The Gums of August

When you're feeling long-ish in the tooth, get over it


With apologies to the great historian Barbara Tuchman for my little malapropism (derived from the title of her book on the First World War), I’m starting to feel a little... oldish.

“Ish,” by the way, is a very useful suffix that has been dubbed the “international shorthand for a slight hedge.” It’s what we say when we deliberately want to be imprecise. 

In any event, the first symptoms of being old-ish occurred earlier in the year when a Victoria friend I’ve known since Grade 1 announced on his Facebook page how many days he had until his retirement. This was quickly followed by another friend (from Kindergarten, no less) inviting me for golf because he’s now retired and golfs three times a week in tweedy Oak Bay.

Then a few weeks later, my son bought tickets to the Pemberton Music Festival, telling me about all the great acts. I don’t think I recognized any of them. I started to panic, fearing that I had turned into my parents.

The symptoms of age grew worse at a firm retreat in June, when one of the partners (a decade younger than me), gave a speech about the inevitability of some of the older lawyers “slowing down” or “easing out” of practice and that various (younger) partners would be approaching the older ones about their plans for transitioning into retirement (lawyer succession and client retention being very legitimate topics in any firm). But then I looked around the room and realized that I was one of the old fogies he was referring to.

Lo and behold, a month to the day from my 59th birthday, a youngish partner popped in to have a quick chat about my plans for “transitioning,” as he put it. “Transitioning?,” I asked. “I’m quite fine the way I am right now, thank you very much and have no intention of following the lead of Caitlin (formerly Bruce) Jenner” – making the subtle point that “transitioning” has a far different meaning now than it once did and is much in need of a makeover.

So I’ve decided that a better word for lawyer “transitioning” is Retireishment™, given that it uses that wonderful “ish” suffix, just in case you want to hedge your bets. I’ve trademarked it, and I’ll be licensing it for a fee.

The young-ish partner and I then took a long, metaphorically Trudeauish, walk in the snow and discussed my plans for the next 5 to 10 years, which was bad timing given that the stock market crashed and burned that very week.

Of course, coincidences being what they are, another symptom of age happened contemporaneously with the market crash. The retina in my right eye detached; the cause, the doctor said, was age related. “You’re getting old,” he said… “these things happen to older people.”

Despite going through treatments that resembled a Wes Craven movie or Captain Picard being turned into a Borg, I did get to wear an eye patch like the “Arrow Shirt Man” and talk like a pirate for a few days, until my sight returned. But I’m wondering when the next wheel will fall off.

So... am I easing out, moving on, or otherwise riding off into the sunset? Nope. The market crash and the just announced recession will keep me around a little while longer than my Kindergarten and Grade 1 buddies. I’m happy to muse about Retireishment™, but retirement is not on my radar quite yet.

Besides, I have a nice little practice that keeps me and others in the firm busy enough, and I still like writing these columns. In particular, I very much enjoy that “other job” I do with the Law Society, which shock of shocks, actually requires me to be a lawyer. Imagine that!

 But perhaps the most important reason I plan to stay around for a while is how much I don’t like golf. I can recite Robin Williams golfing monologue by heart – “18 #*&%^ing times.” -ish.

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