steve & donna (1).jpeg

Steve K-Brooks and his wife, Donna. 

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When he was about my current age, fellow Realtor and former Brattleboro Select Board chair, the late Hugh Bronson, told me that with age, his mind was as sharp as ever but slow. Before he could contribute to a conversation, it had moved on to another topic. I wanted to tell Hugh that I have always had that problem, but I did not get the words out on time. Having been a bit goofy and forgetful my entire life, now at 78, “senior moments” just seem normal.

The pandemic pushed me into retirement. With reports of corpses piling up in refrigerator trucks, struggling to keep a breath ahead of congestive heart failure, what the hell was I doing risking death “out in the field?” I quit on a win with a miracle deal, attaining home ownership for a young couple with 5 percent financing in a market that had gone crazy with out-of-state buyers snatching up properties, sight-unseen, with multiple competing above-full-price cash offers.

So what has retirement been like?

My therapist told me that it can take two years to mentally transition to retirement. Wow!

Now, nearly three years out, the feeling that I am neglecting something I should do, has almost ebbed. Even now, I might feel guilty for opting for a nap on an afternoon when I had planned to work on my garden. When I was handling real estate transactions, there were daily demands and deadlines. It could be a disaster to miss contractual deadlines, such as last date to conduct inspections, followed a few days later by the notification deadline for inspection claims; or the other big one, last date for mortgage loan commitment, which if bobbled could result in your client’s forfeiture of a $10,000 (or more) deposit, and a cancelled purchase contract.

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And that brings me to an unexpected realization that came with retirement: The incredible worry that if you screw up, there could be irreparable consequences to your client’s family’s well-being and hopes for the future. Now that’s a lot of stress! Yet it was only when I was able to let down the burden, that I actually realized what a pressure cooker I had been in for the nearly three decades of my professional life.

It is tempting to confound the social effects of my retirement with the effects of the pandemic. For me, retirement forces me to come to terms with friendship in my life. The lockdowns and fears of the pandemic (now officially over by decree of the President of the United States) interfered with morning coffee at the Co-op Cafe, listening at the next table to retired academics talking wisely about daily events, or a one-on-one conversation at Tulip, or even a foray into The Works. But interesting as these intellectual morning coffee “salons” may have been, none of it led to genuine friendship for me.

For nearly 30 years, my daily social life was short and intense friendships with clients seeking a home and co-broking with other Realtors. Sometimes this friendly collaboration could get rough, even combative. But even if you got into an occasional dogfight: No matter how uncivil it got, you might break bread together at the next Realtors Breakfast. As a colleague advised me: “We have to work with the people we have, not the people as we would want them to be.” (Funny thing, just after I had written that last sentence, this now retired colleague, Mark Linton, with whom I had not spoken for years, called to ask how I am doing and to wish me a happy birthday.)

Mark’s call reminded me that friendship does not depend on the frequency of contact but that the essence of friendship is trust and support. I am blessed that my professional life brought many friends and satisfying relationships into my life. With retirement comes the challenge of cultivating new friends, fewer but more long-term.

Retired from active real estate brokerage, K-Brooks is from Brattleboro and writes on