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Thursday, 22 March 2001

Drama: To Retire or Not?

Written by  Rochelle Furstenberg

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Drama: To Retire or Not?

Carol and Bob are a couple in their late fifties. Bob is a lawyer, a partner in a large firm, still working at least ten hours a day. He has enough investments and savings as well as a pension plan to be able to take early retirement and Carol is urging him to do so.

Carol: Bob, it's eight o'clock. Where have you been?

Bob: I have a very big case in court tomorrow. I couldn't depend on the younger partners to prepare it.

Carol: Isn't it time that you cut down on work? Since I stopped teaching at the high school, I feel like I spend my time waiting for you to come home. I took early retirement because I wanted us to enjoy these later years, and instead I end up bored and worried.

Bob: Carol, why don't you take some courses, or do more charity work?

Carol: You know I love what I'm doing with these disadvantaged kids I tutor. They cover up by acting tough. Somehow I have a talent for getting through to them. But that's all besides the point. Please Bob, let's live a full life together -- before it's too late.

Bob: You're just shook up by your brother's stroke. I know how limited Ken is, and how difficult it is for Marge.

Carol: But don't you see? Life is so short. Pretty soon it'll all be over. Why can't we do more things together? Travel? Spend time with the grandchildren? We're not going to be healthy forever. Why don't you face it, slow down, get ready for retirement?

Bob: As far as I'm concerned, that's a formula for early death. I like my work.

Carol: You've been doing it for more than thirty years. I remember how you fought to become a partner in the firm, and then took on the toughest cases. So you've proven yourself. Aren't you tired of it all?

Bob: I've mellowed out. I don't fight so hard. I can use my past experience, be wiser about my work. Why should I give it up now when I feel most confident about what I'm doing? Just because you like hanging around the house talking to your friends on the phone, I'm not going to end up like that.

Carol: It wouldn't hurt you to have a few good friends to sit around and talk to.

Bob: Like those old guys that get together in the park? Are you crazy? The problem Carol, is now that you're retired and the kids are out of the house, you've become morbid and you want to drag me down with you. I want to work until my dying day. That's who I am.

Carol: But there's so much more to your personality than work. I remember in college you were so intense about life, music. Why don't you play the piano any more? Every moment must be lived fully.

Bob: But that's exactly what I'm doing. I feel most alive when I'm arguing a case. After all these years, that's what I do best. I'm afraid to stop.

Carol: I never knew anyone on his death bed who said, " I wish I would have spent more time at the office."

Bob: I'm doing other things all the time. Every weekend we see our grandchildren.

Carol: It needs more investment. You should develop a special relationship with each one.

Bob: That takes time.

Carol: That's what I'm telling you. And what about us? What about traveling?

Bob: Look Carol, let's not kid ourselves. We'd get on each other's nerves if we were together all the time. We enjoy a lot together because each one has his own interests, his own space.

Carol: But there's another way to look at it. Many couples move together in these last years, have the time to really get to know each other now that the children are out of the house, and have their own families. I'm afraid Bob, I don't want to go into the last years of life feeling alone.

Bob: I'm with you Carol. I love you, but I can't sit and harp on it.

Carol thinks: He's running all the time. He's afraid to face himself, he doesn't want to have to face me. Maybe he's afraid of impotence. He's been fine until now, but we don't have that much time for sex. He's so tired all the time. Maybe he's afraid of having a heart attack. I don't like to remind him of the bypass he had years ago. But I must do something to feel more alive. It's like life-in-death.

Bob thinks: I can't spend my whole time without a sense of purpose. Carol likes volunteering with those tough kids. But it doesn't give her enough of a goal in life. Relationship is everything to her. But I'm not going to sacrifice my work. And the truth is, spending the days at home with her would be boring. How much time can we be with the grandchildren? I've seen too many guys begin to lose their health after they quit work. This whole retirement thing is better in theory than practice.

Last modified on Tuesday, 17 May 2011 10:06
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Rochelle Furstenberg

Rochelle Furstenberg

Rochelle Furstenberg has been writing and magazine editing for more than 30 years. She has a master's degree in Philosophy and studied toward a doctorate in English Literature before launching her career in journalism, with a focus on the arts and contemporary culture, women's issues, and religious and social topics. She has published in The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Hadassah Magazine, The Jerusalem Post and elsewhere. Rochelle is married, with children and grandchildren. She was the director of the WholeFamily Senior Center during the year 1999-2000.

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