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A birthday conjures pipe dream of retiring

I had a "significant" birthday on Monday.

How significant?

Significant enough that when Jan Glidewell starts yakking about retirement, I find myself actually listening to him. With genuine interest.

That I was creeping up on an age when the word "retire" would mean something besides going to bed (as in "Enough partying, I'm ready to retire") came home to me several months ago when the clerk at the drive-through window at my now-least-favorite fast food joint volunteered to give me the senior discount before I even asked. If it weren't for the fact that I had actually qualified four years earlier, I would have run my car over the little clown at the end of the driveway on purpose.

(Word to wise waiters: I'll double the tip of any server who cards me when I ask for the senior specials.)

I won't be eligible for full retirement here at the Times for another 6{ years, but it doesn't matter anyway. A financial adviser told me I would have to save the equivalent of 20 years' worth of my gross annual income in order to support myself until the actuary tables say I'll expire, and I'm not sure I can do without food, shelter, transportation and extended basic cable television in order to do that.

Actually, retirement has been my impossible dream since the day I calculated my home mortgage wouldn't be paid until I'm 83{. That means my 17-year-old car will have to last at least another, um, few decades before I can buy a new one.

I don't worry that Congress will raid Social Security funds in order to hand voters a tax break. The smart politicians know that the one thing people fear more than taxes is the thought of Mom losing her Social Security and having to move in with them.

Friends and acquaintances are well aware of my passing years. Two of my male friends sent me flowers for the first time, a sure sign that they know I'm old enough not to make anything out of the gesture beyond what it is, a simple sign of friendship. Others sent me wiseacre greeting cards ("As we get older, "sleeping together' seems to take on an entirely new meaning," with a drawing of old toots dozing in rocking chairs on a front porch), knowing I won't be offended.

I'm tempted to do what my mother's twin sister, Rae, did. Whenever anybody asked her how old she was, she added five or 10 years.

"I'd rather people say, "Oh, that Rae looks so young for her age,' than "Oh, that Rae must be lying about how young she is,'

" she said.

My mom, who turns 85 on June 27, spent Mother's Day tooling around town on the back of my nephew's Harley-Davidson. She buzzed her bridge pals, took a turn around Lake Conroe to check out the water ski scene and scarfed down a big plate of Tex-Mex to celebrate the day.

She said it was the best Mother's Day she's ever had.

Guess she's forgotten about the fun one we had many years ago when we all spent the day in a dimly lit room with no TV because my sister and I both had chicken pox.

A letter came in from former New Port Richey resident, retired schoolteacher, Richey Suncoast Theatre board member and actor Richard Kulp, who recently moved to Orange City to be closer to relatives.

He's been there only a few weeks, but already he's a volunteer worker at a local hospital, volunteer tutor at Orange City Elementary, member of the Theater Center Touring Company, on the stage crew for the Sands Theater Center's production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, involved in his church music ministry and tireless scout for good restaurants within driving distance of his new digs.

When I see people like my mom and Richard, it makes the word "retiree" sound like anything but retirement.