A lifetime in review

Years ago I was sitting next to my dad in the pew at church as we did each Sunday morning. I noticed that he was writing on a small piece of paper and although I could not see what he wrote I was curious. After mass I asked and he said he was doing a little review of his life so far – how had he done to this point against the goals he set for himself as a younger man.

In his early fifties at the time, he had in my estimation been a great father. Dad worked hard to put himself through medical school while later he and mom often did without luxuries for themselves to save for the future.  He had always provided for the family, we kids were going to private schools for the best education, on weekends we did family trips to the local foothills and beyond, and we always sat down to dinner together to share the events of the day. He was a success by any measure in my book.

So what about the book on me? At a similar age now, where did I sit compared to my goals as a young man? What are the real measures of success in each of our lives?

Family – mom always said there is nothing more important than family and we lived that rule. Weekends were spent with relatives as we celebrated life over a table of BBQ chicken or hamburgers or whatever was on the menu. Important events such as baptisms, first communions, graduations, school plays, tennis matches were always accorded their just due and everything was considered important. Each of us was recognized for being a success at what we did which helped to build self-confidence that followed us through our lives.

Raising my kids we did not spend as much time with the rest of the family as I would have liked to. But we did foster in our household the value of each individual, the importance of pursuing your dreams, and the all important do to others as you would have them do to you. Today both kids are rock stars (not literally) with successful college careers and now onto the working world.

How do you rate yourself in the category of family?

It is not about the things – we lived in a nice house in s nice neighborhood. We never wanted for anything but were taught early on the importance of spending wisely. Designer labels were not a part of my growing up. Credit cards were paid off at the end of each month and used more to build a credit history than anything else. If you could not afford to pay cash for it, you could not afford it! How that way of thinking could help us all these days from the government to the home front.

Raising my family, I was a bit loose with the credit cards as we competed with others caught up in the Silicon Valley madness. Spending more than we should have, we found ourselves in more debt than was comfortable. But we cleared the slate and adjusted our behaviors and made it through. The kids learned from the experience as well as their own. Now when it comes to designer labels, they shop at Marshalls or outlet stores if they cannot do without. And equally as valuable both realize the importance of pursuing a career that fills your heart rather than only your wallet.

Do you and your family value what is important or are you caught up in the never-ending attempt to one-up the Joneses?

Major decisions – in my parent’s house, career choices were discussed and then supported. Although on a pre-med path from day one, when I changed direction to focus on business after my first year in college, my physician father and nurse mother both supported the decision. They knew I was pursuing what was best for me and it was not medicine. More than anything, I appreciated their trust in me that I would ultimately find my way. I have jumped from job to job over my career but always with their support.

Who will your kids choose to hang out with – not always exactly the people you would have chosen? Who will they date – I guarantee not always who you have in mind? How will they dress? How will the cut their hair? What part of their anatomy will they choose to pierce?

In the overall scheme of things, these are minor details that you cannot control. It is often easy to get sidetracked and fight a battle that you will not win. I believe that if you support the inner person and provide guidance rather than enforce rules you have a better chance of helping someone find their way. It is all about the person they finally become rather than what it took to get there.

Are we as supportive as we can be to help each other find our individual destiny?

Upon review, not necessarily a perfect report card but on a pass/fail scale, I think I pass. At least I hope this rating is what I would receive from my kids and family. After all, they are the ultimate graders and the lives they lead are in large part the result of just how well we did our job.

How do you rate your lifetime in review?

Whats good for the goose

The old saying “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” was more than likely penned by a goose. (If anything, the saying should read in reverse – you know, a happy wife means a happy life!) The idea that what works for me is fine for you is at best narrow minded and at worst a recipe for disaster. There is little room for selfishness in a relationship that will have enough challenges already as we grow old together. Life should be about giving and getting, about making an effort and compromising for the better good.


In retirement where we spend most of our time in close proximity to our spouse, a successful plan of action requires behavior that is sensitive to the needs of all where both parties are happy within the situation. Independent activity and interests are an important piece of the puzzle but the majority of time will be spent together. I believe that in retirement, compromise and tolerance become the go words.

A relationship of mutual giving and tolerance typifies those successful marriages that we respect and envy. Older couples who have been together for 40-50-60 years have come to accept the little things that would quickly drive an otherwise sane person over the edge. A little annoying – perhaps – but we are committed to each other for the duration. How amazing it is  to look back from our senior point of view to that young couple of so many years gone by still together, for better or worse. All that elderly couples have gone through and survived builds a foundation based on shared memories and experiences, highs and lows, good times and not so good times. This mutual history is unique to each couple and if life becomes challenging as we know it can these bonds solidified with time can be our saving grace.

How significant  is it that papa Joe clacks his teeth eating  corn on the cob when he willingly worked two jobs during the early days to put baby Bobby through a private education? The Mrs is getting a bit forgetful as the years advance but not so long ago she was the wizard of Wall Street as she stretched meager earnings to cover all basic needs for the family. A successful record of making it this far together is the core that can assist us in the years ahead.

