The announcement of The Director’s retirement occasioned greatly suppressed delight throughout The Institute. It wasn’t that the Fellows disliked The Director. What was not to like? He was an absolute charmer, a cavalier, a marvel of longevity, still able to drive himself to work. But facts must be faced: he was preventing anything from getting done at The Institute. The Institute, contrary to his belief, was not The Director. The Board complained that there were no goals, no plans for the future, that they didn’t know how best to spend their time.

Raise money, The Director said.

How much? the Board asked.

As much as you can.

During the first months of his retirement, The Director hung around The Institute, hoovering plaudits. If not for The Director The Institute would not even exist. He could have been a professional saxophonist. He owned a Renoir and a Dubuffet.   His marriage was exemplary.

The encomiums, from near and far, shared a theme: his longevity. The wonder of it threatened to eclipse his other achievements, but then, he found it wonderful too. It was a sign of his election, never mind to what.

He read in the paper that the (formerly) oldest living person died at the age of 115. He announced to his 97 year-old wife that he would make it that far. It was simply logical. He couldn’t picture himself dying.

At his 103rd birthday The Director announced to a murmur of amused approval that he was “retiring from retirement.” Applause was universal and sincere.


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