One of the features of being an active baby boomer is drawing a comparison to our parents and how they lived when they were our age. The simple answer is, different. For the most part, they lived by the calendar and when it said they were old, well, they turned old. We feel different, and live a different way. Here’s a short excerpt from a new book by Boyd Lemon about the difference between his father, and him. The book is called, “Retirement: A Memoir and Guide.”
I sat in my beach chair a hundred steps from my front door, fine, cream colored sand caressing the bottoms of my feet. My field of vision drifted from the stark silhouette of Anacapa to the purplish browns of Santa Cruz, two of the Channel Islands off the coast of California, 70 miles northwest of Los Angeles. I was officially in the city of Oxnard, an ugly name that fails to hint at this serene beauty in a neighborhood that hadn’t been discovered by the hoards from Los Angeles. Serene as it was and despite the loosening warmth of a half-imbibed gin Martini in my right hand, I felt a tightness in the pit of my stomach that radiated up to my chest. I was almost 63 and contemplating my future retirement.
I visualized my father 40 years earlier sitting in his forest green easy chair in the living room of my childhood home as I studied a book on torts during my first year of law school. The Herald Express, an evening paper that he had read six evenings a week since I could remember, was in his lap, still folded up. He stared into the space between him and the front window. After working for the Southern California Edison Company for 35 years, Dad had grudgingly retired at the mandatory age of 65. Three years later he had developed no interests except horse racing and poker. Once in a while he went to the horse races at Santa Anita or the poker parlors in Gardena, but he did not have the retirement income to go often. Mom had told me that she was worried about him. “He just mopes around the house,” she said.
A few days later I was in my bedroom putting on a clean shirt before leaving to visit my girl friend. Dad’s bedroom door, across the hall from mine, was partly open. I saw him reach into his dresser drawer, pull out a whiskey bottle, unscrew the cap and take a long swallow. It was ten in the morning. I had never seen my father take one sip of an alcoholic beverage. I turned my head away. I didn’t want him to know that I saw, and I never told my mother. Less than a year later he died. I didn’t realize then that in his misery Dad had done me a big favor.