A great marriage is not when the “perfect couple” come together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences. ~ Dave Meurer

That said, what can the goose do for his gander and visa versa to assure that foundation does not weaken with the onslaught of time?



Do something to break up the routine – the same thing day in and day out becomes monotonous. And with no one in near proximity except for our spouse who do you think will bear the brunt of our restlessness? An unannounced dinner out at the new restaurant in town, a ballet for her even though he is not too keen on the whole danging-in-tights thing, flowers for no reason delivered to him or her, a back rub, a weekend away to the coast, or just doing that little something known only to you two that causes you both to laugh like kids and enjoy the moment.

– Show an interest in something that excites your spouse – it may not be your cup of tea but it is not just about the goose (or gander where appropriate). Fishing – the opera, a hockey game – a chick flick, monster trucks- shopping malls, sports bar – elegant dinner – you get the idea.

– Break out the photo album and relive the moments that brought you two to where you are right now.

Happy couples have learned how to keep both the goose and the gander satisfied.

It’s really a matter of making the effort to do the things that only you know are important to your spouse.

Don’t you want to see again that smile that results from that simple, silly something you do?

Make it happen…

Don’t forget to pick up a free copy of Navigating the Retirement Jungle, available upon request by mailing to lovebeingretired@hotmail.com.

Forget about it

I got up the other morning ready to start my day with a plan of action clearly defined in my mind. Ready to get to it and clear some of those to-do items from my activity list, I was dressed, fed, a nice cup of steaming coffee in my hand, and heading to the door. As usual, I checked my pockets before closing the automatically-locking door behind me – good thing too as I had forgotten my car keys! No biggie – I turned around and headed to the little ceramic bowl where I always put my keys. But they weren’t there. Where had I left my keys?

I retraced my steps from the previous day trying to remember exactly where I had wandered upon arriving home the night before. Did I go to the kitchen first? Or did I head straight upstairs? Had I emptied my pockets or did I leave the contents in my pants? Where the heck were my keys?

Forget About It

One curse of growing older is the unavoidable reality of a diminished memory. How easy it becomes to misplace something and how much more challenging it seems to finally track down the missing culprit. We used to be proud of the speed at which we could access nimble memory banks to quickly call out the name of a song we heard  on the radio. It took but brief moments to associate the name with the face of a movie star. And Jeopardy was fun as opposed to what now more commonly proves to be confounding.

The gradual forgetfulness happens over time and to varying degrees but it will be our companion long into our retirement years.

Various “mind exercises” are available to fight back – crossword puzzles, Sudoku, bridge, memory games – and all likely have some positive impact. We can make a conscious effort to focus more on exactly what we are doing rather than act out of habit – for example saying out loud “I am putting my keys in the cat box” so we have a better chance of recalling the exact location. We can attempt to slow down our hectic pace of living so actions do not become a blur with little significance.

But the reality is we senior citizens are just not as sharp as we used to be (no offense intended – one senior to another).

Fear not -I believe I have discovered a silver lining. Our senior moments and dulling memories can be a blessing in disguise. What is he talking about you ask…just listen:

I am happy to forget

How terribly burdensome it would be if we remembered EVERY detail of our lives up to this point. What we ate, what we said, what we heard said, what we dreamed, what we did right and what we did wrong. If we remembered everything how could we even hope to keep it all straight?

The saying goes that women “forget” the real pain of childbirth or at least experience a softening around the edges or there would be very few second children born let alone number three or beyond.

I think that this softening of memories can be a positive thing. A few examples:

  • Whatever it was that my wife and I disputed the other night is not significant (as long as we have made peace). Better to move on and forget about it.
  • The same mistakes made by politicians and leaders of the world, over and over with the same predictable results – I choose to forget about it but I sure wish they did not.
  • Mistakes I may have made during my life cannot be undone. If I fret over them I only bring on stress that I cannot appease as I cannot change the past. Forget about it.
  • The price of gas not so long ago – I have no choice but to forget about it as I wipe a tear from my eye.
  • The feelings of loss and pain that have been scattered through the years. If we are unable to forget to some extent or at least soften around the edges our painful  memories, they remain ever-fresh and vivid, a part of each day. Unable to put them behind us we cannot move on to the acceptance stage that is necessary for our mental health. If only we could forget

Losing our keys or forgetting the name of a song are trifles that though annoying do not often endanger our lives.

Some things we are sad to forget but unfortunately have no control over what happens to our memory.

Some things we are better off forgetting.

When we have no choice in the matter and we become upset, when we feel like we are literally “losing it”, I recommend heeding the words of a wise gangster from the movies who so sagely said, “forget about it…”.


Don’t forget to pick up a free copy of Navigating the Retirement Jungle, available upon request by mailing to lovebeingretired@hotmail.com.