Lori Borgman: Retirement bliss can be hit and miss

Our youngest was the ripe age of 9 when she tacked a brochure, which she had pulled off a display rack at our neighborhood pharmacy, to her bulletin board. It pictured a smiling white-haired couple beside a headline that read: “Retirement: The Golden Years.”

When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, for months and months, possibly years, perhaps even on her college applications, she would answer, “Retired.”

Naturally, this was disconcerting not to mention somewhat embarrassing. Silly us, we had numerous ideas for her immediate future, none of which included walking hand-in-hand on the beach at sunset with an elderly white-haired man in need of a hip replacement.

The brochure painted a rosy — extremely rosy — picture of retirement that focused heavily on the social aspects, primarily the togetherness of a couple enjoying one another’s company, traveling together, playing golf together, sailing together, bicycling together, dining in vineyards together, climbing Mt. Everest together, sitting on a dock dangling their feet in the water together and enjoying hot air balloon rides together.

Clearly, the couple on the brochure had invested well.

There was no mention of doctor appointments, cholesterol levels, blood pressure diaries, reading glasses, hair loss, joint pain, fallen arches, cardiac stress tests or how navigating health insurance, finances and taxes all become tantamount to an extremely frustrating part-time job.

In part, the brochure was correct: The upside of retirement is that couples can spend more time together. What the brochure neglected to say was that the upside can also have a downside.

Several years ago, a friend called and said, “I’m at the grocery store. Alone.”

“So?” I said.

“So?” she snapped. “It’s the first time I’ve been to the grocery alone in six months since my husband retired.”

Another woman said her recently retired husband was driving her nuts. Asked how, she said, “With all that clicking he does on his computer keyboard.”

Some have a lower tolerance for pain than others.

The old saying, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” may have been written by a retiree.

Years ago, an older gentleman who was retired told me that he was a night owl who slept in every morning and that his wife was a morning person awake at the crack of dawn. “It’s the secret to our happy marriage in retirement,” he said.

How much togetherness is too much togetherness?

I couldn’t tell you. Every couple must figure that out for themselves.

What I can tell you is that it is 10 a.m. and my better half is still sleeping.

Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Reach her at [email protected].