Retirement is harder than it looks - for wife

When her husband decided to retire early in 1995, Linda Cooper thought she was prepared to help him through the drastic life change he was about to experience.

She had read articles about how this stage of life can be traumatic for retirees. She was careful not to upset her husband in what she assumed was a fragile state.

Cooper's husband, Joe, had worked for years as an engineer with Raytheon, a company that specializes in defense, homeland security and other government markets. Joe worked on space programs and spy planes for the company.

Linda said she feared he would have a hard time giving up such an important job.

But the Hilton Head Island woman said she had no idea she would be the one traumatized by the whole situation.

"I felt I had to tread very carefully," Cooper said.

She had gotten used to being the only one at home during the day, splitting her time between household chores and a home-based business.

Then along came Joe, who took over her computer and left paperwork scattered all over the house.

A writer for decades, Linda decided to put her frustrations on paper. The result was a humorous short story called "Living with Retired Spouse."

She submitted the story to "Chicken Soup for the Soul" a few years ago but never heard back. She said she had completely forgotten about the story when she received an e-mail in January saying it was accepted for a new edition -- "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for the Young at Heart." The book, which was released in August, contains 101 stories about what people age 60 and older are doing with their time.

"The book is a wonderful read," Linda said. "The things that other people are doing in their retirement are just phenomenal. We have people who are experiencing daredevil feats ... going into jungles with wild animals, jumping out of planes ... pole dancing."

And although the Coopers are not risking their lives in the jungle, they are having fun traveling and just enjoying the scenery of the Lowcountry.

"We don't really have a bucket list," Linda said. "We just go with the flow."

After 54 years of marriage, four children and eight grandchildren, Linda said retirement has given her and Joe a chance to get to know each other better. They have worked through the initial transition into retirement living and learned to make it work.

In her story, Linda wrote that she encouraged Joe to buy his own computer. She organized all of his clutter, turned an old sewing machine table into a desk, rearranged some furniture and turned the spare bedroom into an office for him.

This excerpt from "Living with Retired Spouse" explains how those minor adjustments helped relieve some of the stress from the situation: "By the end of the day, he was comfortably settled in his new quarters, columns of figures glowing on his computer screen; social security comparisons for ages 62, 65 and 70; potential IRA distributions stretching far into our very old age. Oh yes, I could see that our retirement was in a good place -- a nice, cozy converted spare bedroom."