Feb 22, 2013, 7:10 AM |

The things that occupy my life these days are mostly things I never did before I retired. Take for example chess, golf, the guitar, living in Thailand, traveling around in SE Asia, learning different cultural practices and different languages. I am living an entirely new life light years removed from what I was doing before I retired.

What retirement taught me is that we voluntarily put ourselves into little cages in which we feel secure and comfortable and in which we have a role within a well defined power structure. It is a role with which we completely identify and this role usually involves a job or a business. In that comfort zone it is normal to fear retirement. In fact, I am sure that there are people who are so pathologically emeshed in their working life that they are unable to retire.

I was the same way. Even though I took great pains to save for and to plan my retirement when it came time to leave I went through a kind of trauma - fearing the unknown, leaving my work and my colleagues, and wondering whether I was making the right decision. Unlike others I did not fear that I would have nothing to do because my life at the time was deeply tied up with playing tennis. So I knew that my retired life would involve travel to sunny tropical places and lots and lots of tennis. 

There was the question of where to retire. Before i chose Thailand I tried out various other places for a few months at a time most notably Costa Rica, Panama, Indonesia, and China. In the process I learned a lot about the history of these places and also a few languages that I had never spoken before. 

I finally selected Thailand for my retirement home partly because one of my Canadian tennis buddies was a teaching pro at a tennis academy here. He once worked out with Tamarine Tanasugarn, the Thai tennis star, on the eve of her maiden trip to the US Open. I happened to be there that day and had the privilege of meeting her and her father. What fine people they are! There is something about Thais. So much at ease with themeselves and the world around them. The word serenity comes to mind. 

The clincher came when I traveled down to Cha-am, Thailand and checked into the Dusit Thani hotel on Cha-am Beach. The hotel and condo complex is surrouned by a huge garden and forest and in the middle of it all within sight of the beautiful white sand beach were acres of tennis courts in pristine condition. This tennis facility was like a dream come true. It was this tennis resort that made my retirement decision for me and bingo just like that here I am retired in Thailand. 

Yet, life, like chess, takes unpredictable turns - lurching and changing with moves that come out from the blue and blindside you. Some changes are bad, others are good, and yet others start out bad but end up good. Within a year of my tennis heaven in Thailand I was struck down by a torn right shoulder rotator cuff and a very painful torn left Achilles tendon. Even after surgery, physical therapy, and rehab, I had to give up tennis. It was like retirement trauma all over again. Now what?

One of my tennis buddies, a retired airline pilot, was also a golfer and he came to my rescue and introduced me to the world of golf. Right across the highway from the Dusit Thani Resort is the Palm Hills Golf and Country Club - a lush green beautiful golf course.

I had never played golf and never even considered it as it looked like an utterly useless and silly activity but Alain was very insistent. He is French and does not take no for an answer very easily. To make a long story short, tennis is now long gone and my life now revolves around golf. 

Also, the release from total tennis immersion gave me time to study the Thai language and meet some of the very beautiful women here in Thailand. I moved away from the resort and into the community renting a beach house from a local family and made many Thai friends in the process among them a very beautiful woman named Pencil who is now my wife.

One day while we were shopping for stationery she spotted a wooden chess set and wanted me to buy it for her. We went to the beach with that chess set and she taught me to play this game over a lunch of stir fried clams.

Chess soon became an important part of our life. Our day always ends with meditation followed by a game of chess. The more we play the more determined I become to beat her at least once and so I started doing some seaches on the internet, reading documents, watching Youtube videos, and playing chess online. 

So now chess and golf (and to some extent playing my guitar and harmonica) have taken over where tennis had left off and so I find myself deeply involved with chess. I joined and within that community I joined groups that had to do with Thailand including the Bangkok Chess Club and the team called Thailand. 

I looked through hundreds of groups listed to see if I could connect with other retired people or seniors on and could not find such a group.

So I started one. It is called "Seniors Chess". As of this writing this group includes myself and fourteen very fine individuals. I know there are more seniors out there in and we are anxiously awaiting their company as members of our new group of old chess lovers.