I admit it --- I was a workaholic.
Some people get high from drinking, some from drugs. My high came from working
and the challenge of creating a successful business from scratch. I enjoyed my
craft, which involved working with artists, artisans, and other employees, but
mostly selling to customers at trade shows all over the United States. You ask,
“What was your craft?” It was manufacturing and marketing reproductions of
original sculpted pewter designs. I was blessed to work with some of the leading
pewter sculptors in America. It was not unusual for me to work late and return
home at 8 or 9p.m. My company’s products were marketed at trade shows and during
the early years I’d travel 40 weeks a year, developing a strong customer base.
However, I always managed to return home for 2 days in the middle of the week.
Thanks to my wonderful wife this lifestyle came to an early demise when she gave
me an ultimatum…”Hire sales people to travel the road, or you can just stay at
work and not bother to come home”…. I established a sales force!
In my late 40’s I came to the realization that my identity was defined by my
work, thinking that I am what I do; I began to feel very uncomfortable with
myself. I started asking myself, “What if the business fails, who will I be?”
Seeking professional help seemed like a good idea to me, so I sought out a
psychologist, Andy. Andy agreed to take me on as a patient; I was ready to
change my way of thinking. There was only one stipulation which came from me --
he’d have to do the therapy sessions in my office on my lunch hour so as not to
interfere with my work. It became the talk of the factory/office, “Oh, don’t go
into Mel’s office, his shrink’s in there and they’re working on his compulsive
behavior…he’s a workaholic.”
After a year in analysis Andy suggested that we continue this in his office. So,
once a week, I shlepped to Great Neck, New York, a thirty minutes’ ride each
way, for therapy with Andy. Within 3 three months I accomplished my goal; I was
now a changed man. I had a new lease on life. My identity was no longer what I
did for a living. In fact, I was so changed that one morning while looking in
the mirror I did not recognize myself. :o)
During the peak years of the business, I employed 50 people. By 1994 we had
moved to Northern Florida and employed 33 people. When we moved the business
from N.Y. 60% of the labor force moved with us. We were one big happy family.
Our employees found their wages went further in North Florida than they had in
New York. The weather was wonderful in winter and in summer we worked in an
air-conditioned facility. It was a successful business and I had some employees
who had been with me for 25 years. I also employed 3 of my family members which
made it really a family business. In 1998, four years later, I turned 54 and
sold my business.
The reasons for my retirement were many, but the main one was my loving wife
Arlene’s health which had deteriorated and made surgery imminent. We simply
wanted to spend more time together. She would need care and help thru the
recovery process. I loved her and wanted to be there for her. In business,
although I was successful, I no longer had the spark that used to drive me. I
was burned out. I thought our son Lew, who worked in our business as our IT
person, might take over my role and run the company. One day while enjoying our
morning walk together, I expressed my desire to have him take over the business,
he responded by saying he enjoys computer technology and would like to pursue a
career in that area. That Friday I asked him to resign and get another job; no
use being unhappy. I supplemented his income until it reached the salary level
of what he was earning in our company. This did not take long; he’s extremely
The Monday after Lew left, I received a note from a business broker, Howard
Meuche, saying that he had a potential customer to buy my business. Within six
months it was sold. Howard became my mentor and we became good friends. Now I
had the time to reinvent myself.
In my youth, my mother would never have to wake me up saying, “Mel, it’s time to
go out and play.” I woke up and always looked forward to beginning of each new
day; I had dreams of what I wanted to do. That’s how it is in retirement; I’m
only limited by my dreams. If I’m bored it’s because I’m boring and that’s not
something I concern myself with. Every day offers me something new and exciting,
I only have to dream. If Arlene wakes me and says “Mel it’s time to cut the
grass, I do what I did with my mom, I go back to sleep. :o)
To my dear wife Arlene I’m the “Honey Do” man. She leaves a detailed note of
chores to be done. Of course it was difficult to accept this at first. I was
used to directing people and taking directions was a new experience for me. I
now do the food shopping, make the bed, do the laundry, run errands and hug
Arlene a lot. While I’m out food shopping I find myself smiling and greeting
people. Often I’ll meet someone; we’ll have a cup of coffee and chat. I laugh as
I talk aloud to myself while I shop for the groceries. I laugh because I see
others doing the same thing. I enjoy laughing, so, I laugh a lot in retirement.
Arlene and I never stop sharing our thoughts; 43 years of marriage, and we still
never run out of things to talk about. I sometimes see couples sitting at a
table eating quietly and not saying anything. I find that sad. When we eat we’re
animated and go from one subject to the next. Sharing ideas with a loved one is
what retirement is for me. Now we have much more time to spend together.
I had always wanted to read and study the Bible but never really found the time,
so I committed myself to reading and studying. This led me to become more
involved with our Messianic Congregation. Before long I was asked to become a
board member and found myself involved in different groups. I found this very
satisfying. I enjoyed volunteering and organizing things, but better yet, I
enjoyed serving on committees. That was very healthy for me and I really enjoy
giving back. So volunteering is something I do in retirement.
I enjoy writing to my favorite celebrities (there are many).
I write them letters expressing the joy that I experienced from their work. I
ask for a personalized photo and then I read their autobiography. After reading
the book, I’ll write a book review for myself. I also enjoy reading mysteries.
Retirement affords me the opportunity to read what I want.
Theatre and Movies
My wife and I enjoy live theater and live performances; it’s great not to have
to get up early the next day. We also enjoy going to a movie in the afternoon.
The theatres are usually empty mid week and often we’re one of a few couples in
the movie theatre so we sit and snuggle as well. This retirement stuff is really
The Breakfast Club
I enjoy getting together with my friends once every two weeks when we have a
men’s breakfast. It’s now a group of four with Howard, the broker who sold my
business leading the group. Sometimes it sounds as if there are a dozen people
at our table. The ages vary from 45 to 86 with Howard being the senior member.
When we get together we act as if we’re a bunch of kids. So enjoying the company
of friends is another thing I do in retirement.
Walking our Dogs
Our pack, which includes two Bichons (furkids), a humom and
hudad go for daily walks. We not only enjoy our "furballs" but also enjoy
walking and meeting people with their dogs. We remember the names of their dogs
but often forget the name of the owner. I enjoy watching the seasons change and
looking at the color of the sky and clouds. I’m thankful for so much. We see
people running for exercise while talking on a cell phone, never looking up,
never hearing the birds singing, not even seeing what’s around them and missing
so much. So enjoying our walks and meeting others is another thing I enjoy in
One of my favorite things in retirement is writing for The Gantseh Megillah. Who
else would let me write my meinses?? To be continued next month.
Until next month-- keep warm, wear your slippers, have chicken soup and eat
Mel (the fat guy)