Is Retirement Over-rated?


Retoolment: A Real Word?

We work towards retirement like it’s a state of utopia. All our lives we save so we can retire and live happily ever after. What if I say that instead of chasing the retirement dream, we look forward to RETOOLMENT. Don’t bother looking up the dictionary for the word—I made it up.

Why Retire If You Can Retool

The word RETOOL is defined as “to reorganize or rearrange, usually for the purpose of updating.” If you retire without any new purpose, what’s going to happen? You’ll travel, you say. Right, for how long and have you saved enough to travel endlessly? And if you did, don’t you think you’ll be tired of the gypsy life after a while? What else are you going to do when you retire? Look after the grandkids, play bridge with your buddies, go to the gym…where’s the purpose?

So I’ve decided that the best way to look at retirement is not take the word literally. You retool. You learn to do things you’ve always wanted to do but denied yourself because life got in the way. You need a whole new bag of tools because your career may have ended, but a new life-calling is about to begin. You need to know how to go about living that new life.

I’m Doing It, You Can Too

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but the average writer doesn’t make enough to live on. So I climbed—perhaps clambered sometimes—up the corporate ladder to clothe, feed and educate our boys, and to save for the ultimate retirement. A few years ago, the light bulb flickered first, and then shone bright after lots of kicking around in my head and soul searching. I came to the realization that retirement is the wrong word. I’m not ready to retire and drift with whatever tide comes my way. During my RETOOLMENT years, I will have a new bag of tools. I want a new purpose and continue to wake up every morning ready to tackle my day using my new toolkit.


Just Call Me John


Chris sprinted up the stairs and exited the subway station. He paused, turned his head one way and then another with a frown on his handsome young face. His ears strained to hear the usual melodious guitar rhythm. But nothing interrupted the hum of the rush hour traffic.

Chris rounded the corner. There he was, John, his homeless friend and his border collie, Buddy. He exhaled a white misty breath. Since he began working at Wishing Star, he’d seen John and Buddy at this same spot every morning.

“Hey there, where’s your guitar?” Chris handed John a muffin in a brown paper bag and a cup of coffee—their Tuesday morning routine. Then he rubbed Buddy’s furry neck. The dog nuzzled its snout against his legs as it swished its tail.

“My guitar was stolen last night.”

“Shucks…that’s too bad. How did it happen?”

“It was my own fault. I left it outside the men’s washrooms at Union Station for a few minutes.”

“That sucks. Is there anything I can do to help you?”

John’s face clouded. “Nah, it’s not the worst thing that’s happened to me.”

“This place doesn’t feel or sound the same without your music. Why don’t you borrow my guitar while we figure out how to replace yours?”

John’s eyes shone bright. “You would do that for me?” His voice quivered.

Red faced, Chris said, “Aw, it’s nothing. You’re special and you need the instrument more than I do.”

Yes, John was no ordinary panhandler. Passersby stopped to watch his fingers dance and pick the strings, coaxing out heart-warming melodies. When they dropped a coin or a note for him, it was paltry exchange for the glow in their hearts.

“Thanks, kiddo. Let me know what I can do to repay you for all you’ve done.”

Chris shrugged and waved. “Don’t mention it. I’ll see you tomorrow.” His footsteps crunched leaving a trail of imprints on the fresh, white snow.

These meetings began a year ago on a morning like this one when Chris felt a tug at his jeans. He looked down and gazed into Buddy’s limpid eyes. The canine nuzzled its snout into his leg with dogged insistence until he realized that he was meant to follow. He discovered John, half prone on the pavement, and propped against a wall, coughing and wheezing. Quickly Chris hailed a cab and accompanied them to the nearest hospital where he checked John in. A few days later, John and Buddy were back on the pavement, the gentle hobo strumming the most melancholic tune that twisted and stirred Chris’ heart like no words could. Since then Chris always stopped to chat, and a friendship blossomed.


The next day Chris rounded the same corner. John and Buddy were nowhere in sight. He tightened the grip on his guitar. A chill snaked down his back…it had nothing to do with the January air nipping at his face. A bone-chilling gust whipped up a stray paper food-wrap, tossing it around before depositing it at the spot where John and Buddy should have been. He breathed in deeply. John was probably heeding the cold weather warnings. Where would that be for a homeless man? John never spoke about himself. He once mentioned his family in the past tense during a momentary lapse.

Another morning passed and still no John or Buddy. Late that afternoon Chris’ cell phone vibrated in his trouser pocket. He watched the unknown number glowing in his palm before answering.

“Is this Christopher Hughson?” a deep voice asked.

“Yes, this is Chris.”

“My name is Aaron Silverberg. I’m calling about John Evan?”

“Who’s he? I don’t know anyone by that name.”

“Perhaps he went by another name. John preferred to be anonymous most of the time. He has a border collie, Buddy. They’re inseparable.”

“Oh, that John. Is everything alright?”

Silence. “John died two days ago.”

Chris closed his eyes. When he opened them, he stared at a cartoon on his desk with unseeing eyes. “How did this happen?”

“John was walking Buddy when a driver mounted the curb plowing into both of them. Miraculously, Buddy escaped, but John died on the scene.”

“Can you tell me again who you are and how you are related to John?”

“Aaron Silverberg of Silverberg and Partners. I’m John’s lawyer.”

“John has a lawyer?”

“John probably didn’t tell you much about himself. Can we meet sometime tomorrow in my office?”

“I don’t understand. I knew John as a homeless man, at least that’s what I thought. Why would a lawyer want to meet with me and tell me things about John?”

