published Sunday, May 20th, 2012

Galletta: Retirement can make you tired


by Jan Galletta

My nephew recently turned 27, and when I read over the note I'd written on his birthday card, it really made me feel like a fossil.

The letter to Ryan recounted the exciting routine my husband, Fred, and I have fallen into since retiring four years ago. It mentioned mornings in which we arrive as early birds to garage sales where we search for bargain-priced wares that younger sellers regard as obsolete -- items such as $1 VHS tapes, 50-cent grab bags of sewing notions and shoe-shine equipment that's often free for the taking.

It noted our noon-hour trips to fast-food restaurants that feature senior-discount meals and unlimited refills on no-cost soft drinks. It described afternoon naps we take, dozing off while watching pre-recorded TV shows that we taped because the programs originally aired after our 9 p.m. bedtimes.

Especially, the letter conveyed our health-care obsession. For example, I wrote that, just in the week before Ryan's birthday, Fred had visited different doctors for problems with flows, both urinary and circulatory. At one of these appointments, he told the nurse he needed a new prescription for "tiramisu," when he actually meant a medication called "Tamsulosin."

I penned a whole paragraph describing Fred's blue-light treatment for precancerous skin tissue, a protocol that had him walking around for a week in an oversized, Three-Musketeers hat, aviator sunglasses and nose-to-neck kerchiefs reminiscent of Michael Jackson's identity-disguising efforts.

The letter's only references to youth concerned Fred's and my granddaughter, age 4, and the two days a week we spend as her sitters. But I realized after I'd inked several preschooler anecdotes on the card that it's unlikely a 27-year-old bachelor with an important-sounding finance job in Washington, D.C., would be riveted by Soddy-Daisy, Tenn., kite-flying conditions or "Max and Ruby" cartoons.

So I was horrified when I reexamined this birthday-card recap. Like the lead character in "Fiddler on the Roof," I don't remember growing older, much less becoming a certifiable fogey.

Still, I have, literally, a body of evidence that proves it: aches and pains in anatomical parts I never used to know existed; an audible, disconcerting creak when I kneel; legs and arms that no longer cooperate on skipping, cartwheels or negotiating hopscotch squares.

It's not just physical infirmity that bespeaks Fred's and my geezerhood but our boring and increasingly more frequent predilection to play it safe.

About a year ago, we went a wimpier route on our investments and have watched our retirement money stagnate as the stock market has rebounded.

Last month, we spent a hefty sum undoing some supposed computer-security and acceleration measures that we got suckered into buying; we later learned that not only didn't we need them, but they'd actually slowed the machine's function to a pace that was even pokier than the people using it employed.

I should have asked Ryan's advice about computers and economics instead of snoozing him with all that golden-years trivia. But even without it, he would have known what an oldster I am; who else but a bonafide relic sends a snail-mail birthday card anymore?

But he's always been an accepting, nonjudgmental fellow who'll forgive me, I'm sure. Plus, maybe he'll sell my quaint outdated communique, via online auction along with similar artifacts that I happen to miss such as city directories, paper road maps and Kodachrome slides.

E-mail Jan Galletta at jangalletta@yahoo.com.

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