"You like potato and I like potahto." You say "Carolina," and I say "%#$@&!"




"You say eether and I say eyether."

"You say neether and I say nyther."

George and Ira Gershwin said it best in their catchy little tune, "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," from the 1937 classic film, "Shall We Dance."

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers danced on roller skates and sang about their conflicts and many differences, but love won out in the end like it always does in black and white romantic comedies.

But they weren't facing retirement in the Land of Lincoln. Dear, bankrupt, corrupt, grossly underfunded pension crisis, no-state-budget Illinois.

What's a couple to do facing retirement?  Call the Whole Thing Off?

My non-roller skating husband would like to retire in a few years. Great darling, you've worked hard your entire life and you deserve to play golf, sleep late and watch football, baseball and PGA golf on television for the remainder of your life.

But I'm in panic mode. Can't sleep. Climbing the walls. Sweating. Swearing. Roller skating. Even though I've never actually owned a pair of roller skates.

Just where are we going to spend our Golden Years?

We have no clue, and we can't come to any agreement.

He says, "South Carolina," and I say, "You can't be serious?"

We don't know a soul in South Carolina.

The Chicago Blackhawks have never stepped the blade of an ice skate into that state. I'd go insane.

The extreme heat and humidity of the Deep South would do me in. We lived in the Bible Belt for seventeen years. We don't belong to a Baptist Church, have never attended Bible study and don't like restrictions on purchasing alcohol on Sundays. Becoming the state outcasts, we'd be shamed and excluded from the God-fearing Garden Club and Congealed Salad Potlucks. Yankees Go Home!

One former neighbor in Georgia used to snoop around in our recycling bin early in the morning on trash days and count our empty wine bottles. I am not making this up. Such heathens, we were going straight to hell. I dearly love judgmental people.

I'm also not fond of hurricanes, male or female.

Sorry, darling. No more Southern Living for your beloved spouse. I just don't feel like I'd fit in at this stage of my life. I'm a Midwestern girl at heart.

Chicago people are my kind of people. They look like me. They act like me. This is where I belong.

Chicago has everything. Stunning architecture, Lake Michigan, snow, The Art Institute of Chicago and treasured icons like the late great Mike Royko and Studs Terkel.

Moveable bridges, O'Hare International Airport, Wacker Drive, Dinkel's Bakery, Jeanne Gang and public transportation to just about anywhere.

Portillo's Italian beef, the Old Town Art Fair, Blackhawks hockey, jazz, Curtis Duffy and the Chicago River.

Jim Cornelison singing the National Anthem with three, count them, three Stanley Cup Rings. Greek diners open all night with 6-page menus, Black Dog Gelato and a gorgeous skyline.

The Chicago Cubs in a pennant race, vibrant theater and a neighborhood for everyone.

You won't find any of this in South Carolina.

"You like tomato and I like tomahto."


So then what?

Stay in Illinois?

With our skyrocketing property tax bills eating away at our life savings, we really do need to move.

Yes darling, I know South Carolina has miles of pristine beaches, juicy peaches, the late Pat Conroy, historic towns I treasure like Beaufort and Charleston and shrimp right off the boats in the Low Country.

Cheese grits, Spanish moss dripping from giant, ancient Oak trees and those smooth, southern drawls that melt the ice in my sweet Luzianne tea.

But everyone I love is in Illinois. Our adult children, their spouses, our future granddaughter and hopefully more to follow are all settled here. They say you shouldn't live your life for your children, but I admit, I do.

I love my children with reckless abandon.  Always will. How lucky for me their roots run deep in Chicago.

Our dearest friends, fantastic neighbors, trusted hairdresser, favorite coffee shops, Book Club, my gynecologist, his cardiologist, mechanic, Questers,  house painter, Italian restaurant, brick mason, plumber, nursery, tree guy, body shop repairman and waitresses that know our orders as soon as we sit down are all here.

Now that means something. It means everything. It also takes time.

It's been proven that social connections in aging adults play an extremely important role that can help you live longer. We have that here. Right now.

You can't just pick up and go, especially at our age, and have that comfortable familiarity and support system in place.

It recently threw us for a loop when our beloved dentists Judy and Mike retired and closed shop. We had to scramble to find a new one. It wasn't easy.

I'm not ready to begin a new life starting from scratch. We've already done that twice.

He says, "I can play golf year round and they have mild winters." I say, "I don't play golf and I love winter."

Stop shaking your head in dismay. I know change is good, a fresh start in a new place has an air of excitement and promise. You can visit your family and friends and they can visit you. Of course. But what about the day-to-day stuff?

Meeting friends at the local coffee shop, knowing everyone's dog while taking my daily walk and running into former students, now adults, with babies of their own. These are the small, intangible moments that make a life worth living. It's never the big things.

He wants to go. I want to stay.

So we avoid the word "retirement," like children trying to extend their bedtime. We make excuses. We stall. One more bedtime story. I need a drink of water. There is a monster under the bed.

He says, "I'm never leaving this house unless we move South."  I say," let's get a small townhouse and downsize."

"You like vanilla and I like vanella."


But these outrageous property taxes take a toll. The yard is a full-time job to keep up with and it won't get any easier. Navigating the stairs to the basement will be difficult as we age. Let's go small. We don't need all this stuff, it's a burden.

Fred and Ginger figured it out with the music and lyrics of the Gershwin brothers. Why can't we?

Watch them here:

We have a few more years to come up with a plan.

In the meantime, we may have to learn to dance in those roller skates.


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