So, finally, after long deliberation, retirement at age 86. Free at last! Free at last! Now what?
Why, you might ask, did I wait so long? The kids are long out of the house, there are many grandchildren, not dependent on us. After all the years of responsibility, meetings, and deadlines, finally a totally blank calendar. Scary, to say the least.
So what now? Can I handle this new challenge? I have never yet found a TV sitcom that I could get into; board games I find boring; shuffling cards do not do it for me. And yet, morning coffee, at ease with my wife, yes!; a leisurely perusal of the dailies, great!; a Knicks winning streak, marvelous! Too bad there’s only one Super Bowl a year! What about in between?
Hey, I could write a book. The people I’ve met, the places I’ve been, the marvelous myriad of experiences I’ve had. But, I’ve already done that, the book is out, and the world is still standing on its axis. How does that call for another?
The truth is that the freedom of retirement is a beckoning magnet, though the challenge is still daunting.
Waking in the morning an hour or so later than before, no longer do I jump out of bed. Some days I feel no need to get up altogether. Pull up the blanket, wiggle the toes, lounge, read, luxuriate under the warm covers. Why bother brushing the teeth or shaving? The wife is always forgiving. The enticing call of progressive disengagement beckons. Should I succumb or fight?
What of books, plays, movies, much prized in the past? The joy of reading has long been known. And good stuff. Malamud and Wallant; Grade, Kashua, "The Gravedigger’s Daughter," "The Plot Against America." I have dug into the long list of “must-someday read” and am making progress. I have seen four good plays, a half-dozen worthwhile movies. It’s all been good, even stimulating. Now what?
Time for family. Always have I been there. Usually, however, with one eye focused on what needed to be done tomorrow and what I was failing to do today, guilty of playing hooky. At a baseball game, was that fumble in the outfield an omen for tomorrow’s efforts? How will I be able to attend that musicale my daughter is starring in? There is an important meeting set for that time.
Failed opportunities dot my past. Now, no more of those dilemmas. Recitals, plays, appearances by my middle-aged progeny or even by their children are not likely. Now that I have the time, there is no demand.
Travel, now there is a desirable destination. Exotic islands, teeming capitals of the world, snow-clad mountain tops. Long-anticipated adventures, now to experience.
However, today, a weekend visit to Manhattan just about sits right. An overnight bag. Two nights out then back into your own bed. I’m not jaded, just jauntless.
Yet there is no yearning to go back to work. The retired tempo is perfect. A slight discontent, then, to be my steady diet?
No, the challenge continues. Retirement, I learned, is a process. A becoming. Like learning the nuances of any new job. Other doors will open, pleading to be entered. Find them, I say, and be prepared. The fat lady is not yet ready to sing — good! — Keep the toes snuggling under the blanket, get up and brush your teeth.
I hear in my head: Make sure you’re walking every day and hearing well, and staying engaged. The road leads somewhere. So, keep trucking!
Rabbi Myron M. Fenster is the rabbi emeritus of the Shelter Rock Jewish Center in Roslyn, N.Y. A graduate of Yeshiva of Flatbush, Yeshiva College, and the Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbi Fenster also studied in the graduate school at Columbia University for a degree in philosophy. He was the first American rabbi sponsored by the Rabbinical Assembly to an Israeli congregation. He has written for several publications, including Newsday, the Jerusalem Post and Hadassah Magazine. Read more of Rabbi Fenster's reports — Go Here Now.
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