunately, most of our relatives and friends who live to our ripe old age (we have been married 65 years) are widowed or divorced. Remarriage is often difficult because it muddles splitting up the spoils among the kids. Therefore, some just live together as boyfriend and girlfriend, which is perfectly acceptable in this day and age.
Something to Do
Many marriages break up in retirement because of too much togetherness. Husband and wife need to get away from each other occasionally, get out of the house more often. One of the horror stories that circulate within our community is of the husband who follows his wife around the kitchen as she empties the dishwasher and places the dishes in the cupboards. We see many retired executives with nothing to exec, fussing and fuming and trying to cope with idleness.
A type A personality who has raced through a career at 80 miles-per-hour cannot just slam on the brakes and let the engine idle — eventually the engine will stall. Anyone who has followed this column knows that I strongly advocate a “retirement career.” Grandma Moses became an artist at age 80. I have become a writer and journalist among other things, after a successful career as entrepreneur. Everyone has a hidden talent never pursued because of the constraints of a career. Some women are much better adapted to retirement than men because their routine changes little, but men cannot easily slow to their wife’s pace. It has been our observance that idleness can kill you as surely as an incurable disease.
Something to Look Forward To
Every day should be eagerly anticipated and never wasted (I was given a second chance and appreciate this more than most). A part of the day should be set aside for something you enjoy and subsequently look forward to. For me, this time is at the end of the day, after the work is done, sitting on the deck with a good book or magazine and a glass of wine — usually followed by a game of cards with my wife. Anything will do, a trip to the mall, taking a friend to lunch or simply taking a walk. Then there are the long-range things like visit family or friends, taking a cruise, annual family gatherings during the holidays and so on. In spite of the fact that I am retired, I still maintain an office within the family business. This allows me to get out of the house during the week — therefore I can look forward to the weekend. The important thing is to avoid the deathtrap of letting one day meld into the next and living a hum-drum existence.
Wrapping this all up, another perspective from granddaughter Kali La Rue’s journal, via the pen of Mary Ann Rademacher:
“Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard.
Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Appreciate your friends. Continue to learn. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.”