The golden years. I was blessed to enjoy my chosen profession. On an almost daily basis, you were able to make a positive difference in the lives of somebody you came in contact with. Arguably, you could make a positive difference when you impacted somebody negatively, such as arresting an intoxicated driver before he killed himself or herself, or somebody else as they travelled about. I particularly enjoyed the fact that I made it an absolute practice to never leave a hungry child on a roadway, stranded as the result of poor preparation on the part of parents or “guardians” entrusted with their care. Stranded children, in my world, were never left cold or hungry. You would not know it today, but a police officer’s job revolves around improving the human condition, and it requires concentration and determination to do that. In a eureka moment, on our latest RV adventure, it has occurred to me that leaving such a rewarding and simultaneously taxing vocation for the good life that retirement promises, can be wrought with peril. Here is my take.
Retirement can easily be summed up as a phase in life where you leave behind the demanding role you have played in your working life, that leaves little time for yourself, and enter a phase of life where you can entertain the many considerations that were left to wither away due to a lack of time and/or priority. Folks who are experienced at the business of being retired say they have never been busier, with far more things to do than time to do them. In my case, I have tackled a number of bucket list items, such as back to motorcycling after a short 40 year time out and learning to fly an airplane. RVing around the country has opened our eyes to the tremendous diversity and talent in this country, not to mention seeing firsthand unheralded beauty in newly discovered urban environments such as Greenville, SC., a gorgeous city touted as one of America’s top retirement destinations. Our current location, on the Intercoastal Waterway in Little River, SC., is the perfect setting to kick back, breathe the salty sea air and marvel at the sea boating community. You, at this point, may be asking where the minefield is that has prompted this writing.
Time is the key ingredient to getting oneself in trouble. A second impediment to the carefree golden years is health, or more precisely, declining health. On this trip, we stopped at the Cleveland Clinic so that my advancing arthritis could be evaluated by one of their many health care wizards. An aching back, hands and feet are a constant reminder that pain must somehow be managed and that I have likely forever left behind those great years when I relished hand fighting with other police officers while teaching them to maintain control of their sidearm in confrontations. Today, my grand-daughter could probably take a pistol away from me. Just this morning, I fumbled around looking for ‘my’ coffee cup and realized that I must have left it at the last location in the campground where Tazzy stopped to take care of business. It is a simple multi-tasking responsibility, put the cup down, clean up after the pup, pick the cup up and finish your walk. Time is slowly facilitating the slipping of the icing from the cake, if you understand my meaning here. You notice that names disappear from a memory trained to remember these things and your skills as a trained observer are eroding. The decline in health and cognitive ability is one thing, your awareness of this decline is quite another.
The absence of a demanding profession gives folks like me the time to worry about things that I cannot change. I read posts on social media and feel my blood pressure rise at the commentary of people who do not see the world as I do. What happened to the guy who used to understand that people are different and that everything is important to someone, somewhere? Time is the answer. I have played ball with, fished with, enjoyed a libation or two with and have been proud to associate with folks who I, today, am easily angered by as a result of uninhibited opinion in print form. Has time eroded my ability to understand politics for what it is, the distortion of fact aimed at influencing the minds of people who find it easier to let someone else do their thinking for them? In the end, I am one vote in a little cubicle. This was never an issue for me before retirement provided the time to make it an issue. I have always reserved the right to offer sarcastic criticism and humor to point out the ridiculous aspects of life in a country that reveres free speech….a trait that has probably sent a few friends packing. Sad, really.
My advice for those who are treading into the minefield of retirement? Don’t take the bait. A very successful and close friend that we visited on this trip has it right. He chooses to not be relevant anymore, not running for anything, not attempting to influence anything other than his own household. He is a smart guy and we can all learn from his perspective. As for me, I suppose extraneous commentary on a variety of topics in the interest of furthering humor and the underrated art of sarcasm is a part of me. Use your time wisely, as I can guarantee that sooner or later, you will lose your fastball, and something in that magnificent human machine you were blessed with at birth is going to break or, at least, not work as well as it should.
Be careful in the minefield.