Friday, November 16, 2012

Retirement as a chance at the real work

Heard a new economic idea buried in a sweet NPR feature this evening. It was on California Report: the story of Otow Orchard, a family persimmon farm in Granite Bay, now a suburb of Sacramento. Five kinds of persimmons, including the prized brown-fleshed Maru, rare in the United States. Yet the orchard doesn't make the family much money. It makes some $10,000 a year.

The radio report, though not the online news story, says the couple who currently run the orchard, Chris Otow Kuratomi and Tosh Kuratomi, are retired from public jobs -- I think the school district (?). Since they have pensions now they've decided they can afford to give their time to the orchard. The report says their children, in turn, look toward a retirement of maintaining the orchard -- that is, to supporting it and themselves on their pensions.

This is new. That if you have something you believe in, you keep it limping along through the vigorous heart of your working life, and when you retire, the pleasure of your retirement is to finally do the work close to your heart that nobody else would do the same way.

Is this the new meaning of privilege or reward: not to at last give up working, but to at last take up the good work instead of the merely doing what's needed?

I think of my mother's repeated sad comment that her in-laws seemed to have no plans for their retirement, that they seemed to have decided, at 65, that it was time to sit in the parlor and wait to die. They shook off that idea after a while -- in fact they lived out long, active retirements -- but that was the old way, wasn't it?

Such a change.

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