It was good to get your letter. It must have taken some effort to find my address, and I appreciate you taking the time to write and inquire after an old friend.
I remember you telling me that in the future no one would be sending letters anymore, certainly not hand-written ones. Fewer people would be talking over the phone, either. Everything would be text messaging and email in weird symbolic code. You could be right, but I don’t know and don’t really care. I got rid of my computer, my email accounts, the television and my cell phone, although I keep a land line for emergencies and a radio because I enjoy listening to classical music. I thought I could finally disappear, which is what I’ve wanted to do for a long time.
The Government knows where I am. I’m on Medicare and collect Social Security. It’s not like I didn’t pay into it for almost 40 years. But you found me as well, and I’m thinking now that’s a good thing. It provides an occasion to justify my behavior to someone other than myself.
I’ll be 75 come Saturday. It’s been 15 years since Liz’s death, and once in a while her ghost will show up and we’ll reminisce about old times. I never thought I’d be able to go on without her, but I have. Her memory sustains me. Liz would be kicking my butt if I sat around and felt sorry for myself. Don’t hide your talents under a bushel basket, Stan, she used to say. Get out in the world and show them what you can do.
Well, I did. That’s how I met you. I had a successful career managing other people’s money. After awhile I lost interest in other people’s money and in other people generally, or at least those who couldn’t talk about anything except making more money. The whole notion about equating money with success is perverse, unless you happen to believe that the Darwinian universe is all there is, and progress is measured by the GDP.
But enough of that. I’ve managed to carve out a life of sorts. I live in a town of 350 people on the banks of the Mississippi. I have a two-bedroom house on the main highway through town and can see the river from my front porch. I have a small boat and go out occasionally to fish and just meander about. I like to be out on the river and feel the expanse of nature around me. It’s wondrous. When I’m on the water, all my cares seem to melt away.
I go into — for groceries and to pick up books at the library. I keep pretty much to myself. I have a neighbor who is older than I am and in pretty bad shape, and I keep her company and help with chores around the house. And here’s a shocker: I started going to church – a Catholic church no less. I’ve discovered you don’t have to be a believer to get something out of the ritual. I sit in the back and soak it in. I find it comforting. Go figure.
I remember you telling me, only connect, Stan. Expand your contacts and position yourself to take advantage of unexpected opportunities. Well, I did that and didn’t find it satisfying. Here’s what I think now. Only disconnect. I’m healthier today because I’ve managed to tune out a lot of the noise. That’s the best thing about being retired. You have the time to develop a rich interior life. I get more out of being on the river or taking a walk in the woods than I ever did attending a convention of money managers or browsing the web. I’ve rediscovered the pleasures of reading and listening closely to a great piece of music. I’m thinking of getting a small piano and taking lessons. I see people, I’m friendly enough, I help others when I can, but truth be told, I prefer to be by myself.
They say people who stay connected with others are healthier than those who aren’t, but I don’t think that’s true for everyone. It’s the quality of the connections that makes the difference. I’m not a total hermit. I’m just more discerning than I used to be.
Anyway, don’t be put off by my ramblings. If you’re ever up this way, come by and see me. We’ll go out on the river and talk if we feel like it.
Feedback? Send it my way: Roger.Hughes@slhi.org.
*The Drift reflects the views of the author, and does not represent the official view of SLHI’s Board of Trustees and staff.