Skip to main content

Review: Early Bird: A Memoir of Premature Retirement


A few weeks ago, my dad and I headed to sunny Florida. Goal: Visit his parents and sit in the warm Florida sun.

It poured for three days straight. The only sun we got was a thin beam or two  upon landing in Florida and flashes of light while taking off and back to Philadelphia.

After reading my facebook updates from the retirement community ("If you didn't hear the directions, grandmom will remind you. Fourteen times. Before the first exit" ; "Grandpop says some women are just yum. Others are yummy yummy" ; "I welcome all early bird specials"), umbrellatrix Katie Sweeney suggested that I read Early Bird: A Memoir of Premature Retirement by Rodney Rothman.

I'm no stranger to the retirement community lifestyle. I went to college in Tampa, and was incredibly homesick my freshman year. So my grandfather would drive cross state, pick me up, and drive me back to their retirement community in Sebastian, Florida. I'd lie at the pool, eat too much food, and read on their sunporch, usually borrowing books from the club house library, which is made up of community donations -- and let me tell you, those ladies like some racy stuff (on the rainy trip, I read Lipstick Jungle, which I borrowed from that library AFTER putting back a book about four office mates who seemed to boff each other daily).

I liked going because it felt like time froze. I didn't have to worry about classes or boy drama waiting for me back at college. I didn't have to figure out where I'd be sitting in the cafeteria, or about stick thin freshman prancing around the school (I was the youngest person -- everywhere!) or if I'd be stuck home on a Friday night. Everyone was stuck home here, and in bed by 9 p.m.

In Early Bird: A Memoir of Premature Retirement, Rothman moves into a retirement community in Boca Raton after losing his job. Boca is not Sebastian. He moves into a condominium tower. My grandparents live in a stand alone home in a gated community (he makes a great point that city retirees tend to go toward tall buildings while suburban retirees go to stand alone homes -- such is the case with both our experiences). My grandparens are also Christian, and Rothman chooses a mostly Jewish community. Some of the landscape has changed, too. Rothman wrote at the height of the real estate boom. I visited at the bottom, and a lot of houses in their community sat empty and for sale with no buyers.

But both communities seem the same -- the members up before 6 a.m., the cliquish pool group, the events people attend for free food, even bingo games. I played bingo once on a college visit. It was splendid, though my grandparents don't play unless I go. My grandfather prefers cards, and my grandmom baking.

Rothman is dead on in his descriptions of the retirement community life, but some of it feels forced. He does things "for the book," and while there's nothing wrong with that (might as well write a book if you lost your job and move into a retirement community when you're 28 years old), it made parts of the book feel forced, like when he shops for his future retirement home.

He comes to the same conclusion I do after every one of my four day trips to see my grandparents: Nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there just yet.

This week, I booked my annual trek to St. Pete Beach, and mentioned it on twitter. "Didn't you just come back from a Florida vacation?" someone asked. Nope. That was visiting grandparents, which involved trying to tune out Fox News, not eating every time my grandmom offered food, and fighting the urge to go to bed at 9 p.m. Vacation will involve sitting on a beach in a string bikini drinking margaritas WITHOUT worrying that I'm going to give an old man a heart attack, visiting dark Russian bars after hours, and reading racy books that I pick. Oh, and staying up past 9 p.m.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Book 23 of 52: Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

More romance? Of course! The world is on fire, and I can't ingest all the fires all the time. Sometimes I want to turn to genre fiction as an escape, even if an escape is into a patriarchal society where it's SCANDAL that a woman sometimes, when riding a horse, wears pants. Because of Miss Bridgerton is the first book in Julia Quinn's Rokesbys Series , which are prequels to her enormously popular  Bridgerton Series  (and now a  Netflix show ). These books are similar, of course, but instead being set in the Recency era of the 1810s, these books take place at the same time as the American Revolution (though still in England).  Here we meet Sybilla "Bille" Bridergton, who is stuck on the roof of a building because she chased a cat up there. She climbed up herself (scandalous woman!) but also twisted her ankle in the process, which is why she needs help to get down.  That help comes from George Rokesby. Their families are neighbors, and they've known each other

Book 12 of 52: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

Marjane Satrapi is an author and graphic novelist who grew up in Iran and, as a tween and teen, lived in the country through  the Iranian Revolution before her parents sent her to Europe for school, and for her safety.  As an adult, she wrote Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood ,  a nonfiction graphic novel, originally in French. I read the English translation, which was published in 2003, three years after the original. It was a critical success, won a slew of awards, and became a movie . I haven't read the sequel, Persepolis 2 , but I hope to (you can also  buy them in a set . I found Persepolis  in a Little Free Library, or I'd have bought them combined).  In the tradition of Art Spiegelman's  Maus , which is about the author's father talking to him about the Holocaust,  Persepolis  is a memoir of trauma told through a mix of images and words that when combined, combust into powerful, beautiful and soul cracking art.  For example, Satrapi portrays the 1978 Cinema R

Book 26 of 52: The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor — the Truth and the Turmoil by Tina Brown

I'm not going to write a long review of Tina Brown's The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor — the Truth and the Turmoil  for two reasons. First, it's been hashed to death already, as anything about the royals is, by people who are far more invested in this whole thing than I am. And second, I'm in the frantic "do I really need a jean jacket AND a windbreaker" level of packing before a long trip. I can say that I didn't mind listening to this nearly 18 hour audiobook while the rest of the world is on fire, although of course they are not insulated. We can pretend that the Royal Family lives in a bubble, but they are enormously influential; touched by the same issues of race, class and gender; and Queen Elizabeth II is one of most influential politicians of modern times — and she is a politician, no matter what anyone says. Her death will be a global, cultural moment. Same thing with the Pope, on both fronts. I listened to Brown's  The Diana Chro