Jack and I were talking about the perils of being retired. On the whole we agreed that being retired was very nice. Jack does a fair bit of travelling, I always have lots of projects to occupy me, although I have trouble finishing them. We both have enough income to keep us reasonably comfortable ... within limits. But we still face a dilemma: on the one hand we can spend whatever we have on ourselves; on the other we'd like to leave as much as possible to our children. The problem lies in deciding how much to provide for each option, I guess.
Jack has accused me of being a bit stingy; I rebutted by reminding him that I have six children, while he has only two. Besides, his don't make any claims on him, while at least some of my descendants still have a firm grip on my wallet. So naturally I have to be more careful.
Next we got on the topic of what we still wanted to do or have in the remaining years of our life. What did we REALLY want?
Jack, who has visited many far-off lands, said: "I want to travel. I haven't spent much time in Africa. And there are parts of South America I've never visited. How about you?"
I said: "I've pretty much done all the travelling I ever wanted to. Long before I retired, I had planned to take a one-time trip around the world with Jennifer, visiting all those places I'd often heard about: Jerusalem, the pyramids, sun-up on the Ganges in India, the Great Wall of China, the temples of Bali, but now ... I don't know. Half those places are unsafe on account of terrorists, the other half has that chicken disease. It just isn't worth the trouble anymore."
Jack said: "So what else do you want to do then?"
I said: "Actually, the only thing I really want now is a good piano."
Jack said: "But you have a piano."
I said: "Yeah, but it's an old one. An Mason and Riche upright grand I got for $25 in 1961, when the Happy Wanderers moved into television. It wasn't well taken care of then, and it hasn't got any better over the years -- the sound board has shrunk a bit and the pegs have become a little loose. Three weeks after I have it tuned, some of the strings start going off-key. It's given me 45 years of good service, but it's had its day. I need a new one, but a good acoustic piano is far too expensive."
"So you're going to invest in an electronic one," said Jack.
I said "Yes. I've looked around and found one that is very good, a KAWAI, with weighted keys -- only ha-ha $6000."
Jack said: "So why haven't you bought it yet."
I said: "$6000 is a lot of money, and if I slap that on my credit card, I'd be paying a lot of interest over the long run. You have to think of those things.
"Well," said Jack: "You also have to think of the fact that you're going to be dead one of these days, and then you won't be able to play the piano at all."
"I know," I said, and pointed up, "but I'll be playing a harp."
"Or," said Jack, pointing down, "the bagpipes!"
Sjef Frenken is a renaissance man: thinker, writer, translator and composer of much music. A main interest, he has many, is setting to music the poetry, written for children, during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Nimble of mind, Sjef is a youthful retiree and a great-grandfather. Mostly he's a content man, which facilitates his relentless multi-media creativity.
Click above to tell a friend about this article.