It’s not an ugly word, Ernest

Illustrative. (iStock)
Illustrative. (iStock)

I’m sitting at my home computer on Tuesday morning, putting the finishing touches on this column. It’s not a holiday or a snow day. The office isn’t closed, there’s no backup in the tunnel, and no, I’m not sick, babysitting for grandkids, or playing hooky.

One word answer: retirement.

Not surprisingly, the question I’ve been asked most about my retirement (which became effective as of January 1st) is what are you going to do now? Well, before I try to answer that question, or better, before I grapple with it because it’s too soon for any concrete answers, let me first tell you what I’m not going to do.

I’m not going to commute. Over the last 46-plus years, I’ve commuted on the number 5 bus on Riverside Drive across from my Manhattan apartment and the number 1 subway (which, to my daughters’ dismay, I still refer to as the IRT) a few short blocks away on Broadway (not too bad other than the rampant graffiti, inoperable subway doors, buses arriving in herds, and unexplained train delays — no, traffic ahead is not really an excuse); in various Teaneck carpools (worse than the bus or subway not only because of distance and time but also because the GWB or the Lincoln Tunnel helix are involved); and, God help me, on NJ Transit or Red & Tan buses from Route 4 (don’t ask). Taking the A train and the Route 4 jitney was a bit better, but only a bit.

I’m not going to get up at 5:50 a.m. to be on time for my most recent carpool, which, even though it arrived in the city long before I had to be at my desk, I was grateful to be in because it meant I didn’t have to take the bus (see the preceding paragraph). Don’t get me wrong. This carpool — indeed, all my numerous carpools over the years — were filled with friendly and interesting people who were just the right company to start the day with. But I would have preferred getting together with them at Lazy Bean or around a Shabbat table rather than sitting in yet another back-up on the bridge because there was an accident on the Cross Bronx. (Oh, how I hate Robert Moses.)

I’m not going to wake up on Monday morning feeling angst in the pit of my stomach, because I know the week will be filled with difficult contract negotiations; unpleasant dealings with other lawyers who believe that agreeing to anything, no matter how reasonable, is a show of weakness; impossible-to-meet deadlines, or court appearances before judges who haven’t read the papers but take enjoyment in making life difficult for the lawyers appearing before them.

Of course, not all negotiations were difficult, lawyers unpleasant, deadlines tight, or judges unreasonable. But enough were over the years to make too many Monday mornings a struggle to get out of bed.

So what will I do? (Note: From here until the end of this column, “I’ll do X” should be read as “I’ll try to do X” or “I’m thinking of doing X.”)

I’ll travel. In fact, we’re off to Israel for three weeks to celebrate a family wedding. Three weeks! Our last three-week vacation was in August 1971, after the bar exam and just before I started my first job. Mt. Rushmore and the Grand Canyon also are high up on my list, as are some relatively new New York City highlights, like the Second Avenue subway, the Highline, Hudson Yards, and the 9/11 museum, none of which I’ve been to yet.

I’ll take some courses and shiurim. I have my eye on an online course about Jewish Ideas and the American Founders and a live course on Business and Jewish Law. Shiurim? Still thinking.

I’ll plow through the piled-up backlog of New York Times’ extra sections (and try to keep up to date once I return from Israel), and get to some of the many books and articles I’ve been meaning to get to for years.

I’ll try to increase my attendance at morning minyan a bit. (Since my attendance has been nil for a long time, increasing it is not a very high bar.)

I’ll visit my daughter, son-in-law, and three adorable grandchildren in Toronto more often. And it won’t have to be only on a holiday weekend where I take Thursday as a vacation day and need to leave on the morning of the Monday holiday. Just hoping we won’t wear out our welcome.

I’ll learn how to really use my computer, iPhone, and — my retirement present from my firm and much better than a gold watch — new iPad Pro.

I’ll exercise more. In fact, I’ve finally been able to put my Teaneck tax dollars to use by signing up for a men’s fitness class at the Teaneck senior center. And walking every day will be built-in time for me to keep up with my audiobooks.

I’ll go to matinees of Broadway shows and local movies — especially the ones with really good senior discounts. And probably get Netflix, so I finally can watch House of Cards and the Crown.

I’ll write a bit more for the Jewish Standard (with the editor’s permission, of course) [ED NOTE —You’ve got it!], and take some serious steps to try to find a publisher for my book containing my pre-Jewish Standard articles and personal musings and reflections.

I’ll organize my closet, the books in our library, and the thousands of pictures on my computer — albums of grandkids coming up.

I’ll volunteer more in an attempt to repay the community and organizations that my family has benefited from over the years.

But mostly, for the first six months or so, I intend to relax and decompress; to enjoy the freedom and flexibility of doing things on the spur of the moment, to appreciate some of what I’ve overlooked in the hustle and bustle of a working life, and sometimes to do nothing at all — if I can figure out how. But also to think seriously about what I’m really going to do now that I’m retired. Your suggestions are welcome (you can post them as comments to this column), and now I have plenty of time to read them all.

About the Author
Joseph C. Kaplan, a regular columnist for the Jewish Standard, is the author of “A Passionate Writing Life: From ‘In my Opinion’ to ‘I’ve Been Thinking’” (available at Teaneck's Judaica House and its website). A retired lawyer and long-time resident of Teaneck with his wife Sharon, they’ve been blessed with four wonderful daughters and five delicious grandchildren.
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