“The thing about being retired is that the days are all the same,” complained my friend as we were driving along to the art supplies shop in search of canvases and brushes. He is 83 and worked in his dental clinic up to a few months ago when he was forced by his professional indemnity insurance company to retire. “A high speed drill with one end in the patient’s mouth and the other end in a pair of shaky 83 year-old hands could be dangerous. They cancelled my insurance cover so I had to quit.” He spends most of his days painting, turning out beautiful canvases of landscapes with a portrait thrown in now and again to change the subject. He is also an avid football fan and never misses an important match on the TV. And he’s bored.
“I enjoyed working,” he says, “even though it was only two days a week. At least it got me out of the retirement home and into the city, allowed me to see and talk to different people and most of all, enabled me to practice dentistry which has been my occupation for over 60 years. I miss it. I need a break from retirement now and again. All this retirement is just too much!”
Next door to the art shop is a supermarket. “Let’s do something different for a change,” he said, pulling me into the store. “Where’s the Men’s Department?” We find a carousel loaded with bowls of olives, pickles, lemons, hot peppers and other delights and we stand and eat a few of the olives stuffed with chili. When we can breathe again we head for the wine counter where there are special displays and stalls selling wines for the coming Passover holidays.
We each drink a couple of glasses of a new Red from Australia before we decide we don’t like it. We’re out of the ‘retirement blues’ by now and we make for the cheese counter. We spend the next hour sampling thin slivers of goats’ and sheep’s milk cheeses and then we each buy a small slab to take home to show that we haven’t wasted the entire afternoon.
“This retirement home is really a great place, isn’t it?” says my friend as we walk into the lobby, “and there’s nothing quite like being retired, is there?”
I have been a faithful fan of pizza since I first discovered it on a trip to Italy way back in 1966. At that time the doorman of the hotel promised me: “You will love it, Senor.” Off we went in search of this new dish. At that time I boasted a robust digestive system that could deal with any kind of food. I was always willing to try something new, especially spicy foods and curries. As the doorman had suggested, pizza became a fairly regular meal.
Pizza apparently goes back over 1000 years while my digestive tract has only an 80 year working history and while pizza has developed to new heights by offering new and exotic toppings and ingredients to its basic cheese and tomato history, I gave up trying the new-fangled offerings. As the anti-indigestion pills lost their edge in the pizza fight, I even had to drop a couple of favorites such as onions and roasted garlic. But I still like the basic old fashioned pizza.
A popular urban legend holds that the archetypal pizza, Pizza Margherita, was invented in 1889, when the Royal Palace of Capodimonte commissioned the Neapolitan pizzaiolo Raffaele Esposito to create a pizza in honor of the visiting Queen Margherita. Of the three different pizzas he created, the Queen strongly preferred a pie swathed in the colors of the Italian flag: red (tomato), green (basil), and white (mozzarella). Supposedly, this kind of pizza was then named after the Queen as Pizza Margherita.
Today I shared a basic pizza with a grandson. I added green olives to my half to please the old pair of taste buds I use. Between us we polished off a delicious medium size. It was a great meal and grandson went home with a smile on his face.
So did I. But now, 2 hours later, the smile has gone, the pill is struggling to maintain inner peace and stability and I’m wondering if I will issue the pizza invitation again…
Years ago when I was much younger I jumped into a taxicab and found myself with a “senior” driver who didn’t stop complaining about his age. I was fascinated at the guy’s observations on advanced age. “When I was young,” he said, “I couldn’t afford to eat in expensive restaurants or buy food in these fancy deli stores. Now, after years and years of hard work I have money and I can afford to buy food anywhere. The problem is that none of the food I hankered for in the old days agrees with me, so I still can’t eat it.” I remember laughing at the man then.
But of course what he said was true. I went along with my wife on a supermarket trip the other day. As soon as we stepped inside we went off in different directions, she to buy sensible, healthy food suitable for our ages, me in search of the goodies I hanker for. The cheese counter, the bins of pickles and olives, the wine and liquor shelves, the nuts and dried fruits and then back to check on the olives again. I came home with a tub of olives sprinkled with red Mexican chili powder. That stuff can wreck a healthy digestive system in seconds. I love it but the tears that stream down my cheeks and the pain in my chest prove it doesn’t like me!
I hung around the butchery counter for a while eying the steaks, but in the end I backed off. I remembered that even in the good old days a piece of hard steak could bring on an attack of indigestion that lasted for days. In the end I got the indigestion in the check-out line when I saw the prices…
A retiree’s work is never done
Retirement is a fulltime occupation. There are no holidays, no days off and no such thing as a sick day. It is a dedicated job covering 24 hours a day. Of those hours, 16 involve working flat out at being retired. The other 8 are devoted either to sleeping on the couch in front of the TV or trying desperately to fall asleep in bed. Most of the sleeping hours are devoted to short naps throughout the day.
The day-to-day business
I once overheard this conversation between 2 retirees: “So how’s it going? You keeping occupied? What did you do today?”
“I was at the bank today.”
“Got any arrangements for tomorrow?”
“I’m planning on going to the post office.”
“Wednesday is my day for blood tests at the MOH.”
The food of retirees
And that’s roughly how the retiree’s week goes. Busy, busy, busy. Another major consumer of retiree time is food and eating. We enjoy hanging out in the supermarkets, tasting and checking the goods here and there. You’ll find us testing the cheese, grapes and olives for quality. We also enjoy seeking out exotic recipes, none of which will be good for us or suitable for our digestive systems. We love eating – slowly, that is.
All retirees have a responsibility to the community. That’s why you’ll find us down at the lake feeding the ducks, helping little children and little old ladies cross the busy streets, keeping the park benches warm and heckling the parking ticket officers.
We meet often during the course of our days at the local coffee shops and discuss the state of the world, remember how it used to be in the good old days and wondering what it will take to get it back on the rails.