Today — February 4, 2011 — I turn age 65. It’s the magic age  for traditional  retirement.  Medicare officially began February 1, but how do I really understand the boatload of Medicare paper and propaganda that I have been mailed to read and digest?  Minutes ago, I got another phone call to see if I had signed up yet. Certainly, the caller was willing to enlist me in her program.

I began getting Social Security last April even though I am part of the group to wait until age 66.   We born after January 1, 1946 and through 1964 are that huge crop of baby boomers who were suppose to drain the Social Security fund and accelerate the exhaustion of all entitlement programs if you listen to the sky-is-falling conservatives.

My mother retired as a school nurse in the months after she turned 65. She lived to age 87, taken out by ovarian cancer. Well after age 65, my father kept on farming the fields of Iowa, but he would reduce that and let others till his fields and finally rent them on his way to living to age 92 and dying in Arizona. 

I worked full time under five newspaper ownerships from 1972 to 2009. Two were outstanding, two were abominable and the other was just weird. I soon will begin collecting pensions from all of them — the amounts based largely on how long they owned the newspapers.  The pension industry has been unreliable for so many retirees, so I have my fingers crossed that the managers of my pensions don’t mismanage funds, steal them or let some predator company slip in and destroy everything for their gain.  Greed and opportunity drive  many who oversee the monies of others.

I had always thought I would retire on or around June 17, 2012. That would have been my 40th anniversary in full time daily work. After I received my master’s degree in journalim from the Medill School of  Journalism in June 1972 and began working for the Waterloo (Iowa) Daily Courier as a police and courthouse reporter.  But when the owners of the  East Valley Tribune responded in 2008 to dwindling advertising, circulation and heavy debts, most of us were sent out the door in layoffs.  Our last day was January 3, 2009.   Amazingly, the Tribune was sold at the 11th hour to avoid a complete shutdown. It  subsequently reinvented itself as a free, three-day-per-week tabloid with a lean staff.

Now two quick years later, I have gotten into the “semi-retirement” groove — doing free-lance writing, ratcheting up my community service work and meeting a heavy schedule of  watching a grandson with developmental challenges.  As many who end doing  full-time work, voluntarily or involuntarily, I echo those who wonder how they ever found time for a professional job.   Of course, it is the phenomenon that there can be no vacuum — and matters quickly rush in to fill any “free” time.

I have enjoyed the time and the freedom to pursue human justice causes and to go to more daytime meetings without worring about a office job.  Alas, a have  a batch of  daunting writing assignments — large and small — that sit waiting for time to get them done.  The several books incubating inside me for time to write seem more and more remote.

Like so many, I wonder whether have another quarter century as my father had at this point in his life — or notably less.  I need to sort and toss from many spaces and clean filing cabinets and drawers, lest someone else is someday tasked with that.  I long to travel to see more of the world.

Today I am 65.  I have lived longer than 12 of the 43 men to serve as American presidents. I still have great health and family, a house paid for, important community and church responsibilities, no car payments, a cemetery plot paid for in Tempe and always the Arizona sun to enjoy.  I have lived a charmed life with much to be proud of.  So I look beyond today’s milestone, always knowing it has been a fulfilled life with meaning and adventure and great, great people around me.  

 By 5:30 p.m., I had 110 Facebook Happy Birthday greetings. I am most grateful.