I’ve been thinking about retirement lately. Ben and I came early to the retirement party. (I was still in my 50s) Our fathers were our role models. Ben’s father didn’t get to retire from work because he really retired …from life… if you know what I mean. My father, retired from work as soon as he could. He was retired for over 20 years. He got his money’s worth out of his pensions and he and my mother lived an active full life until their late 80s. Ben and I decided that we wanted that too. So when a chance came to retire, we did. Sure we could have continued to work, sure we could have wanted to have a bigger house, a newer car, to take wonderful trips but we chose what was right for us; to live modestly and comfortably in a foreign country where our standard of living is higher than if we were still in the United States. (Yes, even with the exchange rate)
And now, as my high school friends start to turn 62, many of them are leaving work and considering new choices. Every now and then I see on FaceBook another friend who is retiring. And I am always so happy for them that they are. We have found retirement to be delightful. It is great fun to be able to enjoy life instead of feeling that you are rushing through it.
And some of us are considering applying for Social Security. My friend, Allan, (note the spelling of his name. It will be important later) just wrote to me of his experience of going to the Social Security Office to see what benefits were available to him. Because he still works part time if he took his benefit now, more than half of it would be deducted. So he decided to continue working and postpone taking his benefit. On the other hand, I decided to go ahead and receive mine. I did not trek to a Social Security Office, instead completing everything online. It was a very easy process. I now eagerly await my first check.
And I have been thinking about retirement because friends here in Italy are finally retiring. The guys who owned the house that we used to rent have retired. Ben and I are sooooo happy that they are back here to live permanently. And that black cat, Elizabetta is happy too.
Here are Richard and John, fresh off the plane, about to open the gate on their new life together. They have lived all over the world but have always remained focused on returning to their wonderful home in Italy. Both of them are younger than I am, so I am happy to see that at the first chance that they got to retire, they took it. We gave them a nice bottle of wine to celebrate.
And then our other friend Allen, (see, different spelling) (of Dinah and Allen) has also decided to retire. We didn’t know that he was going to retire but have been hoping that he would. Dinah and many, many people have been working to finish the ‘new’ part of their house in Lucignano and it is almost done. Now they will be coming here more often as they start a new chapter of their lives together.
We gave Allen a nice bag of garden peas. (Not everybody thinks a bottle of wine is the best gift in the world)
My parents moved to Florida after living in the same house in Kentucky for over 40 years. They moved to a retirement community and hung around with folks their own age. I can still remember how each Sunday, my mother would delightedly tell me of their week’s social activities. While they had always traveled, we had done this as a family. They had never really had friends and gone to their houses for dinner or parties. So all of a sudden they are going out to eat with others and going to people’s houses and blah blah… I was very puzzled by this but now I understand that probably when they were together all the time they were ready to kill each other. My father probably had to drag my mother to the first few events but eventually she realized that it was quite fun to have some one else to talk to besides my father.
So maybe selfishly, I am so excited about John, Richard, Allen and Dinah retiring because it adds new bodies to the pool of folks that we can play with. Or maybe I am just really happy for them to be able to just enjoy life. And you folks out there that are still working… just keep at it. You know, my Social Security check depends on you. But, the first chance you get to retire, grab it and run with it. It is just so much fun.