Like me, he had worked in private practice as an architect and then, after losing his shirt a couple of times, decided to become a civil servant with some job and retirement security. One of the things that I lamented after moving “to the owner’s side of the table” was my lack of passion for architecture – something I had maintained since I was a boy and made the decision to become an architect, but then lost along the way.. But after joining the facilities team at DOJ, and working with my friend, whose name was Dave, for just a few months, somehow my passion returned. It wasn’t that we were working on any great buildings at the time, but I suspect the nature of our conversations, both at work and during our usual lunch break together, gave me a new sense of enthusiasm. I will always be grateful to Dave for that.
Dave was 72 when he died and he had only recently retired from the government last May. Prostate cancer is what eventually took him but he had other health problems during his life. Once an All-American swimmer at Syracuse in the 50’s Dave tried to maintain his physical activity with swimming and tennis after college but the sedentary life of an architect, with long hours slaving over the drafting table (that’s how us old times did it up until the invention of CADD) had led to Dave gaining significant weight and he had Diabetes and heart disease by the time of his death. When Dave was in his mid-60’s he once told me that he wanted to stay working until he was at least 68 because that would be is 50th anniversary “in the business.” Dave went to work for his father’s architectural firm during the summers after high school. Another friend of Dave’s who had recently retired from government once told him, “Don’t retire because you can, retire because you’ve got something better to do.” Dave was seriously concerned about retiring and then being bored to death. And so he continued to work until he had to retire. In the end it wasn’t boredom that killed him. It was work that took him away from the attending to the important things of life like physical activity, focus on his health and spending time with his grandkids. I hope that, in the end, Dave was not disappointed that he spent too much time at work.
His death has caused me to ponder many questions. How can I get back to better health after a sedentary life similar to Dave’s? When is the best time to stop working? Is having more money to enjoy your retirement more important than just getting around to retirement and enjoying it – whatever your financial situation is? Unlike many of the young regular contributors on this post, I am now looking just ahead at retirement and the downhill slope of my lifespan. I’m not looking at it as a negative thing. Quite the opposite. Life becomes richer and more exciting with each passing year. But I just wonder how many more of those years to plan on. My father is still alive and he is 34 years older than me. I’m not sure I want to live that long but I’m also sure I don’t want to die as soon as Dave did. Just some random thoughts. Have a good day.