Over Easy: Retiring minds

For the Valley News
Published: 4/2/2022 2:27:16 PM
Modified: 4/2/2022 2:26:37 PM

Somewhere along the line insurance became a laughing matter. At least that’s true for the major companies that spend something like $5 trillion annually bombarding us with TV ads.

I’m tired of the insurance gecko and I’ve never seen the point of the insurance emu. Then there’s the insurance Flo, who may soon become immortal as an icon, like Col. Sanders. Why? I don’t know.

I fully expect these insurance characters to start appearing in my dreams, giving marketers 24/7 coverage. Resistance is futile.

But there’s one offbeat insurance campaign I do like. A life coach helps millennials who have purchased a home and are becoming uncomfortably like their parents. I laugh at the one where support group members recoil when the counselor asks, “Who wants to try downloading a PDF?” And another where millennials outside a sports arena obsess about parking and plan to leave early to avoid the traffic rush.

As a Social Security recipient who remembers when Speedy Alka-Seltzer was a major star, I can confirm that age sneaks up in ways you weren’t expecting. Just recently I drove from West Lebanon to the other side of town to get a loaf of bread at the day-old bread store. The organic loaf costs as much as $5.99 in stores, but is just a little over $2 there. The bargain was thrilling in a way that’s hard to describe — puffed-up satisfaction, an epic sort of winning. So what if gas costs $10 to get there and back? It’s the principle of the thing.

I am going through other subtle changes. Gradually I have become content to drive more slowly. Was it Albert Einstein who said space and time bend when we are no longer in a hurry? I’d be OK motoring from West Lebanon to Hanover on Route 10 at, say, 25 mph, even if a long line behind me was flashing high beams and honking horns.

“They must be celebrating a Dartmouth sports victory,” I’d say to myself. “Or maybe the college endowment’s up another billion.”

Driving at night is changing, too. Although my eye doctor says I have just a baby cataract, darkness promises adventure, like Indiana Jones and the Shockingly Bright Street Lights. This can’t be any comfort to my passengers.

During the recent Super Bowl, my reaction to the bawdy hip-hop halftime show wasn’t judgmental, just a feeling that time had passed me by. As the show went on I felt older and older, and that the prudishness and sexual repression of my youth had been for naught. I wondered, where is Ethel Merman? And where is Carly Simon, for that matter? The answer: long gone and old — very, very old.

Of course, it’s the simple things that matter. We have taken to hopping in the car and taking a ride in the evening. If we see a couple of deer, our day is made. In summer we may stop and buy one soft ice cream to share. It’s not deprivation because of portion inflation — small cones are often the size of your face.

We have also made room on our social calendar for any and all of the free outdoor concerts in the Upper Valley this summer. The lawn chair is our happy place.

Forget wild nights. Sleep patterns change as the body obeys random wake-up calls. Early to bed means early to rise, no longer certain to make me healthy, wealthy or wise.

Instead, I’ll be up alone in the wee hours waiting for sunrise, reading Listserv posts about things I don’t want and events I will not attend. I still like to be in the know, though, just in case.

These days I think about how wonderful travel sounds, but how comfortable home is, with no airport lines, no confusing messages about outboard and inboard trams, no taxi drivers trying to rip us off while speaking French, Italian or other inconvenient languages.

Forget about becoming my parents. I’ve become my grandparents.

But there are consolations. When you retire you can return to the fork in the road that you once encountered and make another choice. You could volunteer, or get a suitable part-time job: no stress, no heavy lifting, no exposure to felony charges.

You could be kinder, gentler, a ukulele player. To adapt a saying about dogs, you could try to be the person grandchildren and little kids think you are.

For a brief time they believe you are a wonderful and fascinating creature, a god or goddess of hugs. They also share your interest in naps, which are as close to the fountain of youth as you can get.

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.

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