Eye on the Ball: Making these years the best years

How many times have you retired folks been asked: “How do you like the retirement life?”

During my life, I thought someday it would be great to wake up every morning and have the option to do anything I wanted for that day. Now, I realize, as nice as that sounds, we human beings are not wired that way.

Now that I’ve been put out to pasture from my life’s profession for almost 10 years, I see things differently. Retirement, like everything in life, has some good points and equally, some bad points. To begin, I really don’t like getting up in the morning with nothing to do.

I want to get up in the morning and enthusiastically do something good for others. I want to contribute something. I want to help make people enjoy their lives a little more. Right or wrong, I think I am doing all right. In this column, I’d like to add my two cents to all the advice you’ve received about retirement.

Since I was a 15-year-old boy, I dreamed of being a golf professional, the epitome of success for me. I was lucky I attained my goal early and became a pro as a 20-year-old kid. At that time, I was one of the youngest in the country.

A question I usually am asked is: “Why don’t you play a lot of golf anymore?”

I usually answer that my game is so bad I don’t enjoy it. That’s a partial truth, but not the real reason.

When you’re my age and have done the same thing for the last 60 years, you yearn to do something different. You wonder: What has everyone else been doing all these years? For over 50 years I’ve reported to the golf course early each morning and stayed until dark each day. I never knew what other people were doing, but I didn’t complain because I loved my job. Given the chance, I would do it all again.

In search for something different, since slowing down from the golf world, I’ve tried a myriad of new things. I didn’t give up my first and main love, which is golf, but I did branch out a bit.

I still teach and play golf, but not as much as I used to. That was always my favorite part of the business. Today, along the same lines, I also coach and love teaching the Shelter Island varsity golf team at the school.

For a different kind of fun, for the past 10 years I’ve written this column for the Reporter. I try to mix up things to talk about, but rarely about golf. I seem to get most compliments when I simply write about life. I like to sit and think about what’s happening as the years pass. Many of the things that I do and say were told to me when I was younger.

But of course, I didn’t listen.

My favorite games are always games that everybody can play no matter the age or gender, a game you don’t have to spend hours practicing to play well and have a good time. I fell into a slot of running “Team Trivia” contests here on Shelter Island and in Southampton. I like the game played with four-person teams, and questions that the winning team will need to have 85 to 90% of the correct answers. I like questions that you should care about, and know the answers, but need a discussion to come up with them.

Although a golfer, I enjoy being an announcer at our Bucks baseball games. To make a dollar, I have even signed on to hold the door at funerals. Somehow, it all seems to work out and I keep busy.

Every morning you can find me sitting outside STARS Café having coffee. I like this because I’m with boating people. After sitting all my life with golfers, this is a welcome change.

I found out that they love their sport the same as golfers love golf.

Most of my lunches are spent at the Islander, where I get a chance to see and talk to many local folks. They live so differently from the city folk. They aren’t lacking in finding fun from the simple things in life — just as much fun on half the budget.

My biggest change came when I didn’t change my lifestyle during my first years of retirement. One day, my wife informed me that I was having a ball, but we didn’t have any money. I discovered that money was going out and nothing was coming in. Scared that I would lose my home and have to move off Shelter Island, her statement made me make the biggest lifestyle change of all.

I became a local real estate agent. It didn’t take long to find out that this is not an easy thing to do. Passing the test was no bed of roses for a guy who only knew one thing his entire life. I knew nothing about real estate and almost walked away and gave up trying a few times. Now the real estate part of my life takes up most of my time, but it keeps my head above water.

This was never my idea of retirement.

I love my life today and am enjoying seeing it from a different perspective. I believe you will also love it if you follow some simple rules. Stay active and healthy. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Take pleasure out of ordinary events. Fill your heart with love. It is never too late to find your dream. And have enough money to make these years, your best years.