Who would you sit on this park bench with and what would you ask them?

5 min read

Five retirees tell us who and what has meant the most in their lives and their responses range from melancholy to mirthful – with the wisdom that knows the greatest wealth is to live well.

Wendy River, 82, photographer and former reporter

Who would you sit here with and what would you ask them?

My husband tells me I should put my reporter nose in my own face because I never know when to stop asking questions. So I think I'd just sit here next to my old dog, Belle, put my arm around her big furry body, and have her look at me and make me feel like everything is going to be okay.

What do you wish you'd known when you were 20?

I should've learned Spanish so I could enjoy traveling the world more by speaking a language that's almost as useful as English.

What is the hardest thing you have learned so far about life?

I've learned that most people don't strive to be horrible or purposely fail at doing a good job. They just haven't sat on a bench long enough to contemplate a better way.

Janis Archer, 65, gardener, artist, and former equestrian

Who would you sit here with and what would you ask them?

I would sit here with my grandfather, hold his hand, and listen to the leaves fall.

What do you wish you'd known when you were 20?

That life is about the journey, and not the realisation of previously held expectations.

What is the hardest thing you have learned so far about life?

That we must get used to change, adapt and keep moving forward.

James William, 66, former teacher and coach

Who would you sit here with and what would you ask them?

I would sit with my father and I'd ask him what he really wanted out of life.

What do you wish you'd known when you were 20?

That life is a process, and not a product. There is no finish line.

What is the hardest thing you have learned so far about life?

Satisfaction is fleeting, but don't let that discourage you from seeking it always.

Dick Lyle, 70, television executive

Who would you sit here with and what would you ask them?

I would sit here with my partner and best friend, Peter. He was witty and entertaining, and always had the best stories. I would ask him to please tell me everything again.

What do you wish you'd known when you were 20?

That many of my family and friends were going to die so much sooner than I expected and that I had done more with and for them while they were still around.

What is the hardest thing you have learned so far about life?

It goes on and on, even once individuals depart, so make the best of it – every single day that you have left.

Jody Peak, 73, entomologist

Who would you sit with and what would you ask them?

I’d sit here with my best friend, my husband, and talk about how lucky we’ve been in our life. We’ve really been blessed to have each other, wonderful friends, rewarding careers, lovely children, our health and happiness through all the decades we’ve been together. I’d also talk about the fact that we have a lot more life, luck, and love ahead of us.

What do you wish you'd known when you were 20?

My husband always makes fun of how diligently I follow rules, and once took a photo of me going in the “out” door at the airport. If I had known at 20 that some rules in life are total rubbish, and that you can bend these types of rules, I think it would be interesting to see what rewards, or consequences, might have occurred.

What is the hardest thing you have learned so far about life?

A lot of what you sweat or agonise about when you’re younger doesn’t really matter in the long run. And some things I may have thought were frivolous or a waste of time or money turned out to be really important.

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