Thursday, March 04, 2004


I was thinking the other day that it’s amazing (to me, anyway) that Art and I haven’t killed each other yet, with all this togetherness we’ve been experiencing over these past months. Granted, we got a nice “break” from each other in December, but still….

Our personalities our similar in that we are both very opinionated people. We both like to be in charge. When we drive, each of us is sure that “our” way is the better way. I’m a terrible back seat driver, even when I’m sitting in the passenger’s seat. Art is much more patient than I am, but when he does lose his temper, watch out! He takes my bossing and bitching pretty well, for the most part. I am bossy and quick tempered, and never hesitate to voice my opinion. Art has been called arrogant by some. I never really thought of him as arrogant until we went on vacation with another couple. All of a sudden, he became the authority on EVERYTHING! He never said, “I THINK this…..” or “I’ve HEARD this….”. Everything was absolute fact, and it drove me crazy!!! Who was this person? I had never seen this side of him before! I tried to be considerate, and not correct him in front of other people. I finally had to tell him, “look, you’re driving me crazy!”, although he still didn’t understand why.

We both know couples who have worked together. Not as in working in the same place, but as in working side by side, day after day. Year after year. That never appealed to either one of us…a little too much togetherness. Maybe we don’t love each other enough, or maybe both people have to be different personality types, but for whatever reason, this never appealed to either one of us. Now that we are retired, and I’m dependent on Art for his driving ability, we find ourselves in a position very similar to this.

When you are together 24/7, it helps to like the person you’re with. Loving them is not enough. You have to really, really like them, and respect them, and then you have to bite your tongue a LOT. This is not something I’m very good at, but I’m working on it. Art has a sore tongue ALL time. Luckily for us, we seem to be meeting this challenge, but it’s not easy. For either of us. When I was thinking about how well we have gotten along, I was also thinking about WHY we’re here. WHY did we give up all the comforts we were used to? Things that everyone takes for granted, like being able to understand the phone bill or the evening news? Or being able to read a magazine or newspaper? Or knowing who to call to solve a problem? Or being able to understand the person you call? So that got me to thinking about our move, and what our choices were.

To summarize, Art is 57. I am 52. Art was eligible to retire from the Post Office, and had the option to retire from Churchill Downs as well. Retirement from the track meant that he was limited to the number of days he could work, but he could still work there. Or, he could have just retired from the Post Office and kept on working for the track. The longer he worked at both jobs, the greater his pension would be when he did retire. For me, I had only been at the Post Office since 1994 and in the Federal retirement system since 1990. The earliest retirement option for me was at age 60, with 20 years of service. But from what we hear now, life at the Post Office continues to get worse and worse. The new district manager is making everyone’s life a living hell, and in retrospect, it’s a blessing we escaped when we did! Here are the options that we had, and the ramifications for each of them:

Option #1 was to keep working as we were. For Art, the burden of working two jobs was starting to take its toll. Thirty years ago, the job at the track started out as seasonal work, and had gradually become year round work. At one time he was driving to Lexington for the spring and fall meets there, but eventually gave that up in favor of working in Louisville, once Churchill Downs opened their OTB (off track betting) facility. For Art, this meant that he now worked seven days a week…and at least four of those days he worked both jobs. He loved his job at the Post Office, but his hours were early, partly to accommodate his job at the track. This made for some VERY long days. As for his job at the track, he always said it wasn’t like a job at all, but more like fun. I hated the fact that the track required him to be gone every Saturday and Sunday, and many holidays as well. We never had much free time together. This was one of the reasons Art enjoyed vacations so much.

Two years ago, Art fulfilled one of his life-long dreams, and bought a brand new BMW. This meant that he would have to keep working until it was paid for. For him, it was worth it, but for me, I just wasn’t sure that the cost to his health, and to our time together, was worth it. Once we made the decision to move to Italy, the car was sold immediately, but had we stayed in the states, I’m sure Art would have kept the car, and kept working. Option #1 would have also meant that our trips to Italy would be limited to once or twice a year, two, maybe three weeks at a time. Definitely not enough!

Option #2 was for Art to retire from the Post Office and keep working at the track.
I would have kept working too. This way we could have more free time together, but maybe not have enough money to visit Italy as often as we would have liked! Our vacations would also have been limited to my vacation schedule at work, since I was always the low person on the totem pole. At least Art would have had more flexibility. To take up some of the financial slack, I could have tried to bid on a full time job, but once again, my low seniority would have made it difficult for me to get day work. This option would have probably meant that Art would have had to sell his car. And we would still only be able to visit Italy occasionally, due to financial constraints.

Option #3 would have been for both of us to retire. For me, this would have meant quitting and deferring my retirement until age 62. We would have to live on Art’s pension(s) only. We had considered moving to Florida and buying a small house. We had checked out areas around Jacksonville and also around Tampa. But, this plan would have meant that we would have very little money, and certainly not enough money to go to Italy. If only we had been born rich, or had won the lottery, we could have had a house in Florida, and still had a home in Italy! Which brought us to option #4….

Retire, sell everything, and just move to Italy! No, we don’t have a lot of money, but we’re HERE! For me, the idea of being RETIRED, of never having to work again, at age 52, is amazing! For Art, after 30+ years of working two jobs, he was MORE than ready, and has certainly earned it! Since we have the flexibility, we can fly home when the fares are cheap, or search for a great deal. And as long as we can afford the airfare, we hope to be able to stay in the states with friends or family, thus saving the cost of lodging. Is this the perfect solution? No. We still miss friends and family. We still miss the conveniences of life in the states. We still struggle with the language every day. But, for now, this was the best choice for us. We both got to retire. We get to be in Italy, the country that chose us. So far, we get to visit the states and keep in touch with family and friends on a fairly regular basis. And we haven’t killed each other yet!


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