My father and my grandfather both retired at 55 years of age. They both remained active, cultivated new interests, and embraced their new life without their day-to-day responsibilities. Golf became a new interest for both. My Dad acquired increasingly larger boats, learned to work on their diesel engines and along with my Mom, became Coast Guard certified Captains.
My grandparents traveled the world. My grandfather took up woodworking and built treasured pieces of furniture that now reside in the homes of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren around the country.
My parents and grandparents were busy in their retirements. However, at some level I thought they also had the ultimate life of leisure. They did what they wanted, when they wanted, without having to answer to anyone. That is the retirement we all dream of, isn’t it?
I was 65 when my brother and I sold our company. I always planned to retire at 55, just because my Dad and Grandfather had, but that was not in the plan. I enjoyed what I was doing and thrived on the growth of our company. However, in “The Gambler’” Kenny Rogers sang these famous lyrics, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em. Know when to fold ‘em. Know when to walk away and know when to run.”
My brother and I folded ‘em at just the right time for us. A pandemic appeared before long, followed by one the greatest labor challenges of my life. No regrets on the timing of the sale, other than to this day we miss many of the thousands of people that worked for us over time and made us
The surprise in this journey was that retirement did not bring a calendar free of obligations and commitments. It seems that I am busier than I have ever been in my life. I must do this and do that almost every day.
This past weekend, my wife and I enjoyed an extraordinary gymnastics meet while celebrating our 44th wedding anniversary, an SEC championship clinching basketball game, a baseball game, the dedication of the newly re-named Neville Arena, and a lunch with the Auburn Basketball Tip-Off Club. I joined a group of new friends for refreshments after their round of golf. I worked out at the gym with a trainer. We had dinner at “The Hound” with friends. And perhaps most significantly, we had communion with real bread shared amongst our fellow believers, for the first time since COVID.
During all this, I managed to take a two-and-a-half-hour nap on Sunday afternoon. It was a power nap in the greatest sense of the word. I earned it and enjoyed every minute of the deep rest.
I could go on and on about how busy our retired life has been. Regrets? Only the less frequent interaction of some of our great, great friends from Southwest Georgia. We miss you guys.
Surprises? The ease with which we have been able to meet people that share our goals and even our path. There is something special about sharing this stage of your life with people who have also recently retired and recently made physical moves in their lives.
Challenges? Trying to deal with a calendar every bit as busy as it was before I retired. Even more challenging is trying to deal with this busy calendar without the benefit of those that once managed my business life. A support staff is never more appreciated than when they are gone.
Conclusion? I understand better the retirements of my parents and grandparents. They all left great examples for Mary Lou and me to follow. Strive to enjoy every phase of your life as it evolves. Do not wait until tomorrow to do what you want to do today. Explore the world and learn from it.
The shorter the time until the end of my race, the faster I find myself running. Life’s adventures are still unfolding and offer new opportunities to be happy, live fully and share time with those I love. A full calendar in retirement is not a disappointment. It is a gift reminding me that while we are building new memories in the present we should continue to treasure the past and embrace the future.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org