An open letter to those retiring from the workforce


James Overstreet

May the sun rise on your retirement every day with you feeling happy and healthy.

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
-Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption

As I write this column, my father, Mike Brasher, is exactly 160 days from his 65th birthday.

I know this because he keeps a running countdown and reminds me every time we talk how long it will be before he can finally retire from the job he’s worked for 41 years.

Those conversations should do nothing but fill my heart with joy. But as a classic glass-half-empty guy, they also cause me a little dread.

I’ve known lots of people who’ve counted the days to retirement — and some of them have lived many healthy, carefree years to enjoy it. But just as many, it seems, have fallen ill and become homebound (or worse) before they could truly cash in on the fruits of their labor.

I could gripe about that not being fair. But as a self-proclaimed “realist,” I’ve spent my whole life preaching how life’s not fair. 

Being loyal to one company for four decades, raising two children and always striving to be the best person you can be doesn’t guarantee you a thing in your older years.

Since I know griping doesn’t help, I also spend a lot of time praying that my dad will get the healthy years he’s earned during his retirement.

But again, I’ve lived long enough to know that God has His own plans — and no matter how much we pray, He always does what He knows is best.

“Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”
ountry music singer Garth Brooks 

With all of that in mind, I’m left simply with hope.

I hope my dad’s countdown ends with everything he’s dreamed of — which, by comparison to some folks’ dreams, wouldn’t be that much to ask.

He wants to spend more time fishing Lake Purdy — a tiny, little waterworks lake near his home that is only accessible by aluminum rental boat and is known more for panfish than anything else.

He wants to learn to fish a jerkbait, and he’s already got all of the tackle sitting at the ready.

He wants to catch more shellcracker — because, as he says, “Those things have to eat year-round, not just in the spring when they’re on the beds.”

He wants to make the same lasting impression on his grandchildren that his father, Clifford Brasher, made on my sister and me.

As a writer, it’s easy to dive into a piece like this believing you’re the only person on earth with these kinds of hopes and fears. But I know that’s not the case.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
-Desmond Tutu

Across the country right now, there are millions of Baby Boomers counting the days to a hard-earned retirement. Their successes — and perhaps to an even larger degree, their persistence through all of their failures — suggest they should be entitled to it.

But they’re not — and that creates worry.

So many of them sit wondering if Social Security will exist by the time their countdown ends. They wonder if Social Security, combined with the little extra they’ve set aside, will be enough to keep food on the table — much less make their retirement dreams come true.

That’s not fair. But like I said, life as a whole isn’t fair.

If you fall into that category — if you’ve got your own clock ticking down toward an uncertain ending — I’ll make a deal with you:

If you’ll stop worrying, I will too.

“Worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum.”
-writer Mary Schmich 

I want my dad to catch every last fish in that little waterworks lake. I want him to be an expert with a jerkbait, and I want my kids to spend quality time with him when he hasn’t just worked five weekends in a row.

Likewise, I want all of your riverbank, reservoir and oceanic dreams to come true.

I pray that God is on board with every bit of it.

But most of all… 

“I hope.”
-Ellis Redding, The Shawshank Redemption

Editor’s note: This piece was written in the signature style of longtime columnist Don Barone, who himself is counting the days toward a well-deserved retirement.