As I sat in my office with tears streaming down my cheeks, my wife walked in and asked, “What’s wrong?”
After a short sniffle, I blurted out, “I just deleted Dad!” The absurdity of my remark hit us both, and we burst out laughing. Dad had been dead for over two years.
Closing out even the most modest estate is a time-consuming process, though. After settling his accounts and finalizing the legal paperwork, the administrative project finally was finished… or so I thought.
Earlier that day, I’d gone into my address book to add a name and there was Dad’s information. So I hit “delete,” and the computer asked, “Are you sure you want to delete this?”
Heck no! I didn’t want to delete Dad, but I knew I had to. It just seemed so final.
While I was sad when he passed, I’d focused on the tasks at hand. He was elderly, on his way to hospice, and we knew his time was coming. I didn’t begin to look back until clicking “delete” years later.
Dad retired from the post office at age 65 and lived to age 92. I was 30 when he retired and recall thinking, “What’s left for him? Is he just going to hang around now until he dies?” He showed me better.
Dad’s life was simple. He and my mother moved to a 55-plus community in Sarasota, Florida. While she kept a full social calendar, Dad would pick and choose. Mostly, Dad was the classic couch potato—watching sports, discussing batting averages or yards per carry. He could talk golf or tennis with the most avid fan. Fortunately, he never had a weight problem, likely because he’d walked a 12-mile mail route carrying a 30-lb. sack for over 20 years.
All in all, Mom did what she enjoyed, Dad did what he enjoyed, and they did some things they both enjoyed together.
Sure, they had their squabbles. Mom would go on multiday group trips with other ladies in their retirement village. The husbands seldom went along, and after some protest she finally admitted they preferred it that way. To each his own!
While Mom and Dad were far from wealthy, they never worried about money and managed to save a little bit each year.
Do You Like Getting Older?
I sure do. Part of aging is realizing that you cannot change the past, understanding that no one promises you tomorrow, and finally deciding to enjoy the moment.
I wish I had understood that at age 30, when I was fretting over how Dad would spend his time. Retirement is a state of mind—a time for being comfortable with yourself and your situation. If I’d known that then, would I have been more prudent and saved more? I’ll never know.
Still, I hope that my children, grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren internalize these lessons at a much younger age. My wife and I know many people who never saved a dime, have no pension and, are trying to live on Social Security alone. Many have returned to work in their 70s. Most are poorly paid and worry what will happen when they are too old or frail to keep it up.
If that doesn’t motivate younger folks to make the maximum contributions to their IRAs or 401(k)s and live below their means, I don’t know what will. Enjoying your golden years means having the financial and emotional freedom to do crazy things, to love and laugh and eat dessert with abandon, and yes, to even go back to work if you feel like it.
In the history of the world, that kind of retirement is a luxury few people have ever been able to afford. We each have a hand in writing our own final chapters. It is the choices we make earlier, though, that determine how the story ends.
Find out how you can make the most of your nest egg and write a better story for yourself and your family by clicking here.
On the Lighter Side
A good friend, Dennis A., sent along an email that perfectly captures why I like getting older:
“I can hit the golf ball any way I can and laugh if it goes in the lake. Them’s the breaks. I’m just happy I can still hit that golf ball.
As I’ve aged, I’ve become kinder to myself, and less critical of myself. I’ve become my own friend. I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon—before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.
Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4 AM, or sleep until noon? I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love, I will.
I will walk the beach in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set. They, too, will get old.
I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And I eventually remember the important things.
Sure, over the years, my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when somebody’s beloved pet gets hit by a car? But broken hearts are what give us strength, and understanding, and compassion.
A heart never broken is pristine, and sterile, and will never know the joy of being imperfect.
I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning gray, and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face.
So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.
As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don’t question myself anymore. I’ve even earned the right to be wrong.
So, to answer your question, I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be.
And I shall eat dessert every single day (if I feel like it).
We’re sharing an exceptionally funny Southwest Airlines safety presentation. Click here to watch.
Until next week…