Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 393 (099) Retirement and Neighbors

My former neighbor was retired. He was home as much as I was. He drove a big, windowless, gray Chevy Van with a big engine and a loud muffler. Every day he would start it up and let it rumble for a few minutes before he drove off. It annoyed me. He also refused to park it in his driveway. He always parked in the street and since we live at the end of a cul-de-sac it seemed be right in the middle of everyone’s front window. As if this weren’t enough, he was of the opposite political persuasion. We had a hard time. He moved and I’m glad. He probably is too.

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

Neighbors can make or break having a good retirement. Right now a new house is being built next to us. We have lived here for over twenty years enjoying the empty space that will now be occupied. The new neighbor comes from another city. She is having the house built. She has yet to move in. However, she has already entered into a real altercation with the neighbor that borders her lot on the back. It’s a land use problem.

Over the years, the neighbor that borders the rear of her new dwelling had mowed some of what is now the new neighbor’s grass so as to enlarge his back yard. The new neighbor saw the encroachment and offered to sell the used strip of land to the user. An argument ensued concerning the price. Now an orange plastic fence runs right down the boundary line. A six foot high chain link fence will soon be erected. Her new retirement home will come with antagonistic neighbors the day she moves in. Not a good situation.

Retired folks tend to congregate. I guess because they are in similar economic circumstances. Many times they are the only ones that can afford to live in certain neighborhoods. One thing about retired people, they tend to be home; like a lot. Oh they travel, but as a rule they are home every day. They are out in the yard, in the drive way, on the deck. They face neighbors regularly.

We have learned some things about being “good” neighbors over the years. One is that we never talk politics or religion. Gardens, the weather, sports, cars, children, and trips taken or trips about to be taken are fair game. Of course, this practice eliminates most important issues in life from discussion. Some of our friends live next door to some avid political junkies. They place yard signs all along the street in front of their house. My friends have retaliated by placing signs of the opposite camp in a similar fashion. After years if political combat the novelty wore off they learned to just let it go. (Well, they might put up one or two signs just for good measure.)

We have some good retired neighbors who tend to stay home all the time. We recycle all of our magazines their way. He loves to read them. They also keep an eye on our place when we are away. Sometimes they water the flowers or bring the garbage cans in off the street. He’s a retired military man who is a real liberal. We do talk politics. He served three tours in Vietnam as a tank commander. Once his whole tank was blown out from under him. He was the only survivor. He has interesting stories and a healthy appreciation for life. He works in the yard – all the time.

We don’t exchange dinners with any neighbors. We meet them all in a neutral zone; chat amiably and then move on. It seems to work well. It might be good if one had a neighbor that could just come in and out like family, but we don’t have that situation. Friends come from across town or down the street. They are selected more by common interests rather than chance location.

My wife’s uncle had an argument with his neighbor over the placement of a boundary fence. He ended up holding a sledge hammer over the other man’s head as they fought in his drive way. Now that doesn’t sound very good. Of course there are the perennial problems of noise created by operating the obnoxious leaf blower or occasional chain saw. This tests our patients and commitment to get along.

Maybe our good luck with neighbors comes from the six foot high cedar fence that encircles the property. It was there when we bought the place. Maybe ‘good fences do make good neighbors’. I know Frost had a problem with that idea but perhaps there was a reason for the ol’ cliché.

We just stopped to chat with a new neighbor moving in down the street this afternoon. He talked about cutting some trees that are not on his property but will enhance his view of the bay and mountains. He said, “It will probably happen some dark night”.  The trees are on city property. I knew right then that we would never be friends. He has a different value system. We did exchange names. I knew that we would be passing many times over the next few years. We might as well be civil. Politics, religion and values will be off the table. Retired people have to be careful. 

This is Retirement Talk.


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