Advice for a Retiring Parent

My father retires in exactly 14 days. I know this because he’s been counting down with vivid milestone charts for the last two years. After a long and dedicated career in education, most recently as President of International School Services, to say my father is looking forward to having nothing to do, no planes to catch, no long term obligations is an understatement. But after a few weeks I know he’ll be itching for new adventures.

While I hear that Sudoku can become addictive, and that Sony has come out with a brain stimulating game for the Nintendo DS I have a hard time picturing my father doing either of those things. So here are some other ideas that can keep his mind fresh and spirit young.

1. Embarrass Your Children – My father has a jump start on this fun activity. For years he’s been perfecting the fine art of telling embarrassing stories about my sister and I. In fact, he still brings out the tried and true tale of how I got stuck on a moving sidewalk at the ripe old age of three. Its time to step it up a notch. Now he can make an art of embarrassing the grandchildren. You know do things like show up at their baseball matches wearing a Yankees hat (you should know my children are die hard members of Red Sox Nation).

2. Shamelessly Flirt With 22 Year Old Waitresses – You might want to wait to turn 75 before engaging in this particular activity. That seems to be the turning point when flirting goes from creepy to just embarrassing. Oh, and I reserve this activity for lunches alone when your wife is no where in sight.

3. Take Up a Hobby – I have a hard time picturing my father doing the usual gardening, book club or drinking at the local Chinese restaurant bar. Instead I think he should take up gambling. Not the kind that will wile away my potential inheritance. But perhaps a lottery obsession that gives him something to look forward to during the nightly news. And maybe even the occasional bus trip to Foxwoods.

4. Master the Email Forwarding Technique – There is a lot written about the impact of the Internet on teenagers and young adults. We read about how growing generations of texters, bloggers and Hulu watchers need constant stimulation. What’s often overlooked is the ways the Internet has effected our retired community. I like to call it Email Forwarding Syndrome (EFS). With hours of free time retired family members comb through jokes, cartoons and articles that their friends who have an equal amount of spare time collect. Unfortunately, most retires just forward, the forward, of the forward from a friend who forwarded the email. After scrolling through 15 forward messages you get to a joke that could never live up to the anticipation of so much scrolling. If you must get EFS try to limit it to just three forwards a day.

5. Obsessively Watch the Home Shopping Network – Home to thousands of odd holiday presents your family couldn’t possibly want. By obsessing about the HSN you can spend hours imagining our faces when we open our pineapple scented back scratchers and politely exclaim “oh, you shouldn’t have”, secretly smiling with the knowledge that we have to be polite. And this activity comes with a bonus. You get to play lonely old man for the UPS delivery person who must politely hear all those embarrassing stories about your children while you sign for delivery. Because of course, you mark “signature required” for every item ordered.

6. Take Long Walks – Apparently going to the mall an hour before stores open and doing laps is all the rage for pregnant women and retirees. Just don’t forget your water. It sells for $2.50/bottle in the vending machines.

On a serious note, I couldn’t be happier that my father is retiring. He will be able to attend every Sunday dinner. We’ll get our father/daughter breakfasts more than once every two years. And he can finally spend relaxed time with my mother. They both deserve it. And if he should get bored of having nothing to do he knows he can fall back on the six activities listed above.