Category Archives: Retirement

Lifetime Achievement Awards

For the past two years, Passover has—well—passed over us. In 2020, My husband Larry and I had a seder for two, a quiet affair to say the least. In 2021, thanks to Zoom, we were at least able to share a Haggadah and the holiday with members of our synagogue. 

Now we are back in the game. Our first night will not be that much different, in that our congregation has opted for a Zoom service for hopefully the last time. But on the second night, we will drive to Sarasota, where we will share a table with two of my siblings and their spouses. How lovely it will be to sip wine and eat matzah and charotzes with family!

And, as always, I am entering this holiday with the same feeling of gratitude I have managed to maintain since COVID closed down our world. True, Larry and I have missed much—especially a year away from our children and their families. We spent two years avoiding crowds, passing up on movies and plays, getting our boosters and wearing masks. But I feel that the worst parts of this pandemic have passed over us. It is as if our doorposts were marked with a blessing that prevented illness and sadness from touching so many that we love.

We may not have suffered all the effects of this scourge, but we have unfortunately not escaped from another inevitable issue: Aging! In a recent article in the New Yorker article, David Kemp suggests that his newly formed US Citizens for Age Forgiveness demand an “executive order that will degree the last two years do not count towards the age of an American.” 

Of course, Kemp’s essay is tongue in cheek, but I agree! Any setbacks that were caused by almost two years of hunkering down should somehow be erased, given back to us as a gift from God. This is especially true regarding what Larry has affectionally called “Lifetime Achievement Awards,” all those hopefully bearable “inconveniences” that are a result of surviving into our 60s and 70s. 

First example: Cataracts. I cannot turn around without bumping into someone who is in some stage of this common eye surgery. Conversations revolve around which doctor to use, which lens to be implanted (there seems to be a range from a no-frills basic version to the top-of-the line deluxe version); which drops therapy is used, how long between Eye One and Eye Two; and how long one can return to normal life. We have come to accept the fact that people are walking around with one lens popped out of their glasses, not exactly a “Lens Crafter” advertisement. 

Unlike other surgeries, there is a definite benefit. After years of dealing with glasses and contact lenses, we Baby Boomers are looking at the world through our own eyes. My own journey to cataract surgery goes back almost 20 years ago when I spoke to my eye doctor about getting Lasik surgery to repair my severe myopia. He suggested I wait. “Most people of a certain age [he kindly avoided the word ‘old’] require cataract surgery,” he told me. “I can almost promise you will get the vision you want without the expense if you just wait it out.” He was correct. I patiently waited until my cataracts, first imperceptible, then ripening, then, in my mid 60s, ready to fix. My glasses went to the Lion’s Club, and my contact lenses and all the required accessories went into the trash. It took me months to break myself of the habit of reaching for my glasses the minute I woke up. To this day, if I feel something in my eye, my first thought is that something is lurking under my contacts. 

Because I had been wearing contacts since I was in my 20s, my appearance didn’t change after surgery. Larry, however, had been wearing glasses for over 30 years until his recent surgery. I am still getting used to the “bare nakedness” of my un-bespectacled mate. So is my granddaughter, who burst into tears when she saw her Zayde for the first time without his usually dark frames. My sister-in-law was actually grateful that she still needs to wear glasses after cataract surgery. “I like myself better with glasses,” she told me. “They hide the lines.” (She doesn’t have wrinkles!)

Eyes are not the only body part that falls under the “Lifetime Achievement Award” category. Many of our teeth, which at one point held under the strain of hard candy and even carrots, seem to be crumblings, resulting in crowns, implants, and bridges. Hips, shoulders, and knees are being replaced at an alarming rate. Some  of us have so many fake parts we rival Lee Majors’ Bionic Man. 

Unfortunately, the standard devices do not imbue their owners with any super power, including super hearing. As a matter of fact, based on the number of ads for hearing aids found in AARP magazine, the inability to pick up normal conversations is one of the most prevalent signs of our aging bodies. Both Larry and I are on the cusp of needing some help. We no longer can have a conversation when we are in two different rooms. Heck, we have problems hearing each other when we are sitting next to each other on the couch doing crossword puzzles. “What did you get for 41 across?” Larry recently asked me 

“Heeded,” I answered. 

“Needed? It doesn’t fit. 33 down is OGH.” 

I said, ‘Heeded.’” 

“Seeded?” 

“No! Heeded. H as in Harry!” 

“As in ‘Larry?” 

No wonder it is taking us longer to do these puzzles 

A friend’s pilates instructor had a different, but still flattering,  spin on those of . She regards us as “classic cars,” older, still viable, very much appreciated, even if we are restored. 

Unfortunately, Lifetime Achievement Awards often come in more serious forms. Cancers. Heart problems. Diabetes. Cognitive issues. Family and friends are dealing with many of these issues, a result of living a long life or of just plain bad luck.

A recent broadcast on NPR stated that with key COVID metrics trending rapidly downward, the pandemic’s third spring is already looking very different. Passover 5782 will hopefully usher in a time of hope that COVID-19—if not conquered but at least controlled. I also wish that this be a time of a “refuah shlema,” a complete, speedy healing for those suffering from all those lifetime achievement awards: And as we gather at our more crowded Seder table, let us add Rabbi Naomi Allen’s pandemic-inspired prayer, “On this Passover Night/We pray to you, God/Let it Pass Over us/Hear us God/Heal us God. Amen.”

Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com

Love in the Time of Retirement

Larry and I enjoying our retirement in  Mission San Juan Capistrano, California.

