"What's the world for you if you can't make it up the way you want."

-Jazz, Toni Morrison

Death By Retirement

Death By Retirement

Saul died unexpectedly at the age of 85. His death day started out as an unremarkable one. He took a shower, shaved, ate a peanut butter and apricot jelly sandwich, and sat in his favorite chair to watch the tennis channel. When Phyllis, his wife of 60 years, noticed that Saul hadn’t taken out the trash early that evening, she walked into the living room to find his head peculiarly slumped over his neck. 

“Saul?” she whispered into his ear and gently tapped his right shoulder. 

He didn’t move.

“Saul!” Phyllis shouted, trying to shake her husband out of what she prayed was (but knew was not) a catatonic repose. 

She stared at his body in disbelief, her head too peculiarly slumped.

“Saul.” Now she was crying into his neck, wrapping her arms around his frame, unable to shift his weight. 

The news of Saul’s passing quickly rippled through his family and throughout the community Saul was most involved in: the legal community of Greater Albuquerque. To his family, the last patriarch of the Greatest Generation was now gone. To the lawyers of Greater Albuquerque, particularly to those practicing tax law, a legend had died. 

Saul practiced tax law for 57 years, and 54 of those years had been with the same firm. His love for his work and its essentialness to his being characterized him as part of a bygone generation. His colleagues talked about him and his accomplished career as if he was the subject of a novel, too extraordinary to be real. 

As unreal as he may have been to the younger generations of tax lawyers who revered him, what was more unreal the date of his death in relation to his scheduled inauguration into retirement.

Date of Death: December 30, 2017.
Date of Retirement: January 1, 2018.

Before the cosmos converged and descended upon Saul’s beating heart, Bobby, Saul’s son-in-law, commented to Lily, his daughter, Saul’s granddaughter, about the prospect of Saul in retirement while they were driving to the airport one fall afternoon. 

“You know, Lil, Pop-Pop is in pretty good shape considering his age. Other than the neuropathy he doesn’t have many health problems. But I don’t think he’ll like a retirement. I think he’ll be bored, and I worry about that.”

Lily reflected on her father’s concerned hypothesis. Pop-Pop was an all-star tennis player back in the day, but wasn’t physically able to play anymore, the only pastime he may have enjoyed as much as he enjoyed practicing law. That was a third of his identity, now a ghost of Saul’s past. Another third, perhaps the most central to his person, the tax lawyer, would too become a relic of the Saul he used to be. The remaining third: husband, father, grandfather. He wore these titles proudly, and in his retirement letter to his firm, wrote, “now I look forward to enjoying more time with my first loves— my family.” Nonetheless, a third of man is not whole. 

When Saul passed his family surmised that he’s enjoying eternal retirement in paradise. But if he’s having it his way, he’s more likely practicing tax law.

Allie Blum is a Philadelphia-born, New Orleans-based writer in the Office of Undergraduate Admission at Tulane University, from where she received a BA in 2017. Allie was a shortlisted finalist in the essay category of the 2018 William Faulkner Creative Writing Competition. Her poetry has appeared in the Same and Not Your Mother's Breast Milk. Instagram: @chinacatblumflower

Cover photo by Melinda Gimpel on Unsplash

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