George and Marion had looked forward to retirement for a long time. George had worked as an accountant ever since he graduated from N.Y.U. and Marion had been a secretary at three different businesses during her secretarial career, which began the day after she graduated from the county community college. They had successfully raised three children who were now all out on their own and doing reasonably well after a couple "false starts". Retirement was not something George and Marion had talked about constantly but when the subject had arisen the two of them had at times mentioned a number of things they would like to do during those "golden years". George was an avid golfer and he dreamed of playing at some of the finest courses in the country --- and maybe even a few abroad. Marion was an antique collector and she dreamed of having the time to drive through old sections of the country looking for "finds" at garage sales, yard sales and even at some out of the way antique shops.
Both were also "diners". People who liked to dine out at nice restaurants and spend two hours at a table having drinks and a fine meal. George had also mentioned several times that he might consider buying a small boat with a cabin upon retirement, as he enjoyed fishing as well. Marion had always dreamed of visiting Hawaii --- maybe even spending a month there. Other possibilities discussed were a trip to Australia, a cruise to Europe and a small winter home on the coast of the Carolinas.
Wisely, George and Marion had done well saving for retirement, partly because their two sons had received handsome athletic scholarships to their colleges and partly because they had lived sensibly and invested regularly. Yes, they could've afforded to retire anytime after age sixty. Their first friends retired at age fifty-eight and now over two-thirds of their friends had retired. But George was now the senior partner at his accounting firm and he feared that his departure would cost their firm over a dozen of their largest accounts. This might not have been completely true, but George sensed that it was. Since George chose not to retire, Marion kept working, too. She was the senior secretary at her firm now and her co-workers were quite pleasant.
"Pebble Beach", George had said more than once, "Pebble Beach --- I'd love to play there just once! Maybe with Fred, Eddie and Bob". Then Marion would mention several nice restaurants she would love to visit in the Pebble Beach area. "Bermuda has some fine courses, too", George would say. Then Marion would reply, "Yes, but remember Eddie and Sarah telling us that the food wasn't so great there. They said you just couldn't get good meat there". George would then answer, "So we play some golf and then we eat fish. Eddie said the Grouper was great there!"
Marion thought of these things as she put on her lipstick in front of the bathroom mirror. She and George had discussed retiring at age sixty-two but that had not happened. The target had then moved to age sixty-five. As George had said back then at least they would collect their "full" social security at that time. Marion and George had both been born in March of the same year. So when they did commence collecting social security it would be a fairly handsome amount all at once. Add to that George's pension and their numerous investments and they would be "in fat city" as Eddie used to say.
George and Marion had had a "good" marriage by anyone's standards. They very rarely argued, they both had a good sense of humor and they encouraged each other's various pursuits. Marion was a petite woman and George always thanked her for "staying so cute". In turn, Marion would always reply that George was "cute", despite that fact that he had gone from a size 32 waist to a size 36 and had lost at least half of his hair. Marion honestly thought he was still cute --- but who the heck looked as good as they did forty years ago?
Yes, retirement was going to be good. No more alarm clocks. No more leaving the house early on a snowy day to go to work. No more hassles at work. No more squeezing vacations into two work schedules. And for George, no more wearing a necktie five days a week. Marion put the lipstick in her make-up bag, turned off the bathroom light, walked back into their master bedroom and carefully placed the make-up bag in her suitcase. It was always the last item that she packed before she and George left for a vacation or a weekend. George would always pack his toothbrush last because he would always forget it and then have to run back upstairs to remove it from it's tile holder. It would then be necessary for him to unlock his suitcase and add that last item to it.
Today they would be arriving at the airport two hours early as was now recommended due to the events of September 11th. Marion locked her gray suitcase. Her oldest son, Bill, would carry it downstairs for her. George had always insisted on carrying her suitcase downstairs, but today that task fell to Bill. Two weeks after his sixty-fourth birthday George had suffered a sudden and massive heart attack at work. He was dead before the ambulance arrived. The funeral had been held three days later and two weeks after that Marion had finally retired. As Marion recalled her husband's sudden death almost a year ago her eyes swelled with tears. So it was back to the bathroom to check her mascara. Tonight was to be a "family reunion" to celebrate her 65th birthday. Bill and his wife had made all the arrangements. The other kids and their spouses would be flying in to meet them where they would all spend five days together. Yes, she was finally going to see Pebble Beach --- not because she was an avid golfer --- she could play --- but it was not the "biggee" that it had been for George and his pals. No, she was going there for George, of course. George --- the husband she loved so much. George --- the man who never got to play golf and eat Grouper in Bermuda. George --- the man with whom she would not share a winter house on the Carolina coast. George --- the man who would not be available to shop for antiques with her. George --- the man who simply retired too late.