Larry and I enjoying our retirement in Mission San Juan Capistrano, California.

Ah! Young love! This is the time in life where two individuals cannot get enough of each other! Each moment away from one another is agony, and even when they are together in the same room, there is a desperate need to touch and hold and talk. Their wish is to share every waking moment together.

Yes, my husband and I were like that once. We met, we courted, we married, and we spent the next thirty-six years of our lives juggling our relationship with children, jobs, and outside commitments.

Then, Larry and I retired, and we got our wish. We were together twenty-four/seven, but we weren’t young anymore. As a matter of fact, living under the same roof resulted in a period of major adjustment.

Please don’t get me wrong. I love my husband dearly, and I am so grateful that we have had the opportunity to retire in good health. It is just that—well — love in the time of retirement may test even the closest relationship.

Our first battle took place soon after Larry retired. We were in the kitchen, cleaning up after dinner. As was our usual routine, Larry was putting away the leftovers while I was putting the dirty plates in the dishwasher. He looked over while he was closing the refrigerator door and offered, “Here, Marilyn, let me show you how to load a dishwasher.”

I stopped mid-dish, and stared at him. “What do you mean by that?”

“You’re not doing it right. I can show you how to do it properly.”

“So you mean to tell me I have been loading this thing WRONG for the last three decades?”

“Yes, my way is much more efficient!” We had a brief, spirited discussion as to whether he wanted to accept my tried and true way of doing it or if he wanted to wash dishes on his own for the rest of our married life. Thankfully, he saw it my way.

The second conflict occurred six months later when I retired. I planned to set up my calendar and some files in our home office. When I tried to find room on our computer desk, not an inch was available. “Larry,” I said, “do you think you can organize all those piles on the desk so that we can share the space?”

“I retired first” was his response. “I already claimed the desk. You will need to find another spot.”

Initially, I managed to carve out a few inches of blank oak, but it wasn’t worth the fights that ensued when I moved any of his piles, which he referred to as his “filing system.” I eked out a two-inch crevice between the computer and the printer that allowed me to prop up a few folders. It took three years to have the sense to get my own lap top so I could have the flexibility to work on any surface in the house.

Over the next few months, we played an uneasy game of adjusting. Larry spent a great deal of time following me around closing cabinet doors and drawers I continually left open, a bad habit I had had my entire life. I learned to accept the fact that he was king of the television clicker. He could watch several television shows simultaneously, including a couple of basketball games, reruns of The Big Bang Theory, and a showing of a favorite movie. I found this tolerable as long as I was multi-tasking on the couch —doing a crossword puzzle, checking emails, reading a book, and cutting coupons—while he ruled the remote. My annoying habit cancelled out his.

I know that I am not the only person who has experienced post-retirement angst. One friend, whose son had been in a playgroup with Adam over thirty years earlier, told me that her husband had acquired this overwhelming need to be with her wherever she went. Grocery shopping, dropping off mail at the post office, running to the drug store for a prescription, was now regarded by Steve as a two-person outing. “If Larry isn’t busy,” Fern suggested, “maybe we can arrange a weekly playdate between our two husbands. Then I can get out of the house by myself for a couple of hours.”

My friend Judy commented that only after they were both retired did she realize how ‘uber-organized’ her husband was. A week before they left for their two-month stay in Florida, Judy was haphazardly stacking clothing on her bed and throwing cosmetics and toiletries into a bin. Charlie strolled into the bedroom and opened up a file marked “Florida.” It included a detailed list of everything he needed to pack, including the number of pairs of socks, shirts, and shoes he was bringing. Another list included restaurants in Naples, with notes on ratings and menus. He even planned their drive down to Florida in minute detail: He had researched hotels and restaurants en route on Trip Advisor, printed out weather forecasts from weather.com, and created a chart of estimated travel times between stops from Google maps. “He researches every single detail and isn’t willing to leave anything to chance,” Judy said. “It’s driving me nuts!”

Quite a few of my friends have commented that their retired husbands, who managed people all their working life, feel the need to manage their wives. “Mark loves to come up with projects,” Melody shared with me over coffee. “He suggests these projects on a weekly basis, pointing out, for example, that the linen closet needs to be reorganized or the bookshelves in the fourth bedroom need to be cleaned out. Of course, Mark is the idea person. I am the person who is expected to implement his projects.”

When I talk to couples about adjusting to retirement, I find that the wives are much more forthcoming about their experiences. The men I spoke to, for the most part, were oblivious.

This is not just part of our generation. Joan, a friend from North Dakota, remembered mediating a fight between her in-laws. After many years of farming acres of wheat and soy, the husband had decided to help his wife with her vegetable garden. While they were cutting up potatoes for planting, he insisted that each potato mound have five eyes. The wife explained that she had always limited the mounds to three eyes. When he tried to drag his daughter-in-law into the discussion, Joan demurred, saying, “I am sure it all depends on the year.” She said, in the end, they decided on four eyes, a nice compromise.

Compromise—the bottom line as two people learn to live their dream, to spend most of their time together. Maybe love is relearning give-and-take and embracing each other’s quirks.

My favorite piece of advice came from a man who held a high position in the federal government for many years before he and his wife retired. “I get to make the big decisions,” he explained. “Who should run for president of the United States. Whether or not we should go to war with Syria. And she makes the less important decisions, such as where we live, what we eat, with whom we spend our time, when and where we are going on vacation. It works out really well for us.”As I hope it works out for all the retired love birds I know and love.