“You are named on his will.”

Chris’ jaws dropped. Not only did John have a lawyer, but he also had a will. “Hey, Mister, I don’t know what game you’re playing, but I’m not falling for it.”

“I can assure you that this is not a joke. I’m not in the habit of calling up people to pull such a distasteful prank.” Chris heard the stiffness in Aaron’s tone.

“Uh, sorry.”

“So can you meet me tomorrow?”

“Okay,” Chris muttered. He grabbed a pen and scribbled as Aaron called out the address. When the call ended, he clasped his fingers behind his head and rocked his chair back and forth.

“Slacking off, Chris?”

Chris turned towards the intruder. “Bob, you know the homeless man I’ve been talking to for the last year or so? I just found out that he was killed in an accident.”

“Oh, bummer. Weren’t you trying to raise money to replace his guitar?”

“Yes, that’s not all. I just finished talking to his lawyer.”

Bob lifted an eyebrow. “A homeless man with a lawyer? I’ve heard stories about panhandlers who make a lot of money pretending to be poor. Then they go home to their big screen TV at the end of the day.”

“John’s not like that. He never asked for money. People just assumed that he needed it and dropped spare change on the floor in front of him.”

“Lawyers don’t come cheap. He must have made quite a lot of money.” Bob snickered.

“I’m really bummed out by his death.”


Early next morning, Chris entered Silverberg and Partner’s office. His sneakers sank noiselessly into the carpet as he approached the receptionist who peered at him behind black-rimmed glasses.

“Christopher Hughson to see Aaron Silverberg.”

“Take a seat right there while I call Marsha.”

Chris chose a black leather couch facing the double glass-paneled doorway. A few minutes later, a silver-haired woman in a black skirt-suit emerged. “Christopher Hughson? Follow me, please.”

Marsha led Chris to an office a few doors down the hallway. A black-suited man behind the dark mahogany desk raised his head as Marsha knocked. He gazed at them behind two neat piles—tan file folders stacked about a foot high beside two large bound books. He closed a binder, rose to his feet and came around the desk with an extended hand.

“So glad you could make it here. I’ve heard a great deal about you from John.” Aaron’s mouth lifted at the corners.

“Pleased to meet you too, Sir,” Chris said as they shook hands.

Aaron gestured toward one of the two visitor’s chairs. “You’re probably wondering why I’ve asked to see you.”

Chris shrugged self-consciously.

“John changed his will a few months before he died. He used to own a thriving business. Our firm has handled John’s legal matters for a long time. When his wife and only son died in an airplane that his son was piloting a couple of years ago, he was devastated. After selling his business he took to the streets, often sleeping there because he couldn’t bear to go home and be alone.”

“No wonder he didn’t seem like an ordinary panhandler. And yet, he didn’t turn down the money people gave him.” Chris said.

“Ah, the money he earned performing on the streets. John gave all that to charity. He never kept any of it. He loved that you brought him breakfast,” Aaron said.

“I thought he was homeless.”

“It was just like John to keep up the charade. He appreciated your friendship especially because you didn’t judge him. He has willed you something.”

Chris’ eyes widened. “Why? He doesn’t owe me anything.”

“No, he doesn’t, but he thought highly of you. He wants you to look after Buddy.”

“I’m flattered that he would trust me with Buddy.” Chris had considered adopting a dog. He had mentioned it to John once.

“There’s more.” Aaron cleared his throat. “John has left you a million dollars for the studio you’ve been dreaming of starting. His only condition is that you treat Buddy well.”

Chris expelled a deep breath. He gulped hard and opened his mouth. But only a strangled sound escaped.

Aaron’s eyes twinkled as he said, “Sometimes I understand silence better than words.”

The End

Ten Indications That You Can Be A Novelist


Do You Have What It Takes to be a Novelist? I never thought the day would come when I would proudly claim to have completed a novel, let alone find a publisher too. If you’ve dipped a toe into the pool, and are still not quite sure whether to go all the way or not, then check yourself against these indicators. If you agree with more than half, then start writing like I did.

1. You have a story bursting to be told.

It’s been stewing in your head for a long time. You’re convinced that you have an interesting story. In fact, you may even have bounced the idea against a friend or a family member, and they agree with you.

2. You read a novel and you say to yourself, “I could have done better.”

The plot doesn’t seem credible. You can’t connect with the main characters.

3. A short story just doesn’t satisfy you anymore.

When you finish writing a short story, your work feels incomplete. You no longer feel a sense of accomplishment like you used to.

4. Your characters cry out for more.

The characters live in your head begging you for more air-time. You can’t do them justice with two or three thousand words.

5. You want to paint on a bigger canvas.

More scenes, more settings. Your characters live in places and spaces that you want to bring to life for the readers.

6. The power to play god gives you a head-rush.

You have complete autonomy over your characters. When your novel starts to fizzle, you can kill one of them. You throw your hero another challenge because you can.

7. You seek free therapy.

When you write from the heart, you save on expensive psycho-analysis. You get to imbue your characters with traits that you love or hate. Some of your good or bad experiences get embellished in your plot. It’s a cathartic journey.

8. You can’t wait to put your butt down and write.

Once you’ve started your novel, every half-hour chunk of free time turns into an opportunity to crack open your laptop because you can’t help yourself.

9. Even when you don’t want to, you drop that butt down and do it anyway.

That’s when you know you’ve become a serious writer. If you didn’t write, you’d feel awful for the rest of the day.

10. You want to give your family bragging rights.

What a glorious feeling when you complete your novel, but even greater when your friends and family want to brag about your accomplishment.