By Susan "Honey" Good
I’ve thought long and hard about the word retire and I am very conflicted. I can’t stand the meaning of the word. It is hard for me to endure saying the word. And yet I must force myself into reality. My husband, Shelly, and I are in that phase of our lives.
Retire is a word that scares me because it means growing old. It forces me to face the fact that unpleasant things are going to happen—and I don’t want to go there, for 100 reasons that would take me hours to explain. I have confronted my conflict in the only way I know how: The word retire has no place in my life, and that means it has no place in Shelly’s life either.
I make certain that Shelly and I always have something exciting going on or something to look forward to experiencing. I am more often the instigator. My inner ultimate concierge, always aiming to please, says, “Let’s do it!”
I must point out that Shelly is no shrinking violet—by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, he’s quite the opposite. Just a few days ago he told me that he’s thinking of traveling to Quito, Ecuador for a United Nations meeting. He’s an NGO member. I immediately asked “when are we leaving?” He says “October.” I say, “I can’t wait.”
I already feel my blood rushing as I imagine the interesting people we may meet. I feel uplifted. My consciousness is free—for the moment--of the negative pangs I feel when I think of the word retire, which in my mind means to stop.
So for now, nothing is dull in the Good home. That is because we are continually finding ways to enrich our lives with vitality and zest.
This week we are looking forward to a brand new experience. I say this while beaming… it really does top the cake as unique. In my wildest dreams, I never imagined that Shelly would officiate at a commitment marriage, a ceremony that marks the union of two people without a license or laws to bind their union. Our beloved daughter-in-law Jami, a widow, and her love Dale, have asked Shelly to officiate a their commitment ceremony. Shelly performing the role of a Rabbi!
OMG I ask myself, smiling and thinking “what next?” And I know in my heart, thanks to our commitment to do everything but retire, “a lot more things.”
We are off at the crack of dawn, to catch our flight to Garden City, Idaho, a tiny community up in the mountains outside of Boise. Shelly, having never performed a marriage ceremony, asked me to help him prepare his thoughts. We sit down as a team and craft his remarks for the ceremony. He’s excited and we’re joyfully looking forward to sharing the commitment ceremony experience with family and friends—and soaking in the hot springs close to their home, another first for us.
We jumped at another unexpected adventure… another frosting on our cake. I received an email from Carol Graveline, a high school classmate. She expressed how much she enjoyed the story I wrote about my mother on HoneyGood.com and casually mentioned that the girls in our graduating class met for lunch once a month in Kankakee-by-the-Sea.
I emailed back asking, “When is the next luncheon?”
“Next Monday,” she replied.
I shot back “I’d love to join you. Would you mind if I brought my husband to lunch with the girls, because I don’t want to drive back to Chicago alone.”
She wrote back, “Please bring your ultimate concierge. We can’t wait to meet him.”
When I asked Shelly if he’d take me to lunch in Kankakee-by-the-Sea, without missing a beat he said, “Of course I’ll go. It’ll be fun.” I looked at this charming husband of mine with a huge smile and said, “thank you so much.” No way are we going to retire from life.
We lunched with 16 high school friends I hadn’t seen in 50 years. They were all leading relevant and visible lives, not retiring from life in the least. We went around the table discussing our past and current activities. They were farming, tending huge flower gardens, heavily involved in charity work, traveling and were very active and vocal about the upcoming election. The afternoon was stimulating and interesting as we shared our life stories. It was like a dream…reliving yesterday. They were all a source of inspiration and when we said our goodbyes, they were truly happy that Shelly and I drove to see them in Kankakee-by-the-Sea. And so were we.
As I write my Good Morning Story at our huge partner’s desk, I have one eye and ear on my husband. He’s sitting across from me bantering back and forth with a realtor about a real estate project he may consult on in Rome. I feel a sense of relief that he’s motivated to keep his mind active in his later years. And if he were off to Rome, he’d never think to leave me behind. No way. We are joined at the hip in everything we do. After all, how many husbands would lunch with 16 girls and be happy?
Thank God, I think to myself. We’re using these years in a positive way, giving after-50 style new meaning. Ask yourselves, are you?
Personally, I think the word retire highlights a great big positive challenge: I’m determined to fill the chapters in our book with enrichment and I don’t mean money. Our chapters are titled productivity, engagement, family, fun and purpose.
I am reminded of my Torah Study Class. Several years ago Rabbi Posner asked the group:
“Do you think the word retire is a positive or negative word?”
More than half the class raised their hand for positive. The Rabbi held up his hand with those of us that said retire was a negative word.
And he explained the word retire in these terms: Imagine a herd of cattle grazing day in and day out in the field. What he’s really saying is don’t lose your competitive edge on life. Don’t rest on your laurels. It’s not a good for your physical or mental health.
My husband suddenly says to me from across the desk, “I have a luncheon tomorrow to work on a plan for the Hundred Club.”
I breathe a sigh of relief. He’s still in the game.
I smile and go back to writing this story, knowing that I'm a relevant and visible woman…enjoying the game, too. I will definitely try my hardest not to let the word retire damper my zest for living.