My grandmother Florence Ross told me (more than once) “When I was a girl we used coal oil lamps for light and I have lived long enough to see men land on the moon.” Born in San Francisco in the late 1800s, she lived through the Great Fire and marched with the suffragettes. She met my grandfather, Joseph Nicolaas Maria Theodorus van Waterschoot van der Gracht at the Royal Dutch Shell Company where they both worked. Many years of struggles and joys ensued. When they reached retirement age, they lived out their dotage in a large home and garden in West Vancouver. He painted and she kept busy, mending the knees of her grandchildren’s corduroy play pants and darning their woollen socks.
This is the cover of a book my grandfather wrote after his geological surveying trip to the middle east in 1910
Today retirement involves a very different game plan. It is, in fact very frowned upon to even contemplate the term “dotage” when referring to oneself…and no one darns or mends anymore! Indeed retirees of the 21st Century are expected to live even more active lives than they did when they were young. We have to stay current, stay slim, stay focussed, stay interesting and stay sexy! We are encouraged to learn new technology, travel, continue our education, read voraciously, attend the symphony and cook like gourmets.
While all this is a good thing (a very good thing) do you sometimes think it might be OK to ease off just a little? I mean, is it such a slothful thing, if once in a while we stay in PJs all day long… snack instead of eating a balanced meal and pass the whole day totally unproductively. Actually, I think it is quite wise… but the key phrase is “once in a while.”
Today, retirement years present an opportunity to do all the things we couldn’t do when we were too busy working. Many of us have developed second careers. We tend to blanch if our children refer to these endeavours as “hobbies.” Some of us take ourselves very seriously… perhaps because we fear there are but one or two productive, energetic decades left. I aim for perspective. I have three books I want to write. The first is done; I’m plugging away on the second and the third swirls around in my mind like a temptress.
Steve Martin (you remember how he used to say, “I am… a wild… and crazy… guy!”) Well, I don’t know how to break this to you… but one of his most recent statements was, “The sixties really are a person’s last viable decade!” As my 98 year-old Uncle Doug would say, “Oh how the mighty have fallen…”
And this is the cover of my book published in 2010…. History repeating?
I think we should continue to improve ourselves but maybe… a little more gracefully. Yes we can still keep all those “youthful” attributes, forge new careers and write books but we have to know when to sit back and smell the cafecito. So this is my New Year’s Resolution 2011. Balance in all things… Grasshopper!
*Note: This Thursday (Jan 06) at 9 pm, the Centro Cultural de la 68 will show a film called “Vuelve la Vida” It is (as far as I can figure out) in English and it talks about a lot of what has been brought up in the preceding paragraphs. Director Carlos Hagerman will be there and will hold a Q & A session afterwards. If you’ve never been to La 68 you need to do so. Located on the corner of Calles 55 and 68, it’s a trip. I walk through the door and feel transported back to the cafes of my youth… At La 68, there is also a nice small restaurant and a full bar.