Disclaimer: I only lasted 18 months in full retirement.
Background: February, 2012. I survived surgery to remove a tumor in my ethmoid sinus, only to receive a diagnosis that I had IgG4 Related Disease. This exotic illness had only had a name, in the US, for about a week before my surgery. We were living in Los Angeles and I was very actively engaged as the CEO for a major Boy Scout council. My work weeks had averaged 60 hours plus for the past 40 years. I was on track to retire at age 65, which was two years away. Dealing with this diagnosis required 7 specialists at USC Hospital, and I kept 40 medical appointments in two months. It was apparent to my wife and me that my new full time job was battling a disease. With some difficulty, I convinced my Board Chair that I needed to retire now. We reached agreement on April 15th, and two weeks later I was retired.
We decided to stay in Los Angeles til year-end. I needed my doctors, my wife had volunteer commitments to complete, and our lease would have to be paid til November either way. So we did medical stuff, a little tourist stuff, and tried to figure out what would come next. I was accepted in a clinical trial at Mass General in Boston, and received infusions (AKA chemo) that knocked the disease down. With that came a plan to monitor the disease, visit Boston for specialized blood tests every six months, and get future infusions as needed. Next came the question of where to live. We had bought a lovely acre on Tablerock Lake outside Eureka Springs, intending to build a timber frame home and live out our lives in the Ozarks. The doctors quickly scuttled that plan as I would be too far from a teaching hospital, and it turns out they were completely right.
Our favorite “duty station” had always been Oklahoma City, among the nine places we had lived. The people here demonstrated their unique and special nature in many ways, especially their response to the Murrah Building bombing and the F5 tornado, and we wanted to live among people with that strength of character. Our daughter was living in Edmond and our son in Dallas. So we would be near them and their spouses and our grandsons, the first of whom was born amidst my February surgery. We chose a realtor and began searching on the internet, flying out to OKC, and seeing all our favorite houses snatched up by Boeing transfers. We finally decided to build, bought a wooded half acre in The Villages at Coffee Creek, and chose a builder. In November we leased an apartment near our homesite, had our belongings moved to storage, and drove our motor home and car to Oklahoma. We spent the next year building our house and moved in just before Thanksgiving in 2013.
While building the house, we established a church home, found doctors, a dentist, and all the other bits and pieces we’d done so many times before as we moved around the country. I rejoined Rotary, my wife rejoined Sweet Adelines and began serving on the Orchestra League board, and we relished being close enough to see our grandson in Dallas monthly. And I started volunteering as a coach and consultant with ESCCO, the Executive Service Corps. One day, 18 months into retirement, I got a call from ESCCO’s Board Chair. Their Executive Director was leaving to take on a major responsibility, and would I like to talk with them about that position? Three days a week, I am CEO of a nonprofit, and four days a week, I am a retiree. And I am always Pops to grandson Max, in Dallas, and grandson Cresten, in Edmond!
- You may think you have your retirement plans all sorted out, but sometimes they change.
- If you have health issues, you must become your own care manager.
- If you are used to doing something meaningful, you will not feel right without it.
- You can retire from something, but you need to retire to something for it to work.
- Don’t wait too long to do those bucket list items; some of them require strength and intellect.
- Trust in the Lord.
- Take care of your body.
- Take care of your mind.
- Enjoy our family, probably from a new perspective.
- Time flies. Five years have gone by in the blink of an eye!
If you are retired or getting close, I can help you with items 3 and 4. Lots of your fellow Rotarians are ESCCO consultants, and doing things that matter for organizations that make this a great place to live.