Some days, I must look older than I feel.
Last week, I was studying peanut butter choices in the supermarket aisle when a 30-something schoolmate of one of my sons strolled by, pushing his shopping cart.
After the standard exchange of greetings, he walked a few more steps and asked: “When you gonna retire?”
He’s not alone. I get asked that question more often than “How are you?” or “How about this weather?”
Apparently it’s obvious to everybody that I ought to be sitting in a rocking chair.
But I’m not. Instead, I’m here at the office, summoning up the strength to push these keys on my computer keyboard.
My 50th class reunion is four weeks away, and it will be interesting to see how many of us still pull ourselves out of bed every morning to do battle with the real world.
I’m on the job because I think I still have something to contribute, and it keeps me from dying of boredom.
Last week offered plenty to keep my mind stimulated. In just the first three days, I interviewed the mayor, prosecutor, a police chief, hospital CEO and, on the fun side, two car collectors.
If I’d been retired, I could have waxed my car, weeded the flower beds, mopped the kitchen floor and tried to organize the upstairs bedrooms. None of those things got done. They might fill up my days for a couple of weeks, and then what?
Recently, that became my youngest son’s question about the prospect of my retirement: Then what? I still don’t have an answer. He says I better keep working until I do.
I know plenty of people who’ve found meaning and fulfillment in retirement. Some of them say they’re busier than when they were working, not to mention happier.
I just don’t know if that would work for me.
I’ve also begun to notice how many people still are working productively at 70 and beyond. One of them is one of those car collectors I interviewed last week. He says he’s working to support his car hobby.
My financial adviser says I don’t have to work another day from a money standpoint. I don’t entirely trust his forecast, since I watched my retirement fund get whacked in half by the 2008 recession.
Still, the idea that working is a choice — not a necessity — puts a whole new spin on the way I look at my job. There are days when the fun factor is running low, and the frustration factor is high. At those times, it’s easy to ask myself why I put up with it.
To work or not to work has become a weekly— if not daily — conversation with the guy in the mirror. I’ve convinced myself not to make any rash decisions after a tough day at the office. So far, the angel on my shoulder who tells me to keep working is winning. I’m rooting for that little voice.
The heat of a too-late nightI’m a bit sluggish as I write this, because just as I was falling asleep, I stumbled across an old movie.
I hadn’t watched “The Heat of the Night” since it came out 52 years ago, so the ending was a surprise all over again.
I did recall that the action revolved around a big-city, African-American detective played by Sidney Poitier being forced to work with a racist, small-town police chief played by Rod Steiger. It won the Oscar for best picture of 1967. Steiger won for best actor — well deserved. They could have given it to Poitier just as easily, except he’d won it three years earlier.
The racial animosity portrayed in the film was shocking to a teenager from a small, Midwestern town the first time I saw it. The movie originally hit screens at the height of the civil rights movement, and it remains disturbing in the present day. We’ve come a long way since 1967, but the movie reminds that it’s not far enough.