"Yeah, old Ray's gone."
"Really sorry to hear it," Larry repeated.
"There's not too many of us left nowadays, are there?"
"That's the hell of it."
"He died just before Christmas," the man persisted. The Westerbergs said nothing more.
For the trip to Kalamazoo, Larry Westerberg folded his blue blazer across the back seat of his 1973 Continental. Later, as he drove across the flat Indiana countryside, the talk turned to the man in the restaurant. It was a cruel paradox, Larry and Mabel agreed, that retirement creates the illusion of boundless time just when time, in fact, is running out.
But they refused to despair. "Retired people are unhappy because they think too much about sickness and death," said Mabel. "When they talk the way that fellow did yesterday, we try to be good listeners. But our faith teaches us to believe in life everlasting." She brightened. "We believe in thinking positive, don't you know?"
For Lee Rasch, it was another day—a warm, overcast Monday—in the social whirl that made him feel so at home in Stuart, Fla. The night before, he and Betts Rasch had dined and danced at a Polynesian restaurant and the evening before that they had thrown a dinner party for 14 at their oceanfront house. But now Rasch was hurrying toward his yacht Pipedream, which was docked behind the house. He stopped and wheeled around, the mangrove-dotted shore now at his back. He looked younger than his 60 years, a lean, wrinkle-free man with matinee-idol features.
"We'll be pushing off in five minutes," Rasch called. "Don't be long."
His wife was shoulder-deep in the swimming pool, two inflated vinyl dolphins bobbing at her side. "Be right there," she promised.