by Richard Gross, M.D.
"Your father could have been a concert pianist if it hadn't been for football!" So said my mother, for many years, to my children and my children have never let me forget it). Yes!! I took piano lessons for 6 or 7 years until I entered 9th grade when the high school football coach met with the parents of a five foot eleven well-coordinated adolescent to tell them it was safe for their piano (and baseball, basketball, and football) playing son to play football; besides a potential line-backer was needed on the high school team. I went out for football and gave up the piano.
What has this to do with retirement?? I vowed to my wife and myself that, someday, when I retired I would return to the piano; I have retired and I love the piano. I am now in the tenth year of my retirement and the ninth year of resumed lessons on the piano. I have a wonderful teacher who is very patient with me and I try to practice every day for one to two hours or as long as I can sit. The hands and arms don't tire as much as the back and butt do! Nevertheless the beauty and the challenges of Bach, Schumann, Beethoven, Mozart et al occupy much of my time. The wait was worth it. I have almost mastered (if I ever will) a Clementi Sonata and have accomplished the A Major Sonata of Mozart..... if only the fingers could work more rapidly! Horowitz need not worry for his reputation. No! I never could have been a concert pianist; but, then never did I play in the NFL, the NBA, or the major leagues. I couldn't even have played varsity sports in college. But, I did turn out to be a reasonably good child and adolescent psychiatrist!
I have no regrets about retiring. The piano has been wonderful; but so has been the chance to travel. I love being able to spend time with my grandchildren, to attend the myriad of soccer games, baseball games, swim meets, basketball games, concerts and Lego-Robotics competitions.
Professionally I am still very active and enjoy working with young men and women in medical school and in residency training. They help to keep mind young and challenged; however, the body does not seem to do as well; the aching joints continually remind me of my age. My shoulder has now prevented tennis playing for six months; but I am to return to the twice a week tennis courts soon. My teaching schedule with George Washington University med students (teaching a Practice of Medicine Seminar) and with Child Psych Fellows (teaching Consultation -Liaison and School Consultation) keeps me very busy along with the reading and preparation for the teaching. Throw in some psycho-pharm consultation at a facility for developmentally disabled adults; volunteering at a mentoring program for foster children; my life is very busy, fulfilling and complete.
Retirement has been wonderful. To top it off I am able to spend more time with my wife, Carol, (who tolerates the wrong notes played on the piano). I may be as or more busy than when I was working but I don't have to worry about patients, fights with insurance companies, or fill out forms or write reports. BUT, I never did become a concert pianist!
Last updated December 2011.