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Retirement Living Doesn't Mean Packing It In

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Every day -- like a mantra -- I say to myself, "I'm 85." I'm 85, I'm 85, I'm 85. Why do I do that? I never thought to myself, I'm 12 -- or 35, or 64, or even 80. What I figure is that now I am greatly defined by my age. At other ages I was defined by what I did. Schoolboy, father, husband, stockbroker, writer. Now, if there was only one thing you could know about me -- just one -- I would choose that you know I'm 85. Maybe I need to remind myself that I'm an old man because many aspects of my retirement living are not dissimilar from when I was younger. I could think I was 50 and it wouldn't be the truth.

Health? Good. It's possible cancer is lurking somewhere, but I will not go looking for it. I have given up annual checkups and colonoscopies. About 10 years ago, after a stress test that showed blockage, I was given a stent. Because of the stent I had to take Plavix, a blood thinner that was added to my daily aspirin. I bled at the slightest brush or bump, often unaware. Woe to the couch cushions! Two years ago, after fainting, an endoscopy revealed internal bleeding caused by the Plavix.

Turned out I probably didn't need the stent. No doctor, no stent, no Plavix, no bleeding. So now no doctor unless I'm in pain. There is a healthy world and I want to stay in it.

Work? When asked whether I am retired, I say yes. I don't have a regular job. But I have projects. I need them. They are:

1. Investing. I still find that challenging and look forward to market action every day.
2. Running our modest family foundation.
3. Writing -- plays, this blog.
4. Being on the board of the Henry Street Settlement. I've been a member for 44 years -- 10 as president -- and am still very much involved.
5. Trying to raise funds for a children's museum in the Bronx.
6. Supervising the plant-a-lot program at GROW NYC. Since I started GROW NYC 35 years ago, 60 small parks and gardens have sprung in poor communities...so far.

This might sound impressive. It isn't. I'm at my office at 9:30 and leave at 2:30 after an hour-long lunch with a friend or associate -- kindergarten hours. But I do need projects. Without them, what's the point?

What else am I doing?

Sports. I have given up singles tennis and rollerblading. Doubles tennis is now my sport. Every Wednesday I have a game with two of my sons and a fourth. I'm lucky that all of my joints are working. No problems with knees, shoulders or my elbows. We play from 8 to 10 a.m. on Wednesday mornings -- inside at Midtown Tennis Club in the winter and in Central Park during the rest of the year. How I look forward to those games! This has been going on for 30 years.

Exercise. I am a devotee. I do an hour of stretching, weights and some inventions of my own between say 5 and 6 a.m. (Yes, I am an early riser.) Or an hour on the treadmill in my apartment. Every day it's one or the other. I cannot overemphasize the importance of exercise -- especially for one who likes cheeseburgers.

Relationships. Family is first and foremost: my lovely second wife Iris and I have been together now for 30 years; my two sons and one daughter; their spouses; my seven grandchildren; Iris' two sons and in-law; and her two grandchildren. Last December we all went away over the Christmas holidays to Puerto Rico -- all 20 of us. My grandchildren call me "Papa." I was the baby of my family and now I am Papa. Some of the younger ones like to stroke my turkey neck.

Friends Sure -- the old and the new. The old are vintage valuable. I have a lunch group that has met faithfully once a month for 12 years. We are 84 to 89 years old, and we have known each other for 40 to 70 years.

Reading. I have always loved to read books. Most nights I read for about half an hour before going to sleep. Such a relaxing time. It's a form of regression too. I feel like a child.

So this is my 85. Damn lucky and damn better than my adolescence. I'd like it to last as long as it can...and longer. I don't think very much of death. I think I'm 85, 85, 85...