Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

February 6, 2013

Golden Years - Part 3

Dan Graves
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — Some time ago, a poor disillusioned soul looking forward to retirement and envisioning a life of leisure, penned the term “Golden Years.”

If this person’s identity were known today, his or her wanted poster would be hanging in every nursing home in the country.

Outside, snow is swirling around the house and forming into drifts while icicles hang from the eaves like silvery daggers. Naked trees are outlined against a dreary, gray sky that threatens to dump more frozen H2O on the lawn.

A bitter wind creates depressing moans like the cries of lost souls as it whips across the windows. It’s February, the one month of the year that serves no purpose other than filling a dreary space between January and March. It’s during this month that we snowbound, shivering, idle “senior citizens” rue the fact that our parents hadn’t raised us on an exotic island somewhere in the South Pacific.

But, perhaps if this had been the case, the shoe might have been on the other foot. Imagine telling your family that in order to escape the withering heat of winter on Hawaii, you’ve decided to treat them to a couple of months in North Dakota. While gazing out the window at the other houses in the neighborhood — which are empty because their occupants are spending a few months basking on sun drenched beaches in Florida — I thought about what prompted this golden years individual to come to that conclusion.

During our younger years, we moved through life like a tornado through a Kansas wheat field. Like well-oiled machines, we bounced like grease in a hot skillet, came down with the usual kid diseases like mumps, measles and chicken pox and probably broke a small bone once in a while. In my family, any ailment short of a skull fracture was treated with a foul tasting concoction called Dr. Drake’s Miracle Elixir. It actually cured nothing, but to avoid further doses of the stuff, we grew really efficient at faking miracle recoveries. Hacking and coughing in the morning got us out of school for the day, but a miracle recovery that evening spared us any more Dr. Drakes.

There followed years of education, starting a family and a career, and an IRA to guarantee financial security during our “golden years of fun and leisure.”

All too suddenly, you’re standing in front of a small group and accepting the gold pocket watch as a symbol of your many years of boring and dull service with Boring and Dull Manufacturing Co. Like a fledgling bird, you’re shoved from the nest to face total freedom, to fly on your own, to enjoy the fruits of years of labor and sacrifice. Within a short while, you finally understand the definition of baloney — and it ain’t lunch meat.

That isn’t true for all retirees, but unless you own a villa in Monte Carlo and count your savings using a wheel barrow, it’s now time to find ways to amuse yourself and avoid having your spouse hire a hit man.

The most obvious next steps are to take up golfing, tennis, or fishing. Considering that the average price of a single golf ball can exceed the price of a haircut and that you will no doubt be driving them into various lakes and heretofore unexplored jungle-like territory, the tennis courts seem like a good compromise. That is, until the former smooth bone joints begin sounding like popcorn when you swing the racket. Fishing? Unless you go on expeditions to exotic locales for giant tarpon or sword fish, you might as well be behind the desk at ‘ol Boring and Dull Inc.

It narrows down to paying attention to a lawn that has been neglected for 35 years, finally replacing washers in the faucets to stop the notices from the water company that you have a serious leak, and considering trading your sports car on a minivan because getting into the thing has become like trying to put on a pair of shoes that are two sizes too small.

Believe it or not, some retirees actually consider taking up ball room dancing. The thought of attempting to swing to the music of Lawrence Welk on feet that have problems maneuvering around traffic in Walmart is ridiculous.

Many seniors attempt to maintain a youthful appearance through hair dyes, facial makeovers, clothing styles, and even cosmetic surgery. Dyeing hair means going from a dignified gray to Elvis Presley black overnight. Facial cosmetics work on a temporary basis whereas cosmetic surgery leaves a person with a permanent smile and eyes that have the person looking like they’re sitting on a tack.

Considering youthful clothing styles these days, an older gentleman wearing jeans that fail to cover the tops of their BVD’s won’t impress the others at the Saturday night bingo games.