In my twenties I knew a man who never considered the idea of retirement. He was a 71-year-old US District Court judge. He called me Bob.
I said, “Your Honor, my name’s not Bob. It’s Doug.”
He replied, “You know, Bob, I was just thinking about … “
I interrupted, “Would you please use my correct name?”
He responded, “Bob, I’m a federal judge and if I want to call you Bob, dammit, I will.”
We both laughed and I gave up. I mourned for His Honor when he went to the ultimate courtroom. Every young man and woman needs an older, wiser and indubitable mentor.
A naturally occurring retirement community
I now live in a place that was designated as a naturally occurring retirement community. It’s seven miles from downtown Atlanta. A lot of people have decided to retire here, to “age in place” as the annoying euphemism goes.
One of them was Mrs. Talley.
The day I moved here Mrs. Talley introduced herself as the nosy neighbor. She said she had nothing to do except keep an eye on our quiet street. I gave her my cell phone number, told her I was comfortable knowing someone was watching my property, and assured her that I had nothing (much) to hide.
That afternoon I found myself on the far side of town when the cell phone rang. It was Mrs. Talley. “Doug, there’s a white truck at your house and I don’t know why it’s there.”
I didn’t know either but I told her it was okay. It turned out to be the electric company.
On nice days Mrs. Talley would sit in her front yard and greet every passerby. We’d always exchange pleasantries. She adored my Miniature Schnauzers, Fergus and Ivar.
A while back I realized Mrs. Talley was not sitting in the front yard any longer. I learned she had a heart condition and went to live with her son. I doubt she’ll return.
The Pickle Princess
Another of my favorite retirement age characters was a gentleman everyone called the “Pickle Princess.” His real name was Jay. He earned the nickname because he loved to can vegetables and to wear evening gowns. They all said he cut a resplendent figure in sequins and taffeta.
Jay frequently dropped by a bar on Main Street to enjoy an afternoon libation. Or two.
The busy highway in front of the bar featured angle parking. Jay drove a Lincoln that was long enough to be the U.S.S. Pickle Princess. When cocktail hour was over Jay would ram the Lincoln into reverse, roar full throttle into Main Street and never look around. The sound of screeching tires and the acrid whiff of burnt radials filled the air.
“There goes Jay,” the bar crowd would note.
One day he grabbed my hand, put it on his chest and proclaimed, “I just got this pacemaker today.”
I miss Jay.
This brings me to Pete
Pete is my 93-year-old neighbor who lives alone and still drives his Mercury Marquis. A few weeks ago there was a flurry of activity on Facebook. Pete’s car was in an accident at the local Burger King. Everyone was relieved to know Pete was okay. The old car suffered only a crumpled rear end.
Some months prior to the Burger King incident Ivar and I passed Pete who was slumped behind the steering wheel of the Mercury, lifeless and limp. His chin touched his chest and his hands rested in his lap, palms pointing toward heaven. The engine was idling.
What to do? I waited for signs of movement and none came. Finally I rapped on the windshield. Pete burst to life with a great gasp, startling himself and me in the process.
He smiled and waved.
Many people prefer retirement in Florida where they’re surrounded by millions of like retirees of the same age, same background, and same outlook. Me? I prefer life in a multigenerational, multicultural neighborhood where almost everyone offers a unique and eventful story.
Retirement is one of the good things to do in Georgia
Not ready for retirement in a large city?
Dublin-Laurens County (population 48,041) was the first community in Georgia to receive the Seal of Approval of the American Association of Retirement Communities. Look for an upcoming article about the rejuvenation of downtown Dublin. Milledgeville (population 19,401) is the only other Georgia community with the same